Study Guide

Henry V Quotes

  • Power

    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    The king is full of grace and fair regard.
    BISHOP OF ELY
    And a true lover of the holy Church.
    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    The courses of his youth promised it not.
    The breath no sooner left his father's body,
    But that his wildness, mortified in him,
    Seemed to die too. Yea, at that very moment
    Consideration like an angel came
    And whipped th' offending Adam out of him,
    Leaving his body as a paradise (1.1.24-32)

    According to Canterbury and Ely, Henry V is an excellent king, despite his wild youth. Here, Canterbury compares Henry to Adam (from the Book of Genesis) and suggests that Henry has been redeemed for the sins of his past.

    KING HENRY
    My learnèd lord, we pray you to proceed
    And justly and religiously unfold
    Why the law Salic that they have in France
    Or should, or should not, bar us in our claim.
    And God forbid, my dear and faithful lord,
    That you should fashion, wrest, or bow your
       reading,
    Or nicely charge your understanding soul
    With opening titles miscreate, whose right
    Suits not in native colors with the truth;
    For God doth know how many now in health
    Shall drop their blood in approbation
    Of what your reverence shall incite us to. (1.2.11-23)

    At this point in the play, we've already learned that Henry is thinking of claiming the French throne. Here, Henry tells the Archbishop that it will be his fault if Henry starts a big war that can't be justified. Is it just us, or does Henry seems reluctant to take responsibility for his actions and decisions?

    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    Then hear me, gracious sovereign, and you peers
    That owe yourselves, your lives, and services
    To this imperial throne. There is no bar
    To make against your highness' claim to France
    But this, which they produce from Pharamond:
    'In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant'
    (No woman shall succeed in Salic land),
    Which Salic land the French unjustly gloze
    To be the realm of France, and Pharamond
    The founder of this law and female bar.
    Yet their own authors faithfully affirm
    That the land Salic is in Germany,
    Between the floods of Sala and of Elbe,
    Where Charles the Great, having subdued the
       Saxons,
    There left behind and settled certain French;
    Who, holding in disdain the German women
    For some dishonest manners of their life,
    Established then this law: to wit, no female
    Should be inheritrix in Salic land,
    Which Salic, as I said, 'twixt Elbe and Sala,
    Is at this day in Germany called Meisen.
    Then doth it well appear that Salic law
    Was not devisèd for the realm of France,
    Nor did the French possess the Salic land
    Until four hundred one and twenty years
    After defunction of King Pharamond,
    Idly supposed the founder of this law,
    Who died within the year of our redemption
    Four hundred twenty-six; and Charles the Great
    Subdued the Saxons, and did seat the French
    Beyond the river Sala in the year
    Eight hundred five. Besides, their writers say,
    King Pepin, which deposèd Childeric,
    Did, as heir general, being descended
    Of Blithild, which was daughter to King Clothair,
    Make claim and title to the crown of France.
    Hugh Capet also, who usurped the crown
    Of Charles the duke of Lorraine, sole heir male
    Of the true line and stock of Charles the Great,
    To find his title with some shows of truth,
    Through in pure truth, it was corrupt and naught,
    Conveyed himself as th' heir to th' Lady Lingare,
    Daughter to Charlemange, who was the son
    To Lewis the Emperor, and Lewis the son
    Of Charles the Great. Also King Lewis the Tenth,
    Who was sole heir to the usurper Capet,
    Could not keep quiet in his conscience,
    Wearing the crown of France, till satisfied
    That fair Queen Isabel, his grandmother,
    Was lineal of the Lady Ermengare,
    Daughter to Charles the foresaid Duke of Lorraine:
    By the which marriage the line of Charles the Great
    Was re-united to the crown of France.
    So that, as clear as is the summer's sun,
    King Pepin's title and Hugh Capet's claim,
    King Lewis his satisfaction, all appear
    To hold in right and title of the female.
    So do the kings of France unto this day,
    Howbeit they would hold up this Salic law
    To bar your highness claiming from the female,
    And rather choose to hide them in a net
    Than amply to imbar their crooked titles
    Usurped from you and your progenitors. (1.2.37-100)

    Whoa! Canterbury gives a looooong, drawn out speech explaining why he thinks it's okay for Henry to make a grab for the French throne. (We counted, and it takes the guy 63 lines.) Here, he says that the French have been using the Salic Law as an excuse to prevent English kings (like Henry's great-grandfather King Edward III) from inheriting the French crown. (Salic Law is just the name of a French rule that prevented men from inheriting the crown through a female line. In other words, if a king has a daughter, she can't inherit the throne and her sons and grandsons can't inherit it either.) Canterbury also claims that, from a historical and legal standpoint, the Salic Law only applies to Germany, not France. Plus, adds Canterbury, a bunch of French kings have inherited the crown through <em>their</em> mothers' family lineage, so the Salic Law shouldn't apply to King Henry V either. Um, okay. If it's such a cut and dry case, why does it take Canterbury so long to justify it?

    KING HENRY
    May I with right and conscience make this claim?
    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    The sin upon my head, dread sovereign, (1.2.101-102)

    Good question, Henry. <em>Can</em> you make a claim to the French throne with "right and conscience"? We're not so sure.

    CAMBRIDGE
    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 thankèd for prevention,
    Which I in sufferance heartily will rejoice,
    Beseeching God and you to pardon me. (2.2.162-167)

    When it's discovered that the French have bribed Cambridge, Scrope, and Grey to assassinate King Henry before he can invade France, we're led to believe that plot is treacherous. Here, though, 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 (<em>Richard II</em>, 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.]

    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 (<em>Richard II</em>, 2.1).

    KING HENRY
    There's for thy labor, Montjoy.
                                            Gives money.
    Go bid thy master well advise himself:
    If we may pass, we will; if we be hindered,
    We shall your tawny ground with your red blood
    Discolor. And so, Montjoy, fare you well.
    The sum of all our answer is but this:
    We would not seek a battle as we are,
    Nor, as we are, we say we will not shun it.
    So tell your master. (3.6.163-171)

    Okay. Henry's claim to the French throne may be dubious, but he often comes off as an awesome king. Here, he has the confidence to <em>tip</em> the enemy messenger after the guy delivers a threatening message from France.

    KING HENRY
    I think the King is but a
    man, as I am. The violet smells to him as it doth to
    me. The element shows to him as it doth to me. All
    his senses have but human conditions. His ceremonies
    laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man,
    and though his affections are higher mounted than
    ours, yet when they stoop, they stoop with the like
    wing. Therefore when he sees reason of fears as we
    do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish as
    ours are. Yet, in reason, no man should possess him
    with any appearance of fear, lest he, by showing it,
    should dishearten his army. (4.1.105-116)

    Disguised as a common soldier, King Henry walks among his troops the night before battle and delivers a speech that reveals his isolation. Here, he tries really hard to convince us that he's just a "man" like everybody else. The fact that he's running around in a disguise so he can hang out with his troops like a regular Joe suggests that Henry longs for the human connection he enjoyed with Falstaff and company (back in <em>Henry IV Part 1</em>). The moral? It's lonely at the top.

