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Band of Brothers: Shakespeare’s Agincourt, 1599
Hay Festival 2015
On the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, Jerry Brotton shows how Shakespeare’s Henry V now defines how we see this momentous event in English history. The play is often regarded as a straightforward celebration of English nationalism, the story of England’s tiny ‘band of brothers’ defeating the overwhelming might of the French. Brotton questions this assumption by recreating the historical moment in which Shakespeare wrote his play, with military disaster in Ireland, Queen Elizabeth’s power in decline, and the Essex Rebellion just about to engulf her. He argues that the result allows politicians on the left and the right to lay claim to the play and its account of Agincourt, along the way explaining how Olivier, Branagh and Spielberg are all part of the story.