chapter  16
On the Continuity of the Henriad: A Critique of Some Literary and Theatrical Approaches
ByHarry Berger
Pages 16

This chapter discusses a critique of the approaches to the Henriad in response to which the two procedures were developed. It reviews several literary approaches and examines an approach generated by the practical obstacles to the representation of continuity posed by the attempt to stage the tetralogy. Theatrical reductionism restricts the interpretive possibilities inherent in the reader/text relation according to criteria more appropriate to the playgoer/ performance relation. Ethical reductionism channels interpretive energy into the project of judging whether and explaining why characters - Henry V, for example - are good or bad. Historical reductionism occurs whenever an overall diachronic scheme is imposed on the tetralogy in a manner that encourages disregard of complex interlocutory and discursive effects that don't fit the scheme. The synchronic but dynamic structure of the Henriad as a whole is greater than the sum of its diachronic parts.