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Henry V


David Brooks imagines Shakespeare’s Henry V in an American school circa 2012.


It’s every bit as terrible as you might imagine.

So instead of quoting this garbage, let’s quote Pierce instead:

Look, I like you people. I really do. But do I have to go on with this? Either Brooks is stoned to the gills, or the Times gave every editor in its payroll a free trip to Neptune. And actually, what Henry did was withdraw to the tavern, get roaring drunk in evil company, fuck whatever tavern wench happened to fall in his lap, and in all ways engage in pursuits that an unstoned David Brooks otherwise would find appalling among those people who eat government cheese in their double-wides while watching Cops and having the sexytime without his permission. This is behavior, of course, that bothers Brooks not at all when engaged in by the world’s proper owners. Sucking up to the Plantagenets. Wow. You have to love a courtier pundit who tries to curry favor with a ruling elite that lost its power in 14-goddamn-85.

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  • Cody

    I regret following your link to read the article…

    Can you tell me what his point was? I just left the reading with some confusion and a slight headache.

    • PFC Ratzkywatzky

      Boys will be boys?

      There’s a better Henry V shout-out up today anyway.

      • bgn

        Boys will be boys?

        Yes, exactly…which doesn’t make sense when you consider that most of what Brooks et al object to about the education of boys was true fifty or even a hundred years ago; but who objected that boys were being emasculated then?

        • Well, there was nothing to object to then. Because you couldn’t blame it on feminism.

    • firefall

      When has Bobo ever had a point to his flatulence?

    • Halloween Jack

      David Brooks is imagining that young Prince Hal is already boozing and whoring in nursery school. It’s an amusing notion, but he didn’t do so deliberately, one guesses.

  • Charlie Sweatpants

    I will never in my life feel sorry for Brooks, but he has suffered a rather harsh reversal in the last few years. After 2008, he had dinner with Obama and he was writing columns about how the right had to shape up and be more like he wanted it to be if they ever wanted to be in power again. That was his happy time.

    Now the right’s gone even further down the rabbit hole and he and his kind (hello, Mittens!) can neither bring them back nor get down in the muck with them. So he’s forced to write empty nothingness that kinda sorta defends the right and attacks a mythical left that doesn’t actually exist. He saw this glimpse of the world as he wanted it after Obama won, and then it vanished in front of his eyes. I can’t 100% blame the guy for escaping into a fantasy realm where the world still makes sense to him.

    • Pith Helmet

      fuck him. anytime he writes about his “vision” for the country, it’s the GOP plan with Michael Kinsley glasses on, wearing a tie of pseudo-socio-scientific bullshit that he understands only as far as he got in the jacket blurb or from some TED talk.

      He can’t be relegated to the op-ed page of the Charleston WV Daily Mail with Don Surber fast enough.

    • Holden Pattern

      It’s hard work being an aging courtesan to power, isn’t it, Davie-B?

    • I could pity him, except that his highly-paid job is to fluff rich people and make the current winner-not-only-take-all-but-screw-everybody-else society seem morally justified. He makes a handsome living writing fantasy crap, and decries public workers for wanting decent money and a financially secure old age–people who do more useful work in a shift than he has done in his life.

      • HyperIon

        plus he’s on TV and radio. ugh.

        • Halloween Jack

          My second-least-favorite thing on NPR, aside from Cokie Roberts on Monday mornings, is when they drag Bobo on to do point-counterpoint with E.J. Dionne. Whatever you think of Dionne, he can’t help but sound good next to Bobo being smug and clueless and always sounding as if he’s got a mouthful of peanut butter.

  • Njorl

    Considering the large percentage of kings who were insane, including Henry V’s son and his father in law (Charles VI of France), Brooks did not choose a good way to argue his point that we might be overmedicating schoolboys.

    • timb

      considering that Henry V was pretty only good at killing people and leading an army, I’m not sure he’s the enlightened ruler Brooks imagines him to be.

