Contact FutureLearn for Support
Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsWelcome to week four of Shakespeare and his world. Week four, the world at war. Shakespeare was a war poet, or at least he was for the first half of his career. Perhaps the most famous event of Elizabethan times was the defeat of the Spanish armada in 1588. But although the armada was dispersed by a storm and England was saved, the war with Spain continued. And there was also a very unpleasant war in Ireland. So throughout the 1590s, when Shakespeare's growing as a dramatist, cutting his teeth as a writer, he's doing so in the context of war. There are soldiers in so many of his plays, comedies, tragedies, and histories.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 secondsAnd it's his English history plays, in particular, in which he explores the idea of war, the idea of leadership, and the role of war in the formation of national identity. That's what we're going to examine this week. We're going to read closely his most famous history play, his most famous war play, Henry V. And we're going to set it in the context of military life in his own times. We're going to ask what are the resemblances between Queen Elizabeth addressing her troops at Tilbury at the time of the armada and King Henry V addressing his troops on the night before Agincourt, or before the siege of Harfleur. We're going to look at ideas of military leadership.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 secondsAnd we're going to learn a bit about military techniques. We'll look at military handbooks. We'll even handle some weapons. And we're going to ask what was Shakespeare's own attitude to war? Was Henry V a straightforwardly patriotic play or does it present a more complicated vision, exposing not just the greatness of King Henry as a leader but also the costs of war, the reality of war when seen from the point of view of the common soldier, the ordinary person like those who stood in the pit at the Globe Theatre in 1599, the year when the Globe was built and Henry V was premiered?

Welcome to Week 4

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Shakespeare and his World

The University of Warwick

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: