The rabbit that quacked, Shakespeare's Henry V in performance

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Prince, Kathryn S.
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In Henry V, the Chorus directs the audience toward both epic and ironic elements. At times he is a cheerleader or a spin doctor, emphasizing the glory of war, playing on the audience's patriotism, and explaining potentially negative events like Henry's execution of the traitors in a positive light. His repeated apologies for the inadequacies of the performance further bolster the notion that the play is an epic, arguing that the medium rather than the subject matter is responsible for any flaws. When the ensuing action immediately contradicts his reading of a situation, however, the Chorus' presence undermines the heroic and glorious elements, calling the myth of Henry V's triumph into question. How and at what point the audience loses faith in the Chorus becomes a crucial decision in any production. A predominantly ironic version relies on the audience's awareness of the Chorus' misapprehensions, while an epic one would do well to minimize their impact. I will be considering various productions, both epic and ironic, in order to assess the sometimes domino-like effect a small change in the interpretation of the Chorus has on the play. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)