Rudolph Glitz, University of Amsterdam, CCHS Distinguished Visitor

“Young Men Must Live”: Age Group Politics in Shakespeare’s Henriad
When Nov 04, 2014
from 06:00 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Humanities Room 300
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Sociological studies such as Riley et al.’s Age and Society (1972) have long reminded us that age affects more than merely the individual’s own life course and immediate family ties. Along with class, gender, and similar socio-political categories, it actually constitutes entire groups of people with shared identities and concerns. One of these groups, Glitz argues, is that of the Boar’s Head crowd in Shakespeare’s Henriad. With reference to the contemporary moral literature on age, archival records of age-related court cases, and not least a number of revealing passages from the plays themselves, Glitz shows that Hal’s companions are characterized not only by their ignoble antics and marked inferiority in rank, but also, and no less significantly, by their youth. This is despite the ponderous presence of “that old white-bearded Satan” Falstaff (1H4 2.4.451), whose emphatically age-inappropriate participation might be hard to account for in relation to present-day youth culture, but is certainly compatible with the youth group formations of Shakespeare’s London. Recognizing Falstaff and his companions as a youth group has important consequences for our reading of Hal’s near-legendary transformation from dissolute prince to English monarch supreme. While it does little to help us resolve the most controversial question about this transformation in the secondary literature – namely whether or not Hal’s eventual rejection of his youthful companions is endorsed by the play, its author, and the audience – it does help us recast said question in less class-centered terms than has usually been done by critics and opens up new possible answers to it.

Glitz is University Lecturer of English Literature and Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Amsterdam.