The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sheehan and Shakespeare

Cindy Sheehan's brave campaign to speak truth to power got me thinking about a great scene from Shakespeare's Henry V.

Many of us who teach literature have been pointing out eerie similarities between Dubya and Prince Hal, the drunken wastral who idles his life away in the shadow of his father, King Henry IV, before eventually emerging as a warrior king in the play Henry V.

What I thought of today was the great scene from Henry V (Act 4, scene 1) in which the king gets more than he bargains for from a common soldier.

In the camp before the battle of Agincourt (a battle in which a severe shortage of English troops looks dire)the king dons a disguise and goes amongs his men to learn what they really think of him and his war.

When he encounters one such soldier, a man named Williams, he hears this:

'. . . if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.'

Later in the same act, King Henry (in true Dubya fashion) reveals himself to Williams and upbraids the latter for 'speaking truth to power,' despite the fact that man was simply giving an honest answer to the king's own question.

But Williams will not relent. He points out the King's dishonesty in using the diguise to eavesdrop on his own men:

"Your Majesty came not like yourself. You appear'd to me but as a common man; witness the night, your garments, your lowliness; and what your Highness suffer'd under that shape, I beseech you take it for your own fault and not mine. . ."

Then when the King decides he likes Williams moxie and attempts to buy him off with a glove filled with coins, Williams turns from the king in disgust and says:

"I will none of your money."

Today when I thought of Cindy Sheehan's brave vigil, I thought of that brave, truth-speaking soldier---and how much they have in common.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home