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Stealing Soldiers’ Hearts: Appropriating Henry V and Marching Shakespeare’s Boys off to The Great War, Paul Brown

This essay examines a Memorial Stained Glass Window from World War I that depicts Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V at Prayer’ before the battle of Agincourt. Dedicated to fallen brothers from the King Edward VI Boys Grammar School in Stratford-upon-Avon, the window’s legend reads: ‘O God of Battles Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts’ – reflecting a belief that Henry V was a valiant warrior-king who inspired his English soldiers to defeat France in 1415. In the aftermath of World War I, scholars began to question this patriotic portrayal of Henry V seen in ‘abridged’ performances of Shakespeare’s play. By comparing the myths embedded in this war memorial image of Henry with his entire ‘O God of Battles’ prayer, this essay intends to unmask Henry’s character and reveal the dark complexity hidden in one of Shakespeare’s most dangerous kings.

Date created: 
Friday, May 1, 2015
Attribution for this resource:
Stealing Soldiers’ Hearts: Appropriating Henry V and Marching Shakespeare’s Boys off to The Great War, Paul Brown, All rights reserved.
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