      I just finished listening to a podcast of Roman History (in the last several months) and there is no escaping the fact that absolute rulers are more gangsters and thugs than rulers.

      David should stop watching Kenneth Braunaugh and realize what a war-mongering imperialist Hank was (although he was REALLY good at it)

      • Bexley

        and realize what a war-mongering imperialist Hank was

        Ideal presidential material from a GOP view surely?

      • firefall

        I’d argue he wasn’t even that good at leading an army FWIW – the Agincourt campaign was a monumental series of blunders, saved only by stumbling across an even less ept opponent on the battlefield, and his subsequent campaigns were not exactly stellar.

        • Njorl

          If not for some mud, we’d have had a good lesson as to how ineffectual the English Longbow had become.

          • Spuddie

            Even the longbows were a happy accident. Henry couldn’t afford to pony of the cash needed for all the armored knights he wanted. Bowmen were cheap and plentiful

          • Halloween Jack

            Yes, if only the French had thought to pave Agincourt. Mud on a battlefield? When else has that ever happened? I’m all for a good counterfactual, but come on.

        • John

          Obviously Brooks is talking about Shakespeare’s Henry V, not the historical figure.

      • rea

        Good battle commander; not much of a strategist.

      • Heron

        And quite brutal. Murdering French peasants and townspeople for little or no reasons, staking their corpses or extremities as warnings, raping, pillaging, and sacking were certainly not things he shirked from.

        • timb

          Odd, too, for a man who wanted to be the King of France. Thugs and gangsters

          • rea

            Google “lollards” and you’ll find he wasn’t any better in England

        • JoshA

          Maybe the peasants hurt his fee-fees by being insufficiently deferential?

  • rea

    If I recall correctly, Shakespeare’s Prince Hal would have gone to prison for armed robbery if he’d been in an American school in 2012. You don’t see Brooks trying to pass that sort of thing off as youthful hijinks when some NYC black kids does it.

    • pete

      in an American public school.

      • rea

        Public or private, Shakespeare has the young Prince Hal involved in highway robberies at swordpoint.

        • NonyNony

          Ah, but if Prince Hal were in an American private prep school, robbing people at gunpoint would be youthful shennanigans. Like assaulting a fellow classmate or dressing up like a gangster and scaring the crap out of a local storeowner.

          Youthful shennanigans – and also practice for a career in vulture capitalism. Obviously the kind of thing every private prep school in the US should encourage. At least for the boys who aren’t in on a scholarship…

          • Sargon

            As someone who has attended an American private prep school within the past decade, I’m guessing that a criminal offense of that scale would be too much to sweep under the rug; they would probably actually get the police involved.

            However, he wouldn’t get expelled. No one ever gets expelled from prep school; you just get asked not to re-enroll…

            • Cody

              The more money you have, the more you can sweep under the rug though. If you can buy out a whole town and everyone who knows anything about it, then you can sweep a lot under the rug!

  • timb

    First, Henry would withdraw. He’d decide that the official school culture is for wimps and softies and he’d just disengage. In kindergarten, he’d wonder why he just couldn’t be good. By junior high, he’d lose interest in trying and his grades would plummet.

    Is there any indication Henry went to school — ever — at what we would consider a junior high level? Is there any indication he even spoke English, since most of his predecessors identified as Norman and Frenchies than English? I cannot remember and do not want to look up, the first Plantagenet king who spoke scolloquial English

    • rea

      According to the ever-infallible Wikipedia, Henry V was in college at Oxford for a while, at the age a contemporary American boy would be in middle school. He used English in his personal correspondence, and pioneered the use of English by government agencies.

      • DrDick

        Which makes him unusual, since many or most Medieval nobles and royalty were illiterate, though that may have been changing by his time.