    BATES
    Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we
    know enough, if we know we are the king's subjects.
    If his cause be wrong, our obedience to the
    king wipes the crime of it out of us.
    WILLIAMS
    But if the cause be not good, the King
    himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all
    those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in a
    battle, shall join together at the latter day, and cry
    all 'We died at such a place,' some swearing, some
    crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left
    poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe,
    some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard
    there are few die well that die in a battle, for how
    can they charitably dispose of anything, when blood
    is their argument? Now, if these men do not die
    well, it will be a black matter for the king that led
    them to it, who to disobey were against all proportion
    of subjection. (4.1.134-151)

    Not everyone is on board with Henry's war. As Bates and Williams point out, most of the common soldiers don't even know if the king is justified in invading France. Bates says he doesn't even want to know if the king is wrong because he's powerless to do anything about it. Williams delivers the most crushing accusation when he says that Henry is ultimately responsible for sending his soldiers to their deaths.

    KING HENRY
    So, if a son that is by his father sent about
    merchandise do sinfully miscarry upon the sea,
    the imputation of his wickedness, by your rule,
    should be imposed upon his father that sent him. (4.1.152-155)

    This is Henry's response to Williams' claim that the king is responsible for the deaths of his soldiers. Here, he compares kingship to fatherhood in order to shirk responsibility (once again). Does this even make sense? Why or why not?

    KING HENRY
    Upon the king! Let us our lives, our souls, our
    debts, our careful wives, our children, and our sins
    lay on the King!
    We must bear all. O hard condition,
    Twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath
    Of every fool, whose sense no more can feel
    But his own wringing. What infinite heart's ease
    Must kings neglect that private men enjoy? (4.1.238-245)

    When Henry complains that being king means that he never gets to relax, we're reminded of something his father said back in Henry IV Part 2: "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown" (3.1.31). In other words, kingship is a heavy burden.

    KING HENRY
    Not today, O Lord,
    O, not today, think not upon the fault
    My father made in compassing the crown.
    I Richard's body have interrèd new
    And on it have bestowed more contrite tears
    Than from it issued forcèd drops of blood.
    Five hundred poor I have in yearly pay
    Who twice a day their withered hands hold up
    Toward heaven, to pardon blood. And I have built
    Two chantries, where the sad and solemn priests
    Sing still for Richard's soul. More will I do—
    Though all that I can do is nothing worth,
    Since that my penitence comes after all,
    Imploring pardon. (4.1.303-316)

    Uh-oh. It looks like someone is feeling guilty about the fact that he inherited the crown from a father who stole it from Richard II. Here, Henry asks God to forgive him for his father's sins and says that he's spent years trying to atone for Henry IV's sins. This raises an important question. If Henry's claim to English throne is questionable, how the heck can he justify going after the French crown?

  • Warfare

    KING HENRY
    Yea, strike the Dauphin blind to look on us.
    And tell the pleasant prince this mock of his
    Hath turned 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-hallowed 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. (1.2.292-294; 304-310)

    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.

    KING HENRY
    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.
    Dishonor not your mothers. Now attest
    That those whom you called 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 luster in your eyes.
    I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
    Straining upon the start. The game's afoot. (3.1.1-5; 18-35)

    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...

    BOY
    Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would
    give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety. (3.2.13-14)

    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?

    MACMORRIS
    It is no time to discourse, so Chrish save
    me. The day is hot, and the weather, and the wars,
    and the King, and the dukes. It is no time to
    discourse. The town is beseeched. An the trumpet
    call us to the breach and we talk and, be Chrish, do
    nothing, 'tis shame for us all. So God sa' me, 'tis
    shame to stand still. It is shame, by my hand. And
    there is throats to be cut, and works to be done,
    and there ish nothing done, so Christ sa' me, la. (3.2.107-115)

    Bardolph, Pistol, and Nim aren't the only ones who are reluctant to avoid the fighting. Here, three Captains (Fluellen, MacMorris, and Gower) stand around chitchatting about the art of war... while the other soldiers do all the dirty work of charging into the "breach." Even after MacMorris says it's a "shame" for them to be standing around instead of fighting, nobody does anything. So, what's the difference, if any, between Bardolph's low-life pals and the professional military captains we see here?

    KING HENRY
    Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
    Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!' (3.1.36-37)

    Like we said, Henry insists that God is on his side during his campaign against France, which makes it easy for him to justify the invasion. Here, he aligns himself ("Harry") with God and England's Patron Saint (George).

    KING HENRY
    If I begin the battery once again,
    I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur
    Till in her ashes she lie burièd.
    The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,
    And the fleshed soldier, rough and hard of heart,
    In liberty of bloody hand shall range
    With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass
    Your fresh fair virgins and your flow'ring infants.
    What is it then to me if impious war,
    Arrayed in flames like to the prince of fiends,
    Do with his smirched complexion all fell feats
    Enlinked to waste and desolation?
    What is 't to me, when you yourselves are cause,
    If your pure maidens fall into the hand
    Of hot and forcing violation?
    What rein can hold licentious wickedness
    When down the hill he holds his fierce career?
    We may as bootless spend our vain command
    Upon the enraged soldiers in their spoil
    As send precepts to the leviathan
    To come ashore. Therefore, you men of Harfleur,
    Take pity of your town and of your people
    Whiles yet my soldiers are in my command,
    Whiles yet the cool and temperate wind of grace
    O'erblows the filthy and contagious clouds
    Of heady murder, spoil, and villany.
    If not, why, in a moment look to see
    The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
    Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters,
    Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
    And their most reverend heads dashed to the walls,
    Your naked infants spitted upon pikes
    Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
    Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
    At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen.
    What say you? Will you yield and this avoid
    Or, guilty in defense, be thus destroyed? (3.3.7-43)

    Here, King Henry V warns the Governor of Harfleur that if he doesn't surrender immediately, the English soldiers will probably rape the town's virgins, smash in the heads of old men, and impale all the newborns on spikes. What does this speech say about King Henry? For some, this speech is simply evidence that Henry is a brilliant military strategist and orator. By conjuring up images of horrific violence, Henry convinces the Governor to surrender and avoids more bloodshed in Harfleur.

