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Conference Papers Year : 2021

And What Art Thou, Idle Ceremony?


Contemporary audiences see Henry V in the famed profile portrait, or in manuscript images. But these were reserved for elite audiences: the specific owners of the works and their immediate entourage. Public images, such as the choir screen at York minster, were restricted to the local church-going audience. For the general population, the king, although a public figure, was effectively invisible, a fact which makes Henry’s disguised pre-battle tour of the camp in Shakespeare plausible: up close, Williams would not recognize the king. The king is visible under controlled circumstances: in pageants or, for those with access, at court. Such public displays were organized events: the triumphant return to London after Agincourt, or the tour of England after Henry’s wedding. Yet, these events as documented convey the sense of image-management at work. The return from Agincourt is recorded in a court chronicle: the London chronicles say surprisingly little. Presence at court, however, was re-enacted for the public, and Shakespeare’s history serve just this purpose. The nineteenth century productions of Shakespeare fuse these two forms of royal representation, as a visualization of history. Henry mastered such manipulations of distance, yet the public remained cautious when faced with such displays. Shakespeare’s Henry V, as a reflexion of both royal pageantry and its public perception, is likewise both extremely popular and ambiguous: with the play, we feel we know Henry: so, what role does proximity play in the measure of power?
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hal-04597758 , version 1 (03-06-2024)



  • HAL Id : hal-04597758 , version 1


Francis Steven Mickus. And What Art Thou, Idle Ceremony?: Pageantry, Spectacle and Henry V. The Late Antiquity and Medieval Postgraduate Society, University of Edinburg, Jan 2024, Édimbourg, United Kingdom. ⟨hal-04597758⟩
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