        • Njorl

          I believe the only illiterate post-conquest kings of England were William the Conquerer and William Rufus. Even they are only suspected of illiteracy. The Anglo Saxon kings of England were literate, though I think the kings of the precursor kingdoms – Wessex, Mercia etc., tended toward illiteracy. I don’t know about the Danish kings of England.

        • John

          I don’t think Henry V’s ability to read was at all unusual for a western European monarch of his generation.

        • burritoboy

          By the late middle ages, it would have been viewed as reasonably shameful for a royal male to be completely illiterate. A royal would usually have a set of tutors, sometimes headed by a pretty well known scholar – Erasmus, Aquinas’ pal Giles of Rome, Nicholas Oresme and lots of notable others spent periods as tutors to royalty or high nobility.

  • c u n d gulag

    I was actually waiting for a column like this during the W years – probably a little after 9/11 – about how W was Hal, and Cheney was his Falstaff*, and how the boy had finally grown to manhood, and showed his mettle, in that bullhorn speech.

    That use of Hal in Henry IV maturing into Henry V might have made some sense then – at least to Bobo.

    But this column was unintelligible.
    If it was a stew, it’d be made of some sparkly pony meat, metal shavings, broken glass, lug-nuts, a parsnip, sprinkles, champagne wishes, caviar dreams, and topped off with a froth of whipped unicorn milk.

    Jeez, in the last few months, he’s psychoanalyzed political people, now he goes to fictional representations of historical figures.
    What next?
    Cartoon characters?
    “Bugs Bunny Explains His Take On President Obama.”

    *My apologies to that great and funny character , Falstaff, for associating him with the worst and most socipathic American still alive (sort of) on the planet.

    • efgoldman

      My apologies to that great and funny character, Falstaff…

      If you apologize to anyone, it should be to Bugs Bunny.

      • c u n d gulag

        You’re right!

        Bobo might get some ideas.

        He’s always looking for some hip cultural references – even if they are over 70 years old.

    • PFC Ratzkywatzky

      You were looking in the wrong places.

      • c u n d gulag


        • Njorl

          I can just picture his rousing pre-battle oratory, “Once more into your breeches my friends!”.

    • A Cheney-esque Falstaff would be a miserable thing indeed. And just think how that would ruin The Merry Wives of Windsor.

    • John

      But Falstaff isn’t Cheney. Cheney was a friend of Bush 41, whereas Falstaff was hated by Hal’s father. Cheney would be Westmoreland, or something.

    • CJColucci

      I always thought of W as Bertie Wooster and Cheney as Jeeves.

  • efgoldman

    I’ve taken to ignoring Brooks, and most fisking of him. Pierce is the exception, because he really knows how to an evisceration. In fact, I’m beginning to see him as a modern, blogging Mark Twain.

    • efgoldman

      There’s a verb hiding somewhere in the shadows, but I can’t coax it our without an edit function.

      • firefall

        Verbs crutches for weak

        • rea

          Hulk . . . something.

          • Hogan


  • Mitt “Mitt” Romney

    My friends, I can’t tell you how much Ann and I enjoy these sorts of literary discussions. Oftentimes Ann will relax from a hard day of ordering the help around, fighting to guard our precious health care resources from the undeserving, and making sure no illegals are working at any of our 14 or 15 homes, because we’re running for President, for Pete’s sake! Anyway, Ann will unwind from a hard day at that sort of work, which of course is work contrary to what Democrat women think, and she’ll go out and read Shakespeare’s wonderful Summits to Rafalka and the other, lesser horses we also own. It’s a way for her to feel like she’s giving something back to America, which oh by the way, President Obama would be too busy apologizing for our country to various brown despots and galactic overlords to do something great for this country like reading poetry to horses.

    Speaking of literatures, just yesterday, on the campaign trail, we met a young man, and he was so tall! His height was a lot higher than I think the right height ought to be! And so I figured, this guy, he’s got to be in sport, right? But he wasn’t in sport! He actually goes to college to study things like Shakespeare and other writers of things that had nothing to do with taking over companies and profiting from putting them out of business, or with sport! Certainly not with the Olympics, which by the way I take a great deal of credit for there still being any Olympics because I saved them, for Jesus and America.