    For others, this speech speaks to the atrocities of war. According to actor/director Kenneth Branagh, Henry's "threatening speech to the Governor of Harfleur offers a graphic reminder of the violent reality of medieval warfare at its most desperate" (source). Branagh's take on this speech can be seen in his 1989 film adaptation of Henry V, which goes out of its way to portray the gritty realities of the Battle of Agincourt.

    KING HENRY
    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. (3.6.109-116)

    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.

    KING HENRY
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he today 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 abed
    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. (4.3.62-69)

    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.

    KING HENRY
    But hark, what new alarum is this same?
    The French have reinforced their scattered men.
    Then every soldier kill his prisoners.
    Give the word through. (4.7.36-39)

    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.

    KING HENRY
    If
    thou would have such a one, take me. And take me,
    take a soldier. Take a soldier, take a king. And what
    sayest thou then to my love? Speak, my fair, and
    fairly, I pray thee. (5.2.171-175)

    This is weird. Why does Henry try to pass himself off a simple soldier when he tries to woo Catherine? (We already know that he's anything but.) As Henry insists over and over again in this scene that he's a "soldier," we begin to think that he approaches his pursuit of Catherine with the same kind of dogged determinism that he approaches warfare.

  • Patriotism

    BISHOP OF CANTEBURY
    Look back into your mighty ancestors.
    Go, my dread lord, to your great-grandsire's tomb,
    From whom you claim; invoke his warlike spirit
    And your great-uncle's, Edward the Black Prince,
    Who on the French ground played a tragedy,
    Making defeat on the full power of France,
    Whiles his most mighty father on a hill
    Stood smiling to behold his lion's whelp
    Forage in blood of French nobility.
    O noble English, that could entertain
    With half their forces the full Pride of France
    And let another half stand laughing by,
    All out of work and cold for action! (1.2.107-119)

    When Canterbury and Ely urge Henry to channel his ancestors and "forage in blood of the French nobility," it's pretty clear that they think it's Henry's patriotic duty to declare war on France.

    BISHOP OF CANTEBURY
    She hath been then more feared than harmed, my
       liege,
    For hear her but exampled by herself:
    When all her chivalry hath been in France
    And she a mourning widow of her nobles,
    She hath herself not only well defended
    But taken and impounded as a stray
    The King of Scots, whom she did send to France
    To fill King Edward's fame with prisoner kings
    And make her chronicle as rich with praise
    As is the ooze and bottom of the sea
    With sunken wreck and sunless treasuries. (1.2.161-172)

    Henry worries that invading France will leave England's borders vulnerable to attack from outsiders. After all, when Henry's great-grandfather led a campaign on foreign soil, England was invaded by their neighbors, the Scottish. Canterbury's response is that England was hardly threatened by the Scots. In fact, she took the Scottish king prisoner, which was quite a feather in her cap. In other words, Canterbury says that England's been racking up successful military campaigns left and right, making the country rich with the "treasures" of victory.

    KING HENRY
    But this lies all within the will of God,
    To whom I do appeal, and in whose name
    Tell you the Dauphin I am coming on,
    To venge me as I may and to put forth
    My rightful hand in a well-hallowed cause. (1.2.302-306)

    Henry frequently declares that God is on his side. Here, he warns the Dauphin (via the Messenger) that, when he invades France, he's coming as God's avenger.

    KING HENRY
    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.
    Dishonor not your mothers. Now attest
    That those whom you called 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 luster in your eyes.
    I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
    Straining upon the start. The game's afoot. (3.1.18-35)

    Remember when Canterbury and Ely told Henry that he should invade France for his country's (and his family's) honor? Well, here, Henry uses the same tactic to motivate his soldiers.

    KING HENRY
    Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!' (3.1.37)

    It doesn't get more patriotic than this. When Henry declares that God is "for England," we're reminded that national pride and religious zeal go hand in hand in this play.

    KING HENRY
    I dare say you love him not so ill to wish
    him here alone, howsoever you speak this to feel
    other men's minds: methinks I could not die anywhere
    so contented as in the king's company, his
    cause being just and his quarrel honorable.
    WILLIAMS
    That's more than we know. (4.1.128-133)

    When Henry (disguised as a common soldier) attempts to justify his invasion of France, Williams replies with much skepticism: "That's more than we know." In other words, Williams doesn't necessarily buy into Henry's patriotic call to arms but concedes that it's not his place to criticize the king.

    KING HENRY
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he today 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 abed
    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. (4.3.62-69)

    Henry suggests that it's a privilege for his troops to fight by his side, even if they wind up dead. The king's strategy for rallying his troops seems to boil down to this: everyone who stayed at home is going to be so jealous! Plus, they'll feel like a bunch of wimps for not getting their battle on.

    KING HENRY
    My people are with sickness much enfeebled,
    My numbers lessened, and those few I have
    Almost no better than so many French,
    Who when they were in health, I tell thee, herald,
    I thought upon one pair of English legs
    Did march three Frenchmen. Yet forgive me, God,
    That I do brag thus. This your air of France
    Hath blown that vice in me. I must repent.
    Go therefore, tell thy master: here I am.
    My ransom is this frail and worthless trunk,
    My army but a weak and sickly guard,
    Yet, God before, tell him we will come on
    Though France himself and such another neighbor
    Stand in our way. There’s for thy labor, Montjoy.
    Gives money. Go bid thy master well advise himself:
    If we may pass, we will; if we be hindered,
    We shall your tawny ground with your red blood
    Discolor. And so, Montjoy, fare you well.
    The sum of all our answer is but this:
    We would not seek a battle as we are,
    Nor, as we are, we say we will not shun it.
    So tell your master. (3.6.150-171)

    As the English troops prepare to fight at Agincourt, they are serious underdogs because they're exhausted, sick, and completely outnumbered. When Henry's army emerges virtually unscathed, the victory is that much more compelling. It's obvious that Shakespeare meant for the play to instill his audience with a sense of national pride.

    KING HENRY
    Then every soldier kill his prisoners (4.6.38)

    Wait a minute! What's this? How are we supposed to interpret Henry's order for his men to kill all of the French war prisoners? Is this the act of a noble king or a cold war monger? Is Shakespeare criticizing Henry? You decide.

    FLUELLEN
    By Jeshu, I am your majesty's countryman,
    I care not who know it. I will confess it to all the
    'orld. I need not to be ashamed of your Majesty,
    praised be God, so long as your majesty is an
    honest man. (4.7.117-121)

    When the Welsh Captain Fluellen declares that he is proud to be Henry's countrymen (Henry was born in Wales), we're reminded that Shakespeare tries to unite all of the country's of Britain into one cohesive nation. (This is why he portrays Captains from Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and England fighting together in Henry's army.)

