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Henry V

Henry V

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Henry V Society and Class Quotes

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Quote #1

For, though Ispeak it to you, I think the king is but a man, as Iam: the violet smells to him as it doth to me: theelement shows to him as it doth to me; all hissenses have but human conditions: his ceremonieslaid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man; andthough his affections are higher mounted than ours,yet, when they stoop, they stoop with the likewing. Therefore when he sees reason of fears, as wedo, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relishas ours are: yet, in reason, no man should possesshim with any appearance of fear, lest he, by showingit, should dishearten his army. (4.1.20)

Here, Henry tries to convince everyone that the "king is but a man," just like everyone else. This is a nice idea, but is it really true?

Quote #2

But if the cause be not good, the king himself hatha heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs andarms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall jointogether at the latter day and cry all 'We died atsuch a place;' some swearing, some crying for asurgeon, some upon their wives left poor behindthem, some upon the debts they owe, some upon theirchildren rawly left. I am afeard there are few diewell that die in a battle; for how can theycharitably dispose of any thing, when blood is theirargument? Now, if these men do not die well, itwill be a black matter for the king that led them toit; whom to disobey were against all proportion ofsubjection. (4.1.2)

King Henry may view warfare as a way to gain honor and glory but here, Williams reminds us that the commoner soldier is worried about more practical issues, like losing their legs, arms, and heads during battle.

Quote #3

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;For he to-day that sheds his blood with meShall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,This day shall gentle his condition:And gentlemen in England now a-bedShall think themselves accursed they were not here,And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaksThat fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day. (4.3.1)

We've discussed this passage elsewhere, but it's important enough to talk about here as well. When Henry delivers his famous St. Crispin's Day speech, he assures his men that, when they fight together in battle, they will become "a band of brothers." Presumably, this newly forged bond will transcend barriers that have been erected by divisions in social status, since most of Henry's soldiers are simple "yeoman" (lower in status than gentlemen). Is Henry sincere when he makes this speech? (Henry's treatment of Williams later in the play suggests that he isn't.)

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