Shakespeare and American Radio
  • Douglas Lanier


Famously, Henry V opens with a lament about the limitations of Shakespeare’s chosen medium. The Globe Theatre, the Prologue declares, is a rickety sign of its own inadequacies, “a wooden O,” unable to present the epic breadth of the story’s action, the mighty presence of “the warlike Harry,” or the exhilarating clash of mighty armies. All it can offer is the shoddy mechanics of Renaissance staging, “flat unraised spirits” on an “unworthy scaffold” (I Cho 9–10). Yet what at first seems an insurmountable deficiency turns out to be an advantage. The very inadequacy of the medium—with some help from the Prologue’s repeated exhortations—prompts the audience to “piece out our imperfections with your thoughts” (I Cho 23). Through their imaginations playgoers can negotiate transitions between settings or time schemes impossible to stage convincingly and can supply the pageantry and multitudes that “four or five most vile and ragged foils / Right ill-disposed in brawl ridiculous” (IV Cho, 50–51) cannot portray. Claiming “‘tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings” (I Cho 28), the Prologue prompts the viewer to become an imaginative participant (or coconspirator) in Henry’s exercise in military and royal self-fashioning. We, along with the King’s peers and enemies, learn how to imagine Henry as an epic hero-king rather than as a manipulator of appearances and rhetoric, that is, an actor.


High Culture Mutual Network American Radio Film Studio Henry Versus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Richard Burt 2002

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  • Douglas Lanier

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