  • Family

    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    The breath no sooner left his father’s body
    But that his wildness, mortified in him,
    Seemed to die too. Yea, at that very moment
    Consideration like an angel came
    And whipped th’ offending Adam out of him,
    Leaving his body as a paradise
    T’ envelop and contain celestial spirits. (1.1.27-33)

    There's a whole lot of talk in this play about King Henry V's relationship to his dead father, King Henry IV. Why? In a world where crowns are supposed to be passed from fathers to sons, it's nearly impossible to separate politics from family. Here, Canterbury suggests that, when Henry IV died, his son not only inherited the English crown but also experienced a sudden and miraculous transformation.

    CANTERBURY
    Howbeit they would hold up this Salic law
    To bar your Highness claiming from the female,
    And rather choose to hide them in a net
    Than amply to imbar their crooked titles
    Usurped from you and your progenitors.
    KING HENRY
    May I with right and conscience make this claim? (1.2.96-101)

    We talk about Salic Law in "Symbolism," but it's worth mentioning here because it's a rule that says women can't inherit the French throne and their sons (and grandsons, etc.) can't inherit it either. The great-great-grandson of a French princess, Henry V contests the Salic Law and makes a claim to the French throne. In other words, when it's convenient, Henry uses family as an excuse to take the crown, regardless of whether or not it's right or justifiable.

    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    Gracious lord,
    Stand for your own, unwind your bloody flag,
    Look back into your mighty ancestors.
    Go, my dread lord, to your great-grandsire’s tomb,
    From whom you claim; invoke his warlike spirit
    And your great-uncle’s, Edward the Black Prince,
    Who on the French ground played a tragedy,
    Making defeat on the full power of France
    Whiles his most mighty father on a hill
    Stood smiling to behold his lion’s whelp
    Forage in blood of French nobility. (1.2.105-115)

    In this play, relationships between fathers and sons (and even uncles and nephews) seem to be strengthened by wartime heroics. When Canterbury encourages Henry V to declare war on France, he tells the king to look back at his family tree for inspiration in order to invoke his great-uncle's "war-like spirit." (Henry's great-uncle was Edward the "Black Prince," the guy who terrorized France in the mid-1300s. Later in the play, King Charles recalls how the Black Prince slaughtered the French while the prince's dad, King Edward III, stood on a mountain top watching as his "heroical seed" in action.

    KING HENRY
    ...for many a thousand widows
    Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands,
    Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down;
    And some are yet ungotten and unborn
    That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin’s scorn. (1.2.296-301)

    Here, Henry openly declares war on France after the Dauphin sends him an insulting gift (a bunch of tennis balls). What's interesting about this is the way Henry emphasizes the fact that warfare tears families apart. We also notice that Henry has a tendency to blame others for his actions. Even though he's the one declaring war, he claims that it France's fault that the wives of their soldiers are going to be turned into widows and the children made into orphans when their fathers are killed in battle.

    DAUPHIN
    Ô Dieu vivant, shall a few sprays of us,
    The emptying of our fathers’ luxury,
    Our scions, put in wild and savage stock,
    Spurt up so suddenly into the clouds
    And overlook their grafters?
    BRITTANY
    Normans, but bastard Normans, Norman bastards!
    Mort de ma vie, if they march along
    Unfought withal, but I will sell my dukedom
    To buy a slobb’ry and a dirty farm
    In that nook-shotten isle of Albion. (3.5.5-14)

    Here, the French insult the English by referring to them as "a few sprays of us." In other words, the Dauphin sees the English nobility as offshoots of the French because their ancestors are the Normans, who invaded England back in 1066. This is why Bourbon calls the English noblemen "bastard Normans."

    DAUPHIN
    By faith and honor,
    Our madams mock at us and plainly say
    Our mettle is bred out, and they will give
    Their bodies to the lust of English youth
    To new-store France with bastard warriors. (3.5.28-32)

    Wow. The French characters are really anxious about the thought of interbreeding with the English, don't you think? The Dauphin of France is worried that the French women will hook up with English soldiers and produce "bastard warriors" (have kids that are half French and half English). What's odd about this is the fact that King Charles VI has recently offered to let King Henry marry his daughter Catherine (who is the Dauphin's sister) as a peace offering. Henry declines the offer initially, but the marriage does eventually take place.

    KING HENRY
    Not today, O Lord,
    O, not today, think not upon the fault
    My father made in compassing the crown.
    I Richard's body have interrèd new
    And on it have bestowed more contrite tears
    Than from it issued forcèd drops of blood. (4.2.303-308)

    Henry is always afraid that his family's history will come back to haunt him. The night before the Battle of Agincourt, he prays to God and begs him not to punish him for his father's sins – stealing the crown from Richard II and having him murdered. Although his father's actions are responsible for Henry inheriting the English crown, Henry worries that these actions will ultimately cause his downfall.

    KING HENRY
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he today that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition; (4.3.62-65)

    This speech has become famous for the way it gives voice to the idea that soldiers become a family (specifically, a brotherhood) when they experience combat together.

    KING HENRY
    I pray you, then, in love and dear alliance,
    Let that one article rank with the rest,
    And thereupon give me your daughter.
    KING OF FRANCE
    Take her, fair son, and from her blood raise up
    Issue to me, that the contending kingdoms
    Of France and England, whose very shores look pale
    With envy of each other's happiness, (5.2.357-363)

    Henry's marriage to Catherine is an important part of the peace treaty because the marriage unifies England and France. If Henry and Catherine can produce a son (which they will), then he'll also one day rule both countries.

    CHORUS
    Henry the Sixth, in infant bands crowned King
    Of France and England, did this king succeed,
    Whose state so many had the managing
    That they lost France and made his England bleed,
    Which oft our stage hath shown. And for their sake,
    In your fair minds let this acceptance take. (Epilogue.9-14)

    Talk about irony. After all the bloodshed and struggle (which included a lot of talk about how Henry's family lineage gave him rights to the French throne), Henry's efforts to rule France don't mean anything because, later, he dies and his son, Henry VI, takes over and loses France.

  • Gender

    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    'In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant'
    (No woman shall succeed in Salic land),
    Which Salic land the French unjustly gloze
    To be the realm of France, and Pharamond
    The founder of this law and female bar. (1.2.42-46)

    Here we learn about the Salic Law in France, which says women can't inherit the throne and their sons can never inherit the throne through the female line. This is a pretty rigid way to establish the lines of succession, don't you think?

