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Henry V
Henry V
by William Shakespeare
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Earl Of Cambridge, Lord Scrope, and Sir Thomas Grey

Character Analysis

Cambridge, Scrope, and Grey are three English traitors who take money from the French government to assassinate King Henry before he sets sail for France. (Gee. It's a good thing this isn't Julius Caesar – otherwise, these three backstabbers might have been successful at killing off their leader.) When the plot is uncovered, they're imprisoned for treason and executed. (Historically speaking, this conspiracy is referred to as the Southampton Plot of 1415.)

What motivates these three traitors? Is it money? Or something else? We can't speak for Scrope and Grey, but we do know something about what Cambridge was hoping to gain. Check out what he says when Henry V informs him that the jig is up:

For me, the gold of France did not seduce;
Although I did admit it as a motive
The sooner to effect what I intended:
But God be thanked for prevention;
Which I in sufferance heartily will rejoice,
Beseeching God and you to pardon me.
(2.2.5)

Here, Cambridge reveals that he took money from France only because he thought it would help him achieve his end goal. [Cambridge supports Edmund Mortimer, who seems to have a better claim to the English throne than Henry V. Remember, Henry V only inherited the throne after his father Henry IV usurped the crown from Richard II (Richard II, 4.1). Also, Mortimer is the great-grandson of Edward III's third son, while Henry, on the other hand, is the grandson of Edward III's fourth son.]

Shakespeare is being subtle here, but he's asking an important question: When it comes down to it, is the traitors' plot really that scandalous? Or, is it just par for the course in this series of history plays? If you ask us, Cambridge's plot to bump Henry V off the throne isn't so different from what Henry IV did to Richard II, which is this: He took money from France (the King of Brittany to be specific) to help his campaign to overthrow King Richard (Richard II, 2.1).

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