restricted access The Experience of Ceremony in Henry V

Shakespeare’s Henry V is often paradoxically understood as a nationalistic memorial and an iconoclasm of idol ceremony. Given the play’s elaborate use of religious imagery, this paradox extends to the Renaissance controversy over church ceremony. Yet Henry V is also preoccupied with a third, more problematic type of ceremony: that of the public theater. This essay explores theatrical ceremony’s phenomenology and argues that the play’s most climactic moments—Henry’s soliloquy and the St. Crispin’s speech—do not mark points of transformation, but instead assert monarchy’s and theater’s dependence on ceremony and its paradoxes.