    BOY
    They
    would have me as familiar with men’s pockets as
    their gloves or their handkerchers, which makes
    much against my manhood, if I should take from
    another’s pocket to put into mine, for it is plain
    pocketing up of wrongs. I must leave them and seek
    some better service. Their villainy goes against my
    weak stomach, and therefore I must cast it up. (3.3.48-55)

    Here, the unnamed Boy criticizes Bardolph and Nim for stealing and declares that thievery goes "against [his] manhood," as if breaking the law makes one weak and effeminate. Throughout the Henry plays, Shakespeare has associated unruliness with effeminacy, especially in <em>Henry IV Part 1</em>, where women are often associated with rebellion.

    KATHERINE
    Alice, tu as été en Angleterre, et tu parles
    bien le langage.

    [Alice, you've been in England and you speak the language well.]
    ALICE
    Un peu, madame.
    [A little, madame.]
    KATHERINE
    Je te prie, m'enseignez. Il faut que j'apprenne
    à parler.

    [Please teach me. I must learn to speak it]. (3.4.1-5)

    When we translate these lines into English, it becomes pretty clear that Catherine is only interested in learning English because her father plans to marry her off to an English king. This reminds us that Shakespeare never actually reveals to us Catherine's interests and desires, which suggests that they're not even relevant.

    KING HENRY
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he today 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 abed
    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.(4.3.60-67)

    We've talked about this passage before, but it's important to the theme of gender so it's worth mentioning here. When Henry delivers his famous St. Crispin's Day speech, he suggests that warfare forges bonds between men that cannot be broken.

    EXETER
    The pretty and sweet manner of it forced
    Those waters from me which I would have stopped,
    But I had not so much of man in me,
    And all my mother came into mine eyes
    And gave me up to tears.
    KING HENRY
    I blame you not,
    For, hearing this, I must perforce compound
    With mistful eyes, or they will issue too. (4.7.28-35)

    Because weeping is associated with weakness and women (especially "mother[s]"), Exeter is ashamed of the fact that he cried when he witnessed the deaths of men on the battlefield. What's interesting about this passage is that King Henry admits that he's feeling a little misty-eyed as well, which is touching and a little refreshing.

    QUEEN OF FRANCE
    Our gracious brother, I will go with them.
    Haply a woman's voice may do some good
    When articles too nicely urged be stood on.
    KING HENRY
    Yet leave our cousin Katharine here with us.
    She is our capital demand, comprised
    Within the forerank of our articles. (5.2.94-99)

    When Queen Isabel announces that she's going to help the men negotiate the terms of the peace treaty, Henry asks her to leave her daughter behind, since Henry's marriage to Catherine is <em>numero uno</em> on Henry's list of demands. The fact that Catherine is on Henry's list of demands suggests that women don't really get any say at all when it comes to political matters, despite Isabel's claim that a "woman's voice" might hold some sway over the men.

    KATHERINE
    Dat is as it shall please de roi mon pére. (5.2.257)

    Catherine knows that she's being used as a political pawn. When Henry begs her to marry him, she points out that it's not up to her. Her marriage will be decided by the king, her father, who is busy signing away his daughter as part of a peace treaty with England.

    BOURBON
    Let us die. Once more! Back again!
    And he that will not follow Bourbon now,
    let him go home and with his cap in his hand
    Like a base pander hold the chamber door,
    Whilst a slave no gentler than my dog,
    His fairest daughter is contaminate. (4.5.13-18)

    As some of the French soldiers retreat, Bourbon orders them to go back and fight. If they don't, they're nothing better than fathers who hold the door open for rapists to enter their homes and rape their daughters. This analogy between conquest and rape will surface again in the play (see below).

    KING OF FRANCE
    Yes, my lord, you see them perspectively,
    the cities turned into a maid, for they are all
    girdled with maiden walls that war hath editorial never
    entered.
    KING HENRY
    Shall Kate be my wife?
    KING OF FRANCE
    So please you.
    KING HENRY
    I am content, so the maiden cities you
    talk of may wait on her. So the maid that stood in
    the way for my wish shall show me the way to my
    will.(5.2.332-341)

    When Charles agrees to let Henry have Catherine as part of the peace treaty between France and England, both kings use the language of warfare to talk about sex and marriage. Charles suggests that the walled cities Henry hasn't managed to conquer are like "maids" (virgins) that have yet to be penetrated. Still, Henry quickly points out that, because he's conquered France (with his army), he'll soon be conquering/penetrating another maid, Catherine.

    BURGUNDY
    Pardon the frankness of my mirth if I
    answer you for that. If you would conjure in her,
    you must make a circle; if conjure up Love in her in
    his true likeness, he must appear naked and blind.
    Can you blame her, then, being a maid yet rosed
    over with the virgin crimson of modesty, if she deny
    the appearance of a naked blind boy in her naked
    seeing self? It were, my lord, a hard condition for a
    maid to consign to.(5.2.303-311)

    Ugh. Burgundy doesn't even have the decency to leave the room where Catherine is sitting before he cracks a joke about what she'll be like in Henry's bed.

  • Art and Culture

    CHORUS
    O, for a Muse of fire that would ascend
    The brightest heaven of invention!
    A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
    And monarchs to behold the swelling scene! (Prologue.1-4)

    Here, the Chorus asks for a "muse of fire" to help the theater company portray "a kingdom for a stage," which tells us that Shakespeare wants us to take his play very, very seriously. (This classic move, by the way, is called an "Invocation to the Muse." Check out the openings of The Odyssey, Paradise Lost, and The Aeneid for some other famous examples.) We just have one question: Why does the best playwright of all time need help from a muse? Keep reading...

    CHORUS
    Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
    Assume the port of Mars, and at his heels,
    Leashed in like hounds, should famine, sword, and
       fire
    Crouch for employment. But pardon, gentles all,
    The flat unraisèd spirits that hath dared
    On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
    So great an object. Can this cockpit hold
    The vasty fields of France? Or may we cram
    Within this wooden O the very casques
    That did affright the air at Agincourt?
    O pardon, (Prologue.5-16)

    Shakespeare usually saves his "sorry our play is so lousy" speech for the Epilogue, but here the Chorus apologizes in advance for the play's lack of realism. (The tiny stage cannot possibly "hold the vastly fields of France" or "cram" thousands of actors portraying soldiers into the theater.)

    CHORUS
    And let us, ciphers to this great account,
    On your imaginary forces work.
    Suppose within the girdle of these walls
    Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
    Whose high uprearèd and abutting fronts
    The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder.
    Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts.
    Into a thousand parts divide one man,
    And make imaginary puissance.
    Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them
    Printing their proud hoofs i’ th’ receiving earth,
    For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
    Carry them here and there, jumping o’er times,
    Turning th’ accomplishment of many years
    Into an hourglass; for the which supply,
    Admit me chorus to this history,
    Who, prologue-like, your humble patience pray
    Gently to hear, kindly to judge our play. (Prologue.18-36)

    Since Shakespeare's theater company's staging options are pretty limited, the Chorus urges us, the audience, to put our imaginations to work so that we can imagine that one single actor represents a "thousand" soldiers. We also notice that the Chorus uses vivid imagery to help us imagine horses "printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth." In other words, Shakespeare's going to do his best to bring historical events to life for us, but this play's success rests in the audience's hands.

