How the Hebrew Bible Shaped Shakespeare’s “Henry V”

Aug. 27 2021

Perhaps the best known of William Shakespeare’s histories, Henry V is based on the events of the titular monarch’s reign. But, as Paul Cantor—one of today’s leading authorities on Shakespeare—explains in conversation with Shaina Trapedo, the play draws heavily on the Tanakh, especially the books of Joshua and Deuteronomy. Cantor points out the biblical echoes in the play’s plot and language, and how its use of biblical tropes illuminates its political and religious subtexts. Even King Henry’s famous St. Crispin’s Day speech, in which he declares “This story shall the good man teach his son” evokes Exodus’s commandment for Passover: “You shall tell your son on that day, ‘Because of this that the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’” (Audio, 33 minutes.)

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More about: Exodus, Hebrew Bible, William Shakespeare

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship