Internet Shakespeare Editions

Authors: Balthazar Ayala, Robert Barret, Richard Crompton, Stephen Gosson, Barnabe Rich
Editor: James Mardock
Not Peer Reviewed

The Sixteenth Century on War


0.1Introduction

Henry V enters into many aspects of contemporary European debates on the legality, morality, and practice of warfare. As Paola Pugliatti points out, the last two decades of the sixteenth century saw "war manuals, either original or in translation, invad[ing] the printing market" -- in England alone forty titles of books about war were published between 1578 and 1600 (Pugliatti 91-92). During this period Europe was embroiled in nearly constant warfare, in which Englishmen were frequently involved, raising the question of what constituted a just war, especially between Christian nations, precisely the question that Henry debates with his soldiers, without resolution, on the eve of Agincourt. Additionally, as the technology of warfare continued to change, readerly demand grew for technical manuals and comparisons of modern warfare with what Fluellen calls "the pristine wars of the Romans" (TLN 1200). The selections below give a sense of the contemporary discourse about war's morality and justice, the legal issues surrounding Henry's siege of Harfleur and killing of prisoners, and the debates about the disciplines of war that so exercise Shakespeare's Welsh captain.

The selection from Balthazar Ayala is taken from John Pawley Bate's 1912 translation of the Latin text (Baltimore: Lord Baltimore Press, 1912, vol. 2, 236). All other texts are transcribed from originals accessed through Early English Books Online.