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Reviews325 Beatrice Batson,ed. Shakespeares SecondHistorical Tetralogy: Some Christian Features. Locust Hill Literary Studies 35. West Cornwall, Conn.: Locust Hill Press, 2004. Pp. xxix + 188. $42.00. The editor ofthis volume has ably directed since 1992 the biennial Shakespeare Institute atWheaton College (Illinois),in which invited scholars ofShakespeare's plays present papers to an audience of mainly college teachers that illuminate Christian aspects of one or more of his plays in a traditional group chosen by the organizer for that particular conference. In 2001, eight presenters focused on one or more of the plays in Shakespeare's so-called Second Tetralogy: The Tragedy ofKingRichard the Second, The First Part ofKingHenry the Fourth, The Second Part ofKing Henry the Fourth, and The Life ofKing Henry the Fifth. Admirably published in an error-free text by Locust Hill Press, this latest volume of a series consists of the eight revised papers, prefaced by Beatrice Batson's brief five-page account of the development, mainly in the twentieth century, ofa body ofChristian readings ofShakespeare's plays followed by synopses of the arguments of the eight essays. As is true for almost all volumes of this kind originating in conference papers, some essays are more original, or more useful, than others. In what follows, I categorize my review of the book according to this criterion. In my opinion, the most stimulating, original essays in this collection are John Rumrich's "Dear Experience: The Imagery of Shakespeare's Henry IV Tetralogy" (57-81) and Ellen Summers's "'Judge, My Masters': Playing Hal's Audience" (165-78). Both papers are clearly written and organized. Rumrich's essay convincingly shows how the four plays "build upon images of walking— feet hitting the ground one at a time to get from one place to another" (57). Rumrich develops his topic in terms ofcontemporary religious rituals such as Rogationtide perambulation, the"foot" etymology ofthe word expedition (pes, pedis) and biblical texts concerned with circumspect walking such as Colossians 4:5 and Ephesians 5:15-16 appliedto Richard II,King Henry IV,Hotspur,Falstaff, and King Henry V. Summers nicely explores the implications for playgoer response of the possibility that Prince Hal's utterance—"I know you all, and will awhile uphold / The unyoked humor ofyour idleness"—beginning his notorious first-act soliloquy in 1 HenryIVapplies to the theater audience instead of, or in addition to, his tavern companions. Summers splendidly explains how Shakespeare, in this possible reading of the lines, challenges playgoers labeled "idle" by Puritans to participate in his drama to the extent that they wish to reform themselves morally when they see Hal do so. Four of the essays, those by Paul While, Joseph Candido, John VeIz, and Charles Forker, have individually much to offer, but they are not quite as 326Comparative Drama stimulating and/or original as Rumrich's and Summers's papers. The best of these are White's "Shakespeare and Religious Polemic: Revisiting 1 Henry IV and the Oldcastle Controversy" (147-64) and Candido's "The Chronicles of Emptiness: Loss, Disappointment, and Failure in Shakespeare's Second Tetralogy" (83-106). The repercussions for Shakespeare and his company of his originally naming Falstaff"Oldcastle," apparently after the Lollard martyr, have been much analyzed lately, notably by Gary Taylor, Robert Fehrenbach, and Kristen Poole. But Paul White most adeptly shows how "religion, politics, patronage, and theatrical entertainment all get entangled in [the] dispute over the Cobham family's most celebrated and controversial religious member, the fifteenth-century Lollard hero, Sir John Oldcastle" (148). Candido persuasively demonstrates through analysis ofthree episodes in the Second Tetralogy (2 Henry IV4.5.1-224, Henry V 2.2.12-181, Henry V4.1.85-305) that characters ' losses and disappointments enrich, even rehabilitate, them in the finest sense of the Christian paradox of losing oneselfto find oneself spiritually. John Velz's"England as Eden in RichardII: The Implications for the Second Tetralogy" (129-45) argues that the relevance ofthe idea ofEngland as Eden in John of Gaunt's memorable speech to that effect (Richard II2.1.40-60) for the whole ofthe Second Henriad his not been fully appreciated. VeIz is especially effective in this paper in bringing biblical texts...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 325-327
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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