Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Carlson, Harry S.||Welsh, Wil

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Speech


Shakespeare; William; 1564-1616. King Henry IV; Fencing; Theater


The main purpose of this thesis is to suggest an approach to the problems involved in creating dramatically effective theatrical sword fights. In the past, little emphasis was placed on stage fights as Integrated production elements. Only in the past few years has any attempt been made to understand the function of fencing in the development of character, plot, and dramatic meaning. As with any other production elements, the director and fencing choreographer must determine how closely historical accuracy will be observed, and how dramatically appropriate the chosen fencing style will be. A special problem to be faced in the planning and execution of a stage fight is that of safety. The chance of injury is always present, but the problem can be controlled through strict rehearsal discipline. In Henry IV, Part I conflicts result from differing concepts of honor. These conflicts are resolved in the fight scenes at the Battle of Shrewsbury when the differing concepts confront each other directly. Hal, Prince of Wales, for example, has been a truant to honor. He redeems his tarnished reputation by defeating Hotspur in battle— tho honor that comes from loyalty to country defeats the destructive selfishness that springs from personal honor. In the Northern Illinois University production of Henry IV, Part I, historical accuracy was observed in the choice of weapons, armor, and fencing style. The fencing scenes, carefully rehearsed over a five-week period, were planned to reveal the character traits that made manifest the differing concepts of honor—for Hal, courage and cool-headedness; for Hotspur, courage and rashness; and for Falstaff, comic prudence and opportunism. Illustrative and informative materials on stage fencing are included in the Appendices to the thesis, along with a detailed "Fencing Rehearsal Log" of the Northern Illinois University production.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


viii, 119 pages




Northern Illinois University

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