Text and Screen: War in Shakespeare’S Henry V

Project: National Science and Technology CouncilNational Science and Technology Council Academic Grants

Project Details


This is a two-year research project designed to analyze the war scene in Shakespeare’s Henry V. It focuses on the representation of the Battle of Agincourt, which is a climactic episode in Shakespeare’s history plays as it dramatizes a great triumph enjoyed by the English in the prolonged Hundred Years War between England and France. Remarkably, the prologue in Henry V makes an apology for the limitation of the play to present the military conflict between the two countries by referring to the stage as “this unworthy scaffold,” “this cockpit” and “this wooden O,” which cannot hold “the vasty fields of France” (Prologue 10-13). It begs the audience to employ their imagination, an element that all kinds of representations of battlefields need no matter whether they are in the original format of the stage that Shakespeare has designed his play for, or in the media of modern screen, which was invented about three centuries after Shakespeare’s time. Since representation of the war scene in the play can be challenging even for modern screens, I would explore its significance and dramatic fascination. The research project is divided into two years: For the first year, I shall analyze three well-known screen productions of Henry V for their representation of violence and killing in war—a 1944 film entitled Henry V directed by Laurence Oliver, a 1989 film Henry V directed by Kenneth Branagh, and a 2012 television film William Shakespeare' Henry V directed by Thea Sharrock in The Hollow Crown television film series. Since it is generally understood that screen renderings are capable of more graphic representations than that of the stage, the Battle of Agincourt on screen with images of cruelty, violence, bloodshed and corpses can generate significations other than those originally intended. I shall reinterpret the new significations in relation to Shakespeare’s texts. For the second year, I shall analyze the war scene in four different textual versions of the play--the three known quarto versions published in 1600, 1602, 1608 respectively, and the first folio published in 1623, upon which most of the modern conflated versions are based. The analysis does not mean to discuss which of the four versions is better. It aims to explore the possibility of rereading alternative meanings into the different wordings and punctuations in the lines. I shall also attempt to link the alternative meanings to the conceptual possibility of various forms of presentations on the stage with different significations.

Project IDs

Project ID:PE10507-0578
External Project ID:MOST105-2410-H182-006
Effective start/end date01/08/1631/07/17


  • Shakespeare
  • Henry V
  • war
  • screen
  • quarto
  • folio


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