The play Henry V completes the second tetralogy of Shakespeare's History plays, and this work restates a problem first dealt with in Richard II: Can sensitivity and warmth- the spiritual values that elevate human life- coexist with the ruthless strength and shrewdness that a ruler needs to govern?
Henry V assumed the throne of England upon the death of his father, Henry IV, during a period of immense civil troubles and tenuous foreign affairs. This play is a powerful dramatic work whose epic quality is plainly intended to invoke the grandeur of the ancient world, whether seriously or sardonically. The young king, at the age of 26, is constantly faced with the awesome responsibility of the throne, struggling to become a strong, moral king, to heal the scars left over from the rebellion, and to expand his empire into France. His two mentors, his father, the good but besmirched King Henry IV, and his old friend Falstaff, the teacher of his reckless youth, are dead. From this point on, he must go forward alone.
Script of the Play!
Cast Of Characters (text from Shakespeare A to Z by Charles Boyce)
King Henry V (1387-1422)
Historical figure and victorious leader of an English invasion of France during the Hundred Years War.
He is seen in two different ways, according to the play's ambivalence: (1) either a patriotic leader, or (2) as a vicious hypocrite, depending on one's interpretation of this protagonist; many episodes support both points of view.
Henry has two dramatic functions: to be the hero whose exuberant leadership carries England to triumph over a traditional foe, yet he is also a coldly Machiavellian politician who is indifferent to human costs of war. The portrait of the epic hero is completed with the marrying of Princess Katharine of France, to have offspring that will follow his line.
He is particularly concerned with his relations with heaven in view of his father's sins of usurpation and murder, and refuses credit for military victory, always ordering psalms to be sung and thanksgiving to be given.
But Henry often seems sanctimonious rather than genuinely religious. He chiefly calls on God to justify his own intentions, and turns sentiment into slurs in regards to the French.Many of his prayers follow moments where he is loathing about the difficulties he has faced, and had Shakespeare intended his hero as a seriously religious person these would have been a telling and touching moment to have him turn to God. This omission is not in itself very important, but it contributes to a sense that Henry does not truly possess the Christian spirit that he projects.
Henry V must dominate the play, for the play's essential ambivalence towards power depends entirely on the extraordinary dual nature of the protagonist, who must function as two quite different figures at the same time. Henry V is in this way unparalleled in Shakespearean drama, though many of the characters are greater than he in other respects. Thus he brings us to a renewed awareness of the range of his creator's genius.
Duke of Exeter, Thomas Beaufort (1337-1427)
Exeter (middle) was the illegitimate son of John of Gaunt and younger brother of the Bishop of Winchester.
He is a valued follower of his nephew the King, but has no distinctive personality. He bears a boldly defiant message to the French and recounts the death of the Duke of York, both in tone reminiscient of courtly epic poetry.
The historical Exeter was an important military commander under both Henry IV and Henry V, and was named executor of the latter's will.
King Charles VI of France (1368-1422)
Historical figure and opponent of Henry V. The ineffectual French King is given a portrait that omits the most important fact about him: he was intermittently insane. His illness -- later to surface in his grandson Henry VI of England -- was known to Shakespeare, but the playwright may have disliked pointing out defects in the ancestral line of his own ruler.
Two factions vied with each other for the regency of France when the King was sick. This led to the lack of support at Harfleur (3.3) since they were fearing a direct assault on Paris. Due to this division in the leadership, the country soon began to crumble and England conquered Normandy and claimed the French crown.
The French Royals
The Dukes of Berrie and Bertagne, of Orleans and the Dauphin... as well as the Constable... were the source for many of the problems in France, due to their inability to see two major issues: the need for support of troops and at what point to consolidate their divisions for a renewed assault.
These problems created inner turmoil, and in combination with the King's mental illnesses, created much confusion that the English were able to capitalize on and succeed in their invasion of lower France.
Historical figure and daughter of Charles VI, King of France. Later betrothed to King Henry V. Had a son, Henry VI.
Princess Katharine is an innocent girl, who is comically instructed in English by her waiting-woman Alice, and is later baffled by Henry's aggressive courtship. She has little personality; she is simply the object of King Henry's affections and part reward for victory over France.
Historically, she is the youngest child of Charles VI and Queen Isabel. Married to Henry V after the Treaty of Troyes. After Henry's death, she married a Welshman, Owen Tudor; their grandchild was to become King Henry VII, appearing as the Earl of Richmond in Richard III.