    KING HENRY
    Either our history shall with full mouth
    Speak freely of our acts, or else our grave,
    Like Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless mouth,
    Not worshipped with a waxen epitaph. (1.2.238-241)

    Like we've said before, <em>Henry V</em> is very self-conscious play. Here, Shakespeare acknowledges that he's portraying his version of history, which audiences may or may not embrace. When the Chorus talks about its anxiety about the play's success, it reminds us of Henry's anxiety about his military campaign. What's up with that?

    CHORUS
    There is the playhouse now, there must you sit,
    And thence to France shall we convey you safe
    And bring you back, charming the narrow seas
    To give you gentle pass; for, if we may,
    We’ll not offend one stomach with our play.
    But, till the King come forth, and not till then,
    Unto Southampton do we shift our scene. (2.Prologue.36-42)

    A major component of the Chorus's role is to set the scene before each act of the play, kind of like a tour guide who will take us across the English Channel to watch Henry's Battle of Agincourt. (First, though, we have to make a pit stop in Southampton.) The effect of this is to make us feel as though we are somehow participating in Henry's journey.

    CHORUS
    Thus with imagined wing our swift scene flies
    In motion of no less celerity
    Than that of thought. Suppose that you have seen
    The well-appointed king at Dover pier
    Embark his royalty, and his brave fleet
    With silken streamers the young Phoebus fanning
    Play with your fancies and in them behold,
    Upon the hempen tackle, shipboys climbing.
    Hear the shrill whistle, which doth order give
    To sounds confused. Behold the threaden sails,
    Borne with th’ invisible and creeping wind,
    Draw the huge bottoms through the furrowed sea,
    Breasting the lofty surge. O, do but think
    You stand upon the rivage and behold
    A city on th’ inconstant billows dancing,
    For so appears this fleet majestical,
    Holding due course to Harfleur. Follow, follow!
    Grapple your minds to sternage of this navy,
    And leave your England, as dead midnight still,
    Guarded with grandsires, babies, and old women,
    Either past or not arrived to pith and puissance,
    For who is he whose chin is but enriched
    With one appearing hair that will not follow
    These culled and choice-drawn cavaliers to France?
    Work, work your thoughts, and therein see a siege;
    Behold the ordnance on their carriages,
    With fatal mouths gaping on girded Harfleur.
    Suppose th’ Ambassador from the French comes back,
    Tells Harry that the King doth offer him
    Katherine his daughter and with her, to dowry,
    Some petty and unprofitable dukedoms.
    The offer likes not, and the nimble gunner
    With linstock now the devilish cannon touches,
                                               Alarum, and chambers go off.
    And down goes all before them. Still be kind,
    And eke out our performance with your mind. (3.Prologue.1-37)

    The Chorus really gets into this whole humble tour guide gig, don't you think?

    CHORUS
    The confident and over-lusty French
    Do the low-rated English play at dice
    And chide the cripple tardy-gaited night,
    Who like a foul and ugly witch doth limp
    So tediously away. The poor condemnèd English,
    Like sacrifices, by their watchful fires
    Sit patiently and inly ruminate (4.Prologue.19-25)

    The Chorus is instrumental in Shakespeare's quest to portray Henry's troops as the underdogs at Agincourt. Here, we learn that the "poor condemned English" are sitting around their campfires, preparing to die in the following day's battle, while the French (who outnumber their enemies) kick back and relax.

    BOY
    I did never know so full a voice issue from so empty
    a heart. But the saying is true: 'The empty vessel
    makes the greatest sound.' Bardolph and Nym had
    ten times more valor than this roaring devil i’ th’ old
    play, that everyone may pare his nails with a wooden
    dagger, and they are both hanged, and so would
    this be if he durst steal anything adventurously. I
    must stay with the lackeys with the luggage of our
    camp. The French might have a good prey of us if he
    knew of it, for there is none to guard it but boys.(4.4.67-76)

    When the unnamed Boy (Falstaff's page) criticizes Bardolph and Nim, he compares them to the "roaring devil i' / the old play," which is a shout-out to the "Vice" figure, a stock figure in Medieval Morality plays. Apparently, Falstaff's Boy is a huge theater buff.

    CHORUS
    Vouchsafe to those that have not read the story
    That I may prompt them; and of such as have,
    I humbly pray them to admit th' excuse
    Of time, of numbers, and due course of things,
    Which cannot in their huge and proper life
    Be here presented. (5.Prologue.1-6)

    Yeesh. Enough already with the apologies.

    CHORUS
    Thus far with rough and all-unable pen
    Our bending author hath pursued the story,
    In little room confining mighty men,
    Mangling by starts the full course of their glory. (5.Epilogue.1-4)

    In the Epilogue, the Chorus apologizes (yet again) for the author's "rough and all-unable pen," which has somehow "mangled" Henry's story. This is classic Shakespeare, who frequently apologizes to his audiences at the end of his plays. (Check out the Epilogue of A Midsummer Night's Dream for another example.)

  • Society and Class

    HOSTESS
    By my troth, he'll yield the crow a pudding
    one of these days. The King has killed his heart.
    Good husband, come home presently. (2.1.85-87)

    Shakespeare brings Mistress Quickly back for a few more good times in <em>Henry V</em>, but he doesn't let her live long. (Toward the end of the play, we learn that she, like Falstaff, has died from a venereal disease. This follows on the heels of the news that both Bardolph and Nim have been hanged for stealing.) Why does Shakespeare kill off so many of his low-brow characters from Eastcheap in this play? Is it because they're too rowdy and disruptive? Is Shakespeare worried that they'll detract from Henry's serious war campaign? Something else?

    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    Which is a wonder how his grace should glean it,
    Since his addiction was to courses vain,
    His companies unlettered, rude, and shallow,
    His hours filled up with riots, banquets, sports,
    And never noted in him any study,
    Any retirement, any sequestration
    From open haunts and popularity. (1.1.56-62)

    In the previous passage, we asked why Shakespeare killed off so many of his seedy Eastcheap characters. When we think about how Henry has put the rowdy days of his youth (and his old Eastcheap friends) behind him, it seems like Shakespeare had to get rid of Falstaff, Quickly, Bardolph, and Nim to signal that Henry really has buried his past.