    Thank you, God bless you all and God bless the United States.

    • Cody

      You meant to name yourself Mitt “the Ripper” Romney I assume.

      • Njorl

        No way. I love the ‘ Mitt “Mitt” ‘ formulation. It’s the best presidential candidate name paranthetical humor since Fred “Tommy” Thompson.

        • Hogan

          Or Pierre “Call Me Pete” DuPont.

    • Mitt “Mitt” Romney

      You know, my friends, the great irony of this post and my admiration for Henry V, although, gosh, that last name is not the right length, I don’t think? Shouldn’t it have more length than just a “V”? By as I was saying, Henry V fought a war in France! Can you believe that? We Americans have been known to fight a few wars, some of them also in France! But, seriously, one of the most personally painful times in my life was the period during the Vietnam War, when I was doing missionary work in France but longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there. It was incredibly frustrating for me to be denied the opportunity to be in Vietnam by the government’s approval of the four draft deferments I sought. I’ve often thought, and Ann can vouch for this, that if America had been fighting Henry V in France instead of Vietnamis in Vietnam, I could have fought for my country instead of being so cruelly denied that opportunity by a federal government that unfortunately consented to my repeated requests to stay out of the war.

      • Willard “Mitt” Romney

        My friends, had I fought with Henry – and I would have, just like Taggert would have fought in Iraq had he not decided to serve his country by being telegenic on the campaign trail – had i served, then I would at least remember my first name, for Pete’s sake! We few, we happy few, we band of corporations!

        • Mitt “Mitt” Romney

          My friends, this person is a rank imposter, which by the way you can verify because I told the audience at the CNN national security debate that Mitt is my first name. I don’t know what kind of name “Willard” is, but it sounds like the kind of name our president might use as cover while he’s on one of his Grand Apology speaking tours around the world.

          • Njorl

            Only some crazed rat-training misfit would be named Willard.

    • JoshA

      Will Ann also unwind by doping her dressage horses or driving her Cadillacs??

  • wjts

    A Glimpse into the Writing Process of David Brooks:

    “Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare’s most intriguing characters. Though possessed of a profound sense of honor and a knowledge of his own limitations, he sometimes found himself overcome by the intensity of his passions. But suppose Titus went to an American school. By about the third week of nursery school, his teacher would be sending notes home saying that Titus ‘had another hard day today.’ He crammed Tammy Gustavson’s doll into the Easy-Bake oven and tried to make her eat it…”

    No. Let’s try this again.

    “Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most iconic characters. His ambition is rivaled only by his bravery. But suppose Macbeth went to an American school. By about the third week of nursery school, Macbeth’s teacher would be sending notes home saying that Macbeth ‘had another hard day today.’ Of course, this teacher is a manipulative, castrating she-monster in human form intent on despoiling the young Macbeth’s pristine masculinity with sharing and stabbing…”

    Better, and I think I’m on the right track now.

    “Henry V is one of Shakespeare’s most appealing characters….”

    • NonyNony

      I think you missed the part where he downed a bag of shrooms before starting to write, but other than that I think you might be close.

      • BigHank53

        Really? I’ve just assumed there’s a rejection pool established by Brooks, Friedman, Dowd and some other NYT columnists. Every week they toss fifty bucks in the kitty when they submit their column. First one who gets rejected wins the pot. There must be seventy thousand bucks in there by now.

        • NonyNony

          If this were true it would actually explain SO GODDAMN MUCH about the NYT editorial page.

          Sadly I’ve seen David Brooks appearances on the News Hour, so I can’t find this credible. He really does seem to believe the stuff that he scrawls across the editorial page.

  • Sly

    So instead of idiotically extracting people from their historical context in a hamhanded attempt to justify his policy preferences, David Brooks is now idiotically extracting fictionalized versions of people from their historical context in a hamhanded attempt to justify his policy preferences. And he’s doing it in what is arguably the most coveted editorial space in the English language.

    Shoot me. Just fucking shoot me now.

    • Sly

      Next up, the intrepid Mr. Brooks will call for the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction because Nick Nolte’s portrayel of Thomas Jefferson would totally be against it, followed by rethinking the Earned Income Tax Credit from the perspective of Theodore Roosevelt from Night in the Museum.


      • Njorl

        You are too cru… Sorry, my mistake. You are well within the bounds of acceptable cruelty here. Carry on.

    • Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

      Just wait until Ross Douthat starts quoting me.

      For the record, Ross? Jake Speed and I did have a thing, so shut the fuck up already about the gay thing.

    • Emperor of Mankind

      Brooks starts writing pretend speeches from me, I’m gonna put my gold-plated foot up his ass. No joke. And I’m used to putting my foot up the ass of miscreant Space Marines, so Brooks better be getting a bucket of lube ready if he keeps pissing me off.

      • Constantin Valdor

        Calm down, boss. It’s just David Brooks.

    • Walt

      We are not going to shoot you. You clear have done some terrible deed for God to have sent a monster like Brooks to torment you. We will not stand in the way of the Lord’s vengeance.

    • Colin Day

      Shoot me. Just fucking shoot me now.

      Only if you’re standing in front of Davis Brooks. :-)

  • Western Dave

    The sad thing is, now a bunch more people are going to ignore Michael Thompson on the “boy crisis.” Thompson’s work is really pretty good, and the stats are undeniable, boys and young men are losing in the new American economy. Needless to say Brooks butchers Thompson’s work in both causes and proscriptions for fixes.

    But for those of you who are familiar with current youth culture, the options for boys are superheros, sports stars, and losers. Girls have a far wider range of role models available.

    • rea

      for those of you who are familiar with current youth culture, the options for boys are superheros, sports stars, and losers

      What, no venture capitalists? I see you point in part, though–it’s a shame all the war heros, astronauts and firemen are now women.

      • Bill Murray

        I wish to know when Rock Star stopped being a male thing? Is Rmoney’s boy Kid Rock not still at The Top of The Pops?

        • Western Dave

          Sorry, I forgot rappers/rock stars. I can’t type on my phone fast enough yet.

    • NonyNony

      But for those of you who are familiar with current youth culture, the options for boys are superheros, sports stars, and losers. Girls have a far wider range of role models available.

      Name one role model that girls have that boys don’t have. Go on, I’ll wait right over here.

      • wjts

        Cherry Ames?

      • Western Dave

        Yeah, that’s why Disney created Disney XD. Because boys were really into Miley Cyrus and Zach and Cody. And all the boys (excpet Phineas and Ferb) were basically proto-stoners (hello Zeke and Luther). Girls are targeted for a wide range of images. Again, I’ll be using Disney as a marker of the zeitgeist. If you take your girl to Disney, she can be a Princess one minute and Kim Possible the next and in between a scientist and astronaut. And your boy can be — a drunk pirate. At school, girls are often equipped with the tools to engage in cultural criticism of gender and given explicit instruction in harmful stereotypes and how to recognize them. In boys health class, they might talk about gender stereotypes, but probably not. If you believed that the culture is anti-feminist and that the images that deluge young girls are largely harmful than take a long look at the images that target boys and see how freaking awful they are. At this point, I’ve got one boy watching My Little Pony because it’s what passes for quality television. He loves Adventure Time, but Finn is hardly Rainbow Bright. My other son is a Dora freak but wouldn’t touch Diego with a 10 foot pole. And quite frankly, who can blame him?
        And there are all those kids’ shows about firemen, war heroes, and astronauts that just have guys. Oh wait, that was the 70s. To the extent that we have those shows now, both sexes are represented and the girls are almost always cooler. (Okay, Little Einstein’s is the exception that proves the rule, but it’s been in re-runs for two years now).

        • owlbear1

          There’s always Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, Dave.

        • NonyNony

          Jumping Jeebus on a freaking Pogo stick you. have. got. to. be. shitting. me.

          Those are not role models – THOSE ARE FUCKING CARTOON CHARACTERS.

          If you want to complain about the lack of quality children’s television that’s fine – but I thought you were talking about actual, you know, role models. You know, actual people that kids can look up to as real people. People who have faced adversity and actually done, you know, stuff.

          I’ve got a five-year old boy myself. For entertainment he has more and better fucking choices than I ever had when I was his age. I hope that, for the love of Grod, when it comes down to “role models” I really hope that I’ve been able to expand his horizons enough that he can pick out actual people who’ve done real things to use as a gauge for what’s possible in his life instead of, you know, Gandalf or Buzz Lightyear or Batman or something.

          • Western Dave

            Look, my kids are fine. But his classmates all want to be Buzz Lightyear.

        • IM

          Harry Potter.

          Case closed.

          And for a boy who think Harry is to brainy, there is still Ron Weasly.

          And, now please explain to us, why HP doesn’t matters to contemporary youth entertainment.

      • DocAmazing

        Alexis Texas.

    • owlbear1

      But for those of you who are familiar with current youth culture, the options for boys are superheros, sports stars, and losers. Girls have a far wider range of role models available.

      You know you do have to put in some fucking effort of your own.

  • Aaron Baker

    David Brooks imagines Shakespeare’s Henry V in an American school circa 2012.

    Where’s drawing and quartering when you need it?

  • Jim Lynch

    Brooks penned his way into big bucks. More power to him.

    He’s just another really bad writer who is also a right wing whore.

    But the fools at NY Times who sign his paychecks? Now that’s a sad, sad story.

  • I find that affection for Henry V a surpringly good barometer of inherent monarchal feelings. Twelfth Night is the play of rebels.

  • Western Dave

    Okay, let me try another tack, not using my kids’ and their friends consuming habits as my example. Instead, I’ll use my hs students. My girl students are almost all hardworking. Even the slackers do their hw most of the time. The boys almost all subscribe to a culture of “chill.” “Never let anybody know you do the work, skate by with the minimum, don’t read directions, smart kids don’t have to work.” Back in the day, I suppose this was the Gentleman’s C, and they could get away with it (much like Ron and Harry did in HP), but these days it’s not enough. Or in pop culture terms: Hermoine earns her grades, Harry gets his because he’s naturally talented and does less than most other students. etc. etc.

    And finally, I think Brooks is a jerk and example of unearned privilege whose basic complaint here is “boys are being forced to compete on a level playing field and they are losing; this is wrong and I blame feminizing teachers that it will be harder in the future for jerks like me to succeed.” This is clearly wrong.

  • Sherm

    As usual, brooks’ piece is a complete mess and he misses the mark entirely with his suggested causes and cures, but anyone who refutes his observations regarding the handling of rambunctious young boys does so only because they have been fortunate enough not to experience it first hand. I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers or to know all the root causes for the problem, but the fact remains that the schools as presently structured are not prepared for dealing with rambunctious young boys and will rush to have them assessed for special education and/or medication simply because they have problems sitting still and show some independence at age four or five. Intelligence and creativity are irrelevant, and independence is frowned upon. They want a bunch of good little listeners who will be prepared to score threes and fours on the state mandated tests, which is of paramount concern. Mock brooks’ inanity all you want, but there is a problem here which needs to be addressed.

    • Western Dave

      It’s not just boys either. Recess is good for everyone. Boys are more likely to get medicated because of cultural assumptions and the way we deal with boys who act out as opposed to when girls act out. Notions about who gets medicated as opposed to who gets preferential seating etc. etc. are pervasive.

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