The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor


[Enter Chorus as Prologue]


O for a muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention:
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene.
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars, and at his heels,
Leashed in like hounds, should famine, sword, and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that hath dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object. Can this cock-pit hold
The vasty fields of France? Or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O pardon: since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million,
And let us, ciphers to this great account,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder.
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts:
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance.
Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them,
Printing their proud hoofs i’th’ receiving earth;
For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there, jumping o’er times,
Turning th’accomplishment of many years
Into an hourglass—for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history,
Who Prologue-like your humble patience pray
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

Oh, this is novel! A chorus to introduce the play! How very Greek!
I love it so far. But then this was only the opening paragraph.
I really hope, tho, that the play will deliver what the ending of Henry IV promised.

No pressure, Will. LoL.

As intended I’ll skip the two comedies that were published between the Henriad for now, and go straight to Henry V (before jumping ahead once more to Julius Caesar next weekend).
And as always, I’ll supplement my reading the play with a couple of performances – The Hollow Crown episode and Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V.

I know I’ve watched the Olivier version of Henry V before, too, and I would not mind re-watching it for this project, but I forgot to request it from the library. So, this will have to wait.

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