    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    Therefore doth heaven divide
    The state of man in divers functions,
    Setting endeavor in continual motion,
    To which is fixèd as an aim or butt
    Obedience; for so work the honeybees,
    Creatures that by a rule in nature teach
    The act of order to a peopled kingdom.
    They have a king and officers of sorts,
    Where some like magistrates correct at home,
    Others like merchants venture trade abroad,
    Others like soldiers armèd in their stings
    Make boot upon the summer’s velvet buds,
    Which pillage they with merry march bring home
    To the tent royal of their emperor,
    Who, busied in his majesty, surveys
    The singing masons building roofs of gold,
    The civil citizens kneading up the honey,
    The poor mechanic porters crowding in
    Their heavy burdens at his narrow gate,
    The sad-eyed justice with his surly hum
    Delivering o’er to executors pale
    The lazy yawning drone. (1.2.191-212)

    Canterbury's speech is interesting because the Archbishop uses such vivid imagery to justify the subservient relationship between subjects and their monarch. Here, he makes an analogy between society and a colony of honeybees. Like people, honeybees have a leader (in the Renaissance people thought that queen bees were male) and the rest of the hive works toward a common goal. In other words, Canterbury is arguing that the division of people into various classes is as <em>natural </em>as a hive of bees working together in harmony.

    KING HENRY
    ...for,
    though I speak it to you, I think the King is but a
    man as I am.  The violet smells to him as it doth to
    me.  The element shows to him as it doth to me. All
    his senses have but human conditions. His ceremonies
    laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man,
    and though his affections are higher mounted than
    ours, yet when they stoop, they stoop with the like
    wing. Therefore, when he sees reason of fears as we
    do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish as
    ours are. Yet, in reason, no man should possess him
    with any appearance of fear, lest he, by showing it,
    should dishearten his army. (4.1.104-116)

    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?

    WILLIAMS
    But if the cause be not good, the King
    himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all
    those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in a
    battle, shall join together at the latter day, and cry
    all “We died at such a place,” some swearing, some
    crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left
    poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe,
    some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard
    there are few die well that die in a battle, for how
    can they charitably dispose of anything when blood
    is their argument? Now, if these men do not die
    well, it will be a black matter for the king that led
    them to it, who to disobey were against all proportion
    of subjection. (4.1.138-151)

    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.

    KING HENRY
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he today 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 abed
    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. (4.3.62-69)

    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.)

    MONTJOY
    No, great King.
    I come to thee for charitable license,
    That we may wander o’er this bloody field
    To book our dead and then to bury them,
    To sort our nobles from our common men,
    For many of our princes—woe the while!—
    Lie drowned and soaked in mercenary blood.
    So do our vulgar drench their peasant limbs
    In blood of princes, and the wounded steeds
    Fret fetlock deep in gore, and with wild rage
    Yerk out their armèd heels at their dead masters,
    Killing them twice. O, give us leave, great king,
    To view the field in safety and dispose
    Of their dead bodies.(4.7.73-86)

    Here, we learn that it's really important to the French that they be able to sift the battlefield in order to separate their dead. (Since they don't want any dead commoners soaking up the blood of dead noblemen.) The language of this passage is both graphic and disturbing, and it reminds us that rank and nobility are important markers of identity.

    KING HENRY
    Where is the number of our English dead?
                                           Herald gives him another paper.
    Edward the Duke of York, the Earl of Suffolk,
    Sir Richard Ketly, Davy Gam, esquire;
    None else of name, and of all other men
    But five and twenty. O God, thy arm was here,
    And not to us, but to thy arm alone
    Ascribe we all! When, without stratagem,
    But in plain shock and even play of battle,
    Was ever known so great and little loss
    On one part and on th' other? Take it, God,
    For it is none but thine. (4.8.106-116)

    When the English count up the numbers of their casualties, we notice how careful they are to distinguish the deaths of commoners (whose names aren't even read aloud) from the deaths of noblemen ("men of name"). What's up with that? We thought they were all supposed to be a noble "band of brothers"?

    KING HENRY
    Here, uncle Exeter, fill this glove with crowns
    And give it to this fellow.—Keep it, fellow,
    And wear it for an honor in thy cap
    Till I do challenge it.—Give him the crowns.—
    And, captain, you must needs be friends with him.
    FLUELLEN
    By this day and this light, the fellow has
    mettle enough in his belly.—Hold, there is twelvepence
    for you, and I pray you to serve God and keep
    you out of prawls and prabbles and quarrels and
    dissensions, and I warrant you it is the better for
    you.
    WILLIAMS
    I will none of your money. (4.8.59-70)

    After playing a humiliating joke on a commoner named Williams, King Henry fills his glove with some money and gives it to him as peace offering, which Williams seems to accept. Still, when Fluellen tries to throw some more coins at the problem, Williams is insulted and refuses to accept Captain Fluellen's money. If Henry wasn't a king, would Williams' have taken his money?

    KING HENRY
    It is not a fashion for the maids in France
    to kiss before they are married, would she say?
    ALICE
    Oui, vraiment.
    KING HENRY
    O Kate, nice customs curtsy to great
    kings. Dear Kate, you and I cannot be confined
    within the weak list of a country’s fashion. We are
    the makers of manners, Kate, and the liberty that
    follows our places stops the mouth of all find-faults,
    as I will do yours for upholding the nice fashion of
    your country in denying me a kiss. Therefore,
    patiently and yielding. (5.2.276-286)

    According to Henry, Catherine doesn't have to live by the same rules that other young women live by because she's royalty.

  • Memory and the Past

    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    The King is full of grace and fair regard.
    BISHOP OF ELY
    And a true lover of the holy Church.
    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    The courses of his youth promised it not.
    The breath no sooner left his father’s body
    But that his wildness, mortified in him,
    Seemed to die too. Yea, at that very moment
    Consideration like an angel came
    And whipped th’ offending Adam out of him,
    Leaving his body as a paradise
    T’ envelop and contain celestial spirits.
    Never was such a sudden scholar made,
    Never came reformation in a flood
    With such a heady currance scouring faults,
    Nor never Hydra-headed willfulness
    So soon did lose his seat, and all at once,
    As in this king.(1.1.24-39)

    The play is always reminding us about how much Henry has changed since the wild days of his youth. Here, Canterbury and Ely can't stop talking about what an amazing king Henry turned out to be, which seems like a miracle since he used to be such a degenerate.

