Henry V Warfare Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line)
We would have all such offenders so cut off: and we
give express charge, that in our marches through the
country, there be nothing compelled from the
villages, nothing taken but paid for, none of the
French upbraided or abused in disdainful language;
for when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the
gentler gamester is the soonest winner. (3.6.3)
There are a few ways to read this speech. On the one hand, this passage supports the idea that Henry's previous speech about virgins getting raped and babies getting impaled (see above) was just a savvy tactic to get the Governor to surrender Harfleur to the English troops. Here, Henry forbids his soldiers from pillaging the French town or "abus[ing]" the French people in any way, which suggests that he's not a ruthless war monger. On the other hand, Henry's anti-looting stance can be seen as just another smart political strategy: "When lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentle gamester is the soonest winner." We should also point out that Henry's seemingly benevolent attitude toward the French shifts later on, when he orders his troops to kill all the French war prisoners.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day. (4.3.1)
This is the most famous passage in the play and one of the most famous speeches of all time. Before the Battle of Agincourt, Henry declares that, if his troops fight alongside him, they will become his "band of brothers." This line in particular is often embraced as a statement about the strength of bonds that are forged in combat.
But, hark! what new alarum is this same?
The French have reinforced their scatter'd men:
Then every soldier kill his prisoners:
Give the word through. (4.7.3)
Here, Henry gives orders for his troops to kill all of the French war prisoners. Some critics and audiences see this as evidence that Henry is a monster. Others point out that this move is simply par for the course in medieval style warfare.