Alice, servant to Princess Katharine
She is the attendant to Princess Katharine, and they engage in a humorous, but tense, dialogue during 3.4. Princess Katharine is learning some basics of the English language, which is hardly a funny thing considering the plight of France during the invasions. Her role is to only provide interpretation for the Princess, who will understandably need to learn the new language.
The Group from Eastcheap
Sir John Falstaff
Falstaff-- physically huge, stunningly amoral, and outrageously funny --is generally regarded as one of the greatest characters in English literature. Lecherous, gluttonous, obese, cowardly, and a thief, he lies to the world but is honest with himself.
He is not a true member of Henry V; however, if having followed the major tetralogy, one would easily recall Falstaff's final humiliation at the hands of his former friend Hal. This is the character we find dying of what Mistress Quickly calls, "...a broken heart...", but we know better.
Falstaff's humanly believable end summons our sympathy for the character ...one who "had more flesh than a real man, and therefore more frailty" (1 Henry IV, 3.3.167-8).
Mistress Quickly (Hostess)
Proprietress of the Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap. She is a good-hearted woman whose affection for Falstaff withstands his exploitation of her purse. Aspiring to conversational brilliance, she displays a considerable vocabulary, but she misplaces words here and there (homicide for homicidal: 2 Henry IV, 2.1.49-51).
She is a denizen of the quasi-criminal underworld of London, but no crimes are attributed to her. Her nature has no taint of villainy. In this play she has even married, to Pistol.
In Henry V, she has a small but striking role, as she ascends her attendance at Falstaff's death-bed. Her speech is one of the masterpieces of English comic literature, being simultaneously extremely funny, even bawdy, and touchingly tender. Her efforts to comfort a dying and conscience-stricken sinner reflect Shakespeare's own forgiving humanity.
A braggart soldier and follower of Falstaff. He mourns the passing of Falstaff with his new wife (Hostess) whom he has presumably dazzled with his extravagant braggadoccio.
In the campaign in France he proves himself a coward (3.2), and following this episode, the boy remarks on the villainy of Pistol, Nym and Bardolph. After pleading unsuccessfully for the life of Bardolph, he is encountered by a disguised king the night before Agincourt.
The last survivor of Falstaff's followers, as we hear about the death of Hostess in 4.7, he serves to show that the anarchic element represented by Falstaff is finally rendered both harmless and completely disreputable. He may also be a symbolic parallel to King Henry's militarism... he threatens to kill his prisoner, as does the king all the captured French.
This follower of Falstaff is a minor character, feuding with Pistol, who married the Hostess, to whom Nym was engaged. Bardolph reconciles the feud with swords.
Says little in the play, acts cowardly at Harfleur and is upbraided by Fluellen. His villainous character is commented on by the Boy, and we also find out through the Boy of Nym's hanging, apparently for theft.
"Do not, when thou art King, hang a thief..."
Despite his swaggering early in the second act, he has little distinctive personality. Bardolph remains a comic soldier, a petty villain whose end .. his execution for having stolen a crucifix (pax) from a French church... helps to demonstrate the King's dedication to justice.
His most predominant characteristic is his diseased facial complexion, florid and fiery, 'all bubukles and whelks and knobs and flames o' fire' (Henry V, 3.6.105-06). He is teased mercilessly about his skin disorder by Falstaff and other characters, finding himself compared to lamps, torches, blushing maids, red wine, red petticoats, hellfire, and even 'Lucifer's privy kitchen' (2 Henry IV, 2.4.330).
Servant of Bardolph, Pistol and Nym.
Having been the page of Falstaff, he accompanies his late master's cronies to France as part of King Henry's army.
He elicits our sympathy by regretting his association with such cowardly thieves. Reveals in 4.4 the Bardolph and Nym have been hung. His final statements are to foreshadow his own death, as he lights upon the fact that he and the other boys are only there to guard the baggage train, which would make them a good target for the French. In 4.7, we learn from Gower of the massacre of all these youngsters.
Welsh officer in the army of Henry V. Hot-tempered, rather humorless and pedantic, but is an open, honest, and courageous man as well. He is further distinguished by a comically extravagant Welsh accent.
His bravery and sense of military honor mark him as a fine soldier, and his enthusiasm for Henry support the play's presentation of the king as an epic hero. On the other hand, his fiery irrationality and suffocating self-confidence are also to be associated with the king and color the alternative view that Henry is a vicious militarist and the play is a satirical picture of war and political power.
