Internet Shakespeare Editions

About this text

  • Title: Henry V: Textual Introduction
  • Author: James D. Mardock
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-409-7

    Copyright James D. Mardock. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: James D. Mardock
    Peer Reviewed

    Textual Introduction

    Editorial procedure

    Like all modern editors of Shakespeare, I modernize the spelling and punctuation of the original printed texts, following the conventions laid out by Stanley Wells (1979). Because the ISE website presents multiple facsimiles of the original printed texts as well as diplomatic transcriptions with original spelling intact, readers who wish to compare modern conventions with those of Shakespeare's contemporaries will easily be able to do so.

    As befits an edition that preserves both texts of the play, I have edited each text conservatively, resisting the impulse to regularize variant readings between texts, preserving the reading of the original if its meaning can be justified, and only emending if the source of error can be explained. For example, this edition preserves the reading "levity" (TLN 1560) which, though it may be the result of compositorial error in F (the n in "lenity" inverted to u), nevertheless preserves a possibly intentional reading consistent with Henry's character. I have likewise preserved readings like "headly" (TLN 1291) and "curselary" (F) / "cursenary" (Q) at TLN 3065, on the grounds that such unique coinages were common enough for Shakespeare that no emendation to the more common heady and cursitory is justified. In each such case, the issue is discussed in the commentary notes. Conversely, I have adopted Lewis Theobald's famous emendation "a babbled o' green fields" (see TLN 839 n.) after having fared no better than any previous editor or critic to convince myself that the original reading, "a Table of greene fields," is anything other than error. Where editorial tradition has identified a textual crux, or in other instances where I have emended despite my general rule, I discuss the issue at length in the commentary.

    35The names of historical persons and places have been modernized according to their use by modern historians, regardless of their spelling in the printed texts or in the editorial tradition, using Anne Curry's convention in Agincourt: A New History (2005) as a touchstone. Thus Isabel becomes Isabeau, Katherine becomes Catherine, Britaine becomes Brittany, etc. In cases where such emendation changes the pronunciation enough to produce metrical awkwardness, especially in the modernization of sixteenth-century England's French, -- d'Albret (for "Delabreth"), Rouen (for "Roan"), and Louvre (for "Louer"), for example -- I discuss the history and give performance options in the commentary. In the case of ahistorical or fictional names, I do not follow this pattern of modernization, but preserve the original text's spelling. Fluellen remains Fluellen in F and Flewellen in Q, rather than a Welshman with the modern name Llewellyn. Likewise, "Ancient" Pistol retains the sixteenth-century version of his rank rather than being promoted to Ensign as the Oxford editors did. Had the character been a historical Llewellyn mentioned in the chronicles, there would be grounds for modernizing, but as a fiction invented by an Englishman to stand for the Welsh nation within an English context, the justification is weaker. Fluellen's initial F -- the consonant that Shakespeare's English ear heard in the Welsh double-L -- is as much a part of his stereotyped portrait as his oaths, his accent, and his verbal tics. And changing Ancientto Ensign removes a pun of potential significance to Pistol's characterization. Such characters have a dramatic life of their own, and their names and designations carry their own weight, even if they are historically inaccurate. We should no more modernize their names than turn As You Like It's Jaques into the monosyllabic Jacques.

    The treatment of different languages in Henry Vpresents another, similar challenge. To the extent that it is possible, I have applied the same logic to the modernization of Shakespeare's French and to the regional dialects of Captains Jamy, Fluellen, and MacMorris. With the French, I use modern French spellings, relying on notes to discuss those moments when an archaic pronunciation determines a hearer's response, as for example when Pistol hears "moy" for the French prisoner's moi. For the captains' versions of English, I retain the characteristic orthography as much as possible, modernizing only when a dialect form has a conventional modern spelling (e.g. guid for Captain Jamy's "gud").

    I have used act and scene divisions for the Folio text, and scene numbers only for the Quarto text, in which no scene divisions are marked. In the battlefield sequences, at Harfleur and before and after Agincourt, staging is intentionally fluid, often with simultaneous entrances and exits indicated. It is conventional to designate a new scene only when the stage has been cleared, and since in these sequences the plays do not always clarify that this is the case, my scene numberings may differ from those in other editions. When a text is unclear as to whether or not the location has changed and a new scene begun, I have discussed the options in the commentary.

    For the edition based on the Q text, which was set entirely as verse, I switch to prose only in places where no meter is apparent in the lines. For the Folio text I follow the mode switches in the original text, regardless of how metrical Pistol's verse occasionally sounds, on the grounds that while his speech often evokes the rhythms of bombastic blank verse drama, printing it as such would seem to indicate that Pistol quotes particular lines.