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Henry V

Henry V

Warfare Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Yea, strike the Dauphin blind to look on us.
And tell the pleasant prince this mock of his
Hath turn'd his balls to gun-stones;
[...]
Tell you the Dauphin I am coming on,
To venge me as I may and to put forth
My rightful hand in a well-hallow'd cause.
So get you hence in peace; and tell the Dauphin
His jest will savour but of shallow wit,
When thousands weep more than did laugh at it.
Convey them with safe conduct. Fare you well. (1.2.11)

This is where Henry officially declares that he's going to invade France (after the Dauphin mocks Henry by sending him a boatload of tennis balls). What's interesting (and also kind of scary) about this speech is the way Henry says he's going turn the tennis balls to cannons and destroy France in a deadly match. We also notice here that Henry sees himself as God's avenger, which is an idea that will surface throughout the play.

Quote #2

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
[...] On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot: (3.1.1)

Here, Henry urges his men into battle with the famous rally cry, "Once more into the breach dear friends, once more." (A "breach" is just a gap in the fortifications – the English have just blasted a hole in the town's walls.) What's compelling about this speech is the way Henry declares that fighting against the French will ennoble the English troops, even if they're "of grosser blood" (commoners) than the noblemen who serve as their commanders. By telling his men that each of them has a "noble lustre" in their eyes, his strategy is to compel his troops to fight bravely. For the most part, Henry's battle cry works. Most of the troops are pumped up enough to rush forward, forcing the Governor of Harfleur to surrender the town. Not everyone is eager to charge into the breach, though. Keep reading...

Quote #3

Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give
all my fame for a pot of ale and safety. (3.2.1)

Hmm. Henry's rousing speech to his troops (see above) doesn't seem to have the desired effect on Bardolph, Pistol, Nim, or the unnamed Boy who says here that he wishes he was back in London at a bar. Is Shakespeare suggesting that these men and the young boy are cowards? Or, is he suggesting that they're right to want to be at home in the safety of a favorite hangout?

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