The French Ambassador/Herald, Mountjoy
Serving many of the roles in the movie, Mountjoy is the consummate messenger of French demands and then requests to the King of England.
Speaking very little, the part is only fully appreciated when viewed in a visual depiction of the play, seeing how many of the French personality appears in this somewhat haughty, then very subdued and task-oriented character.
Chorus , Allegorical figure from Henry V
Here, from the Kenneth Brannaugh version of Henry V (played by Sir Derek Jacobi).
The function of the Chorus was to identify the stage direction as the Prologue, provide an introduction to each Act and an Epilogue.
The Chorus apologizes for the inadequacy of the theater to present the events in a sufficiently grand manner, and therefore offers a summarized supplementary account of the events dramatized. Uses a stylistic and artificial diction that is in marked contrast with the realism of the dramatic scenes.
The Chorus repeatedly invokes imaginary scenes in order to help the audience "piece out..their thoughts", which helps to create an almost cinematic sweep of time and events.
Greater Note-taking ideas
COMMENTARY (borrowed from The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare)
The issue of sensitivity and warmth is answered in two ways through this play:
(1) The play seems like a patriotic tribute to Henry, seen as an ideally heroic leader; a hero suited for the threatening times England endured in the late 16th century.
(2) The play also seems like a mordant commentary on politics and war. Henry is a Machiavellian militarist, a cold-blooded, power-hungry hypocrite using religion to justify the horrors of an unnecessary war.
Throughout the play Shakespeare remains committed to the great portrait of the common people of England that he began so successfully in the Henry IV plays. The colorful characters, led by Fluellen, exemplify the stalwart bearing of the common soldier, which lends dignity to the king in so much as his ability to relate to this type of man. Henry's strength derives from his subjects, who in turn respond to him and are proud to be British.
Pathos in the play is developed very early with a scene at the Boar's Head Tavern, where much of the youth of the young king was spent. This world is treated far less sympathetically in this play, as Falstaff dies off-stage almost immediately, and the Hostess' role is very brief. The Bardolph and Nym die ignominiously, and the Boy is killed in an atrocity of war.These incidents serve both interpretations of the play, for while they represent defeat for anarchy by the new order of the epic hero, at the same time they represent Henry as an unfeeling politician who can cite principles of discipline while permitting an old friend to die.
Henry's invasion of France and the victory at Agincourt were already legendary peaks of English glory in Shakespeare's day, and national pride is patently evident at many points in the play. However, all is not rousing pageantry; Henry's war is questioned throughout. Most importantly, the savagery of war is repeatedly described in vivid speeches that compellingly counter the heroic idea of warfare that they ostensibly promote. Thus the evils of war are abundantly demonstrated, even as the triumph of English arms is glorified. Even Henry's aggressive wooing of Princess Katharine may be seen as an extension of his brutal conquest. This, in part with the concluding epilogue reminding the readers of the failures of Henry VI, reminds us that Henry V actually presents a bloody interlude to the selfish ambitions of feuding aristocrats.
Shakespeare's instinctive response to the complexity of life was to be further reflected in other plays, those dealing with power and idealism which force readers to question human motives, whether political or otherwise...questions that are the implicit ambiguities of Henry V. The need for social order is an important issue throughout Shakespeare's work; however, so is an evident distrust of those who hold authority. Readers can only conclude that the playwright recognized the paradox that underlies much political thought from the late Middle Ages to the present: the only forms of political power that seem fully moral are impossible to achieve. Thus the ambivalence of Henry V reflects our most profound political ideals as well as our most disturbing fears of political power.
Battle of Agincourt (from "Agincourt" by Christopher Hibbert)
One of the decisive battles of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). At Agincourt, a French village now in Pas-de-Calais department, an army led by Henry V of England defeated the chivalry of Charles VI of France on Oct. 25, 1415.
Reviving claims of his ancestors to the French throne, Henry invaded Normandy in August 1415 and laid siege to Harfleur. The town fell on Sept. 22nd, but by then the English army had been seriously weakened by dysentery as well as by battle casualties. Of the 11,000 men who had sailed from England, fewer than 5,000 archers and 1,000 men at arms survived the march north to Calais.
The English path was blocked at Agincourt by a French force of 20,000 to 30,000 men- mostly knights in heavy armor and on horseback- concentrated in the cramped space between two woods. Henry drew up his troops in order of battle, placing his archers in wedge-shaped groups on each side of three blocks of dismounted men-at-arms and in wings at either extremity of his 900-yard-long line. Then he led the army forward to within bow shot range, where the archers let fly a stream of arrows to provoke the enemy to charge.
Stung into action, the undisciplined French knights galloped through the mud into a fresh hail of arrows and onto sharp-pointed stakes that the English archers had stuck into the ground in front of them. A second attack, by dismounted men-at-arms, was initially successful. But as more and more knights entered the battle, they became so densely packed that there was scarcely room to strike a blow. Thousands of them were hacked to the ground by the less encumbered English. Thousands more were taken prisoner, until Henry ordered that these too should be killed for fear that they might rejoin the battle. In all, between 7,000 to 10,000 Frenchmen were left dead. The English losses were less than 450.
Henry's early death in 1422, however, rendered his triumph an empty one. His son and successor, Henry VI, lacked his father's leadership and had to contend with the rising force of French national pride and its inspired epitome, Joan of Arc. He was to lose all that Henry V had fought for.
Study Guide thoughts
What does the Chorus ask of the audience?
1.What is Henry "well-resolv'd" to do?
2. Who sent the ambassadors of France to England?
3. What gift do the ambassadors deliver to King Henry?
4. What does Henry say he will do with this gift?
1. What does the Chorus say about how the French view the English plans to invade France?
2. How does the Dauphin recommend they treat the English threats?
3. In what way do the constable and King Charles VI respond to the Dauphin?
4. About what event does the king remind his nobles?
5. What does Exetertell Charles and then the Dauphin?
1. What does the Chorus tell the audience to imagine?
2. What is Henry's speech outside of Harfleur designed to do?
3. Discuss the purpose of the scene with Fluellen, Gower, Jamy and Macmorris.
4. Describe the exchange that takes place between Henry and the Governor of Harfleur.
For the French part (3.4) go here
5. What happens with Bardolph? How does King Henry react?
6. Explain the exchange between Mountjoy and Henry.
1. What does the Chorus describe at the beginning of the Act?
2. In what way does it say the French are passing the night? the English?
3. What does King Henry do? Why does he assume a different identity?
4. What does Pistol say about King Henry?
5. Comment on the exchange that occurs between King Henry and Williams, Court and Bates.
6. For what does Henry pray for his soldiers?
7. Paraphrase Henry's long speech prior to Agincourt.
8. How does Henry answer Mountjoy when he comes to see if Henry will ransom himself off?
9. What, at the end of the battle, has made Henry mad?
10. What are the numbers of the French and English dead?
1. Discuss the conversation between Pistol and Fluellen.
2. Why does Shakespeare spend more time on the 'wooing of Katharine' than on signing a treaty?
3. How old is Henry? Katharine?
4. Why were all the legal documents of the time signed in French and Latin?
5. What does the Epilogue tell us about what happens after the play that the characters do not?
6. When did Henry V die?
Define, name the part of Speech and use in a sentence. Number each word and underline the word in the sentence.
Clemency Gregarious Exonerate Usurp Exhorts Mitigate Extrapolate Perdition
Ostensibly Garrulous Recapitulate Prosaic Ingratiate Indigenous Insipid Judicious
Altruism Exemplary Sovereign Complicit
The events of the play really happened: In real time, it covers a time period of about 10 days over the span of 6 years, from the year 1413-1415, then 1418.
Thematic Concepts in the play include: Moral and Emotional growth; The Burdens of Leadership; The Nature of Power; Patriotism; War.
The Plantagenet dynasty was founded in 1113 by the father of Henry II, and they ruled England from 1154-1399. Their succession was disputed from 1399-1485 by the claimants of York and Lancaster, the dispute culminating in the War of the Roses.
Henry's claim to the French throne was a fabrication from the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Ely. The genealogical fabrication, connected to the Salique Law, goes as follows:
(died 1316) -----Jeanne -----------Charles "the Bad" d'Evereux
married Marguerite de
second wife -------son, died as infant
Phillipe IV-------*Phillipe (1317-1322)--------4 daughters
*Charles IV ---------2 daughters
*Isabelle de France -----Edward III----------- John of Gaunt---------H. Bolingbroke----Henry V
(married Ed II of
(affair) (work by Julia Stiens-Berkemeier, 05/ 2008)