The Machiavellian Production Of An Ideal King

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There’s a general consent among critics that Henry V was written in 1599.

This date is based on what is generally perceived as a topical allusion in the play; Gerard Langbaine, writing in 1691, was the first to suggest that the reference to "the general of our gracious Empress" in the Chorus preceding Act V is an allusion to the Earl of Essex, who led an English expedition to put down an Irish rebellion in March of 1599.

Essex and his men returned to London in disgrace on September 28 of that same year, for the Irish campaign was a humiliating failure.

Most modern scholars endorse the thesis that Shakespeare’s description of a triumphant general "from Ireland coming, / Bringing rebellion broached on his sword" (Chorus.V.31-32)—if indeed it is a reference to Essex—would have been terribly inappropriate after the Earl's actual return;

Therefore, it has been concluded that Shakespeare must have composed Henry V sometime between March and early September 1599.

There is no record of a performance of Henry V before January 7, 1605, when it was presented at Court by the King's Majesty's Players.


There is strong evidence that when writing Henry V Shakespeare consulted both Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande (1577; 1587) and Edward Hall's The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and York (2d ed., 1548)

Such passages as Canterbury's Salic law speech in Act I, Scene ii is a paraphrase in verse of Holinshed's narrative of this episode, with only minimal variations from the original.

Another possible source for the Archbishop’s speech- Francesco Guicciardini’s History of Italy.

On the other hand, Shakespeare made no reference to many events that appear in Holinshed's and Hall's accounts of the reign of Henry V.

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