chapter  17
“The King Hath Many Marching in His Coats,” or, What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?
ByDavid Scott Kastan
Pages 18

Henry rules over a nation whose boundaries are insecure and whose integrity is under attack from within. Henry's discussion of his intended crusade is then both an understandable fantasy of national unity and a strategy for its production. The national identity torn by civil war would be reformed in common purpose. A similar insistence upon an imaginary unity marked production of power in Elizabethan England. The familiar political metaphors of well-ordered body or patriarchal family articulate the would-be absolutist state's desire for an integral wholeness, and the multiple historical and mythological typologies of Elizabeth did the same. The modes of representation in the popular theater of Elizabethan England, as Robert Weimann has shown, refuse to privilege what is represented. Shakespeare's dramatic account of Shrewsbury, however, erases the King's powerful and decisive intervention in the battle. The language of Renaissance absolutism, responding to the same crisis of authority, attempted to resolve the regress of representation by locating authority finally in God.