Papers by SHAKSPER Members Seeking Critical Advice
As a service to its members, SHAKSPER makes selected papers for which the author would like comments available for a short time on the SHAKSPER server.
The following paper is currently available: pdf A Horse of a Different Colour (299 KB) (Click on title to the left to download a pdf copy.)
A Horse of a Different Colour
Shakespeare is not usually thought of as a subversive writer, and other than the well-documented performance of Richard II relative to the Essex Rebellion and the curious Oldcastle controversy, Shakespeare seems to have avoided conflicts with the authorities. This essay, however, presents a very plausible—and extremely subversive thread—subtly encoded throughout scene 3.7 in Henry V, where the target of the subversion is Queen Elizabeth and her court, an incredibly indiscreet focus for his satire. The subversive story line is so reasonable and persistent that it should be realized as intentionally crafted to get past censorious eyes, and is only discovered by a close reading and suitable interrogation of the text—where we are prompted to do so by the pointed clues in the text. After uncovering the covert subversion, we realize it explains the text better than the stage action that camouflages it.
After piecing out the subversive thread in the scene, I present two very plausible triggers, possible Catholic sympathies and the Oldcastle controversy, that might have motivated Shakespeare to elevate his poetic powers and wit to craft such a subtle, yet dangerous, subversion into the scene. Taken in whole, an appreciation of the subversive nature of this scene should prompt further scholarly attention to the play along these lines, which for the past 100 years has already enjoyed much critical controversy regarding how to interpret it.
NOTE: These papers are in PDF format; the free reader is available here.