chapter  4
Wars of Memory in Henry V
Pages 29

Although the play has been regarded as “a propaganda-play on National Unity: heavily orchestrated for the brass,”5 recent criticism has emphasized gaps and tensions within the appearance of national unity and resistances to unifying ideology, a familiar spinoff of the poststructuralist rereading of Shake speare as “fi ssure king.”6 What has gone largely unremarked on both sides is the extent to which nationalist ideology and resistances to it take the form of collisions over memory. Memory is the larger, moveable battlefi eld to which King Henry, England, and England’s last Tudor monarch were repeatedly called to arms. Collective memory is an extension of the kinds of power and even the brutality exercised in war. Wars of memory are not bloodless but intimately tied to the loss of lives and limbs. Control over how a nation remembers a momentous event like a war is almost as

signifi cant as the outcome of the war itself, given how crucial memory is for the legitimation and exercise of power.