    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    He seems indifferent,
    Or rather swaying more upon our part
    Than cherishing th’ exhibitors against us;
    For I have made an offer to his Majesty—
    Upon our spiritual convocation
    And in regard of causes now in hand,
    Which I have opened to his Grace at large,
    As touching France—to give a greater sum
    Than ever at one time the clergy yet
    Did to his predecessors part withal.
    BISHOP OF ELY
    How did this offer seem received, my lord?
    BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
    With good acceptance of his Majesty—
    Save that there was not time enough to hear,
    As I perceived his Grace would fain have done,
    The severals and unhidden passages
    Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms,
    And generally to the crown and seat of France,
    Derived from Edward, his great-grandfather. (1.1.77-94)

    Early on, we learn that a bill has just resurfaced in Parliament. (The bill had been raised before in Henry IV's reign, but it was pushed aside while England dealt with internal strife.) If the bill passes this time, the Church will lose a ton of money and land to the crown's treasury, so Canterbury and Ely want to make it disappear. Their solution is to urge Henry into a war with France and offer him a large sum of money to finance the campaign. This recalls a moment in Henry IV Part 2, where Henry IV advised his son to "busy giddy minds / With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out, / May waste the memory of the former days" (4.5.213-215). This raises an important question: is Henry's war with France an attempt to distract the "giddy minds" of the English so that they will forget that Henry's dad was a throne-stealer?

    KING HENRY
    But I will rise there with so full a glory
    That I will dazzle all the eyes of France,
    Yea, strike the Dauphin blind to look on us. (1.2.290-292)

    Even though Henry is no longer a wild young prince who spends his time carousing with thugs, the Dauphin of France refuses to acknowledge Henry's transformation. One could argue that Henry's final decision to invade France is motivated by Henry's desire to force the Dauphin to recognize his majesty and power. We notice here that Henry uses the same metaphor he developed back in <em>Henry IV Part 1</em>, when he compared himself to the "sun" and promised that his transformation into a glorious king would dazzle his subjects and make them forget his riotous youth.

    HOSTESS
    As ever you come of women, come in quickly
    to Sir John. Ah, poor heart, he is so shaked of a
    burning quotidian-tertian that it is most lamentable
    to behold. Sweet men, come to him.
    NYM
    The King hath run bad humors on the knight,
    that’s the even of it.
    PISTOL
    Nym, thou hast spoke the right. His heart is
    fracted and corroborate. (2.2.114-121)

    At the end of <em>Henry IV Part 2</em>, Shakespeare promised to bring Falstaff back and send him to the war in France. Soon after <em>Henry V</em> opens, though, we hear that Falstaff is deathly ill. (He's so ill, in fact, that Shakespeare doesn't even bother to bring him out on stage.) What's up with that?

    CAMBRIDGE
    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. (2.2.162-167)

    When Cambridge confesses that he took French money to assassinate King Henry, we're reminded that Cambridge supports Mortimer, who may have a better claim to the English throne than Henry, who only inherited the crown after his father usurped it from Richard II.

    KING OF FRANCE
    Think we King Harry strong,
    And, princes, look you strongly arm to meet him.
    The kindred of him hath been fleshed upon us,
    And he is bred out of that bloody strain
    That haunted us in our familiar paths.
    Witness our too-much-memorable shame
    When Cressy battle fatally was struck
    And all our princes captived by the hand
    Of that black name, Edward, Black Prince of Wales,
    Whiles that his mountain sire, on mountain standing
    Up in the air, crowned with the golden sun,
    Saw his heroical seed and smiled to see him
    Mangle the work of nature and deface
    The patterns that by God and by French fathers
    Had twenty years been made. This is a stem
    Of that victorious stock, and let us fear
    The native mightiness and fate of him. (2.4.51-68)

    The Dauphin might underestimate Henry, but King Charles VI certainly doesn't. Here, he recalls the time when Henry's great uncle (Edward the Black Prince) invaded France and made their lives a living hell. This is Shakespeare's way of reminding us that Henry comes from a long line of warriors and is not to be messed with.

    DAUPHIN
    I once writ
    a sonnet in his praise and began thus: 'Wonder of
    nature—'
    ORLÉANS
    I have heard a sonnet begin so to one's
    mistress.
    DAUPHIN
    Then did they imitate that which I composed
    to my courser, for my horse is my mistress.
    ORLÉANS
    Your mistress bears well. (3.7.40-47)

    Bourbon seems like a throwback to Hotspur's character in Henry IV Part 1, don't you think? Recall that Hotspur was the epitome of honor and chivalry (a word that comes from the French "cheval," which means horse). Here, Bourbon's over-the-top bragging about his beloved horse seems like a comedic parody of Hotspur's love of warfare and chivalry.

    KING HENRY
    O God of battles, steel my soldiers’ hearts.
    Possess them not with fear. Take from them now
    The sense of reck’ning or th’ opposèd numbers
    Pluck their hearts from them. Not today, O Lord,
    O, not today, think not upon the fault
    My father made in compassing the crown.
    I Richard’s body have interrèd new
    And on it have bestowed more contrite tears
    Than from it issued forcèd drops of blood.
    Five hundred poor I have in yearly pay
    Who twice a day their withered hands hold up
    Toward heaven to pardon blood. And I have built
    Two chantries where the sad and solemn priests
    Sing still for Richard’s soul. More will I do—
    Though all that I can do is nothing worth,
    Since that my penitence comes after all,
    Imploring pardon. (4.1.300-316)

    Henry V may not admit it in public, but he's really anxious about the way his father got his hands on the English throne. Here, he begs God to forgive him for his dad's crimes against Richard II and hopes that he won't be punished for Henry IV's sins.

    FLUELLEN
    It is not well done, mark you now, to take
    the tales out of my mouth, ere it is made and
    finished. I speak but in the figures and comparisons
    of it. As Alexander killed his friend Cleitus, being in
    his ales and his cups, so also Harry Monmouth,
    being in his right wits and his good judgments,
    turned away the fat knight with the great-belly
    doublet; he was full of jests and gipes and knaveries
    and mocks—I have forgot his name.
    GOWER
    Sir John Falstaff. (4.7.43-52)

    Even though Shakespeare has killed off Falstaff, the guy never quite seems to go away (even though people are beginning to forget his name). Why do you think Shakespeare dredges up a memory of Falstaff at this particular moment in the play?

    KING HENRY
    It was ourself thou didst abuse.
    WILLIAMS
    Your majesty came not like yourself. You
    appeared to me but as a common man; witness the
    night, your garments, your lowliness. And what
    your highness suffered under that shape, I beseech
    you take it for your own fault and not mine, for, had
    you been as I took you for, I made no offense.
    Therefore, I beseech your highness pardon me. (4.8.51-58)

    When Henry plays a practical joke on Williams (which involved disguising himself as a commoner and getting into an argument with the man), it seems like Henry is up to his old tricks. When we first met Henry back in <em>Henry IV Part 1</em>, the young prince loved a good gag. (Remember the trick he played on Falstaff at Gadshill?) Some things never change.