Performing the Queen's Men

Famous Victories: To the Court

At the Gate

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Script

NED:
But whither are ye going now?

HENRY V: 1To the Court, for I hear say my father lies very sick.

TOM:
But I doubt he will not die.

HENRY V:
Yet will I go thither, for the breath shall be no sooner out of his mouth but I will clap the
crown on my head.

JOCKEY:
Will you go to the Court with that cloak so full of needles?

HENRY V:
Cloak, eyelet-holes, needles and all was of mine own devising, and therefore I will wear it.

TOM:
I pray you, my lord, what may be the meaning thereof?

HENRY V:
Why man, 'tis a sign that I stand upon thorns 'til the crown be on my head.

JOCKEY:
Or that every needle might be a prick to their hearts that repine at your doings.

HENRY V:
Thou sayest true, Jockey; but there's some will say, "The young Prince will be a welltoward
young man," and all this gear, that I had as lief they would break my head with a pot, as to say
any such thing. But we stand prating here too long. I must needs speak with my father; therefore 2come away.

PORTER:
What a rapping keep you at the King's court gate?

1. To the Court

Previous to this moment in the scene there has been no clear indication of where the action is taking place, but this gives us a future destination for the scene.

2. Come away, Rapping and the King's Court Gate

Given our previous clue about their destination we must presume that the Prince is saying "come away" to the court. The next line is spoken by a new character the Porter who refers to the "king's gate" and that somebody has been "rapping" on it.

No stage direction is given for the arrival of the porter or for the movement of the Prince and his companions but the internal evidence of the dialogue tells us that they have arrived at court and have knocked on the king's gate.

Conclusions: Answering the Textual Riddle

How was this performed? What we have here is a textual riddle that needs to be unraveled before we can stage the scene.

What do we know?
  • The prince is travelling to the court.
  • A porter speaks on stage.
  • Someone has knocked on the king’s gate.

As a general principal in our production we looked for the simplest, effective way to perform the text while staying true to the majority of the stage directions. Watch our solution in the video below.

Video

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Edward Video 2
To The Court

Did you notice?

Once the prince calls his men to “come away” they simply cross the stage to the exit curtain (stage right) and knock on the frame of the tiring house. The Porter’s words then establish that this represents “rapping at the king’s gate” and the action is suddenly translated from “somewhere in London” to “outside the king’s court.” This simple solution is in keeping with Elizabethan stage practice as we know that Elizabethan theatre practitioners were more inclined to call on the imagination of their audience than we are today. Once we accept that the imagination of the audience is active, then there is no need for an elaborate stage structure to represent the king’s gate.

You might also note that the Porter does not really enter; he simply sticks his head through the curtain. This was a piece of business that was generated by the actors in rehearsal. We liked it because it was quite funny, it also represented the kind of window you find in castle gates through which porters peer to see who wants to come in and it saved the expense of one costume. You might also note that the Porter “enters” from stage right which breaks our basic blocking protocol. This came about because the prince and his companions were moving to a new location and therefore it felt right that they should travel to the other side rather than return stage left.

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