Text and Screen: War in Shakespeare’S Henry V (Ii-Ii)

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

Project Details


This application is for the second year of 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 conflict between England and France. Remarkably, the prologue in Henry V makes an apology for the limitation of the play to present the military engagement 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, and I am currently working on the first year’s research, which involves the study of three well-known screen productions of Henry V for their representation of violence and killing in war. These include a 1944 film Henry V directed by Laurence Oliver, a 1989 film Henry V by Kenneth Branagh, and a 2012 television film William Shakespeare’s Henry V by Thea Sharrock. My analysis focuses on images of cruelty, violence, bloodshed and corpses which generate significations other than those originally intended. At the moment, I am writing a conference paper to be presented in February 2017. The second year of the project which I am applying for now, shall analyze the war scene in four different textual versions of Henry V--the three known quarto versions published in 1600, 1602, 1608, and the first folio published in 1623. The comparative study of different versions of Shakespeare’s plays is a research area seldom ventured into by scholars in Taiwan since before the age of the internet archives, available quarto and folio versions could only be accessed in libraries abroad, while cumbersome comparison and analysis usually yield unproportionally small findings. Nevertheless, as Margarida G. Rauen’s paper “Hamlet's Bodies” (published in Shakespeare Quarterly) shows, a minor difference in a word can create a difference in meaning--in the second quarto and first folio of Hamlet, the difference between “body” and “bodies” in the line “Take up the bodies” can endow significance or take away significance from the protagonist Hamlet. My comparative study of the four versions of Henry V aims to explore the possibility of rereading alternative meanings into the different wordings and punctuations in the lines. It does not mean to discuss which version is superior. It shall attempt to link the alternative meanings to the conceptual possibility of various forms of presentations on the stage with their different significations. The ultimate goal of the research is to formulate reinterpretations of Henry V to enhance our deeper understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare.

Project IDs

Project ID:PE10607-0089
External Project ID:MOST106-2410-H182-003
Effective start/end date01/08/1731/07/18


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