Study Guide

Henry V Act 4, Scene 1

By William Shakespeare

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Act 4, Scene 1

Read the full text of Henry V Act 4 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.

  • At the English camp, King Henry talks with Gloucester and Clarence.
  • Henry borrows Erpingham's dirty old cloak and then sends the men off to prepare for battle.
  • Henry disguises himself as a commoner and walks around camp, where nobody recognizes him as the king.
  • Pistol shows up and chats up Henry.
  • When Henry claims to be a kinsman of Fluellen, Pistol makes an obscene hand gesture (the fig) and storms off.
  • Fluellen and Gower show up and Henry eavesdrops on their conversation.
  • Gower speaks too loudly and Fluellen tells him to pipe down since they're so close to the French camp.
  • Henry thinks that, even though Fluellen is kind of whacky, he's actually a pretty smart Captain.
  • Three common soldiers show up (Bates, Court, and Williams) and Henry talks to them about the war. All three soldiers wish they were back at home and question the King's motives and decisions.
  • Bates, who doesn't recognize Henry, declares that the king isn't as brave as he pretends to be.
  • Henry tries to defend himself by saying that he's sure Henry wouldn't wish that he was anywhere else but here.
  • Williams and Bates are skeptical. They admit that they don't even know if Henry's war against France is "just."
  • Williams chimes in that, if the soldiers die in battle the next day and leave behind a bunch of grieving widows, it will be all King Henry's fault.
  • Henry is furious and says that the king isn't responsible for the deaths of his soldiers, just like a father isn't responsible if his son dies during a commercial sea venture. (Um, okay.)
  • Williams and Henry can't come to any agreement, so they decide to exchange gloves. (The idea is that, when they bump into each other later, they'll recognize the gloves and can fight about it then.)
  • Bates tells the men to be friends – they've got enough to worry about fighting against the French.
  • The common soldiers exit.
  • Alone on stage, King Henry delivers a speech about the difficulties of kingship. Being king is tough work and it's isolating. Henry says he spends all of his time worrying about his people and never has any time to relax.
  • Henry says a prayer. He asks God to make his men brave and to forgive him for his father's sins. (Remember, Henry's dad, King Henry IV, stole the English crown from King Richard II.)
  • Henry reminds God that he's built a kind of shrine to Richard II and that he pays 500 poor people to pray for Richard twice a day. He's also built two chantries (chapels where people sing masses for the dead).
  • Henry hopes that God will keep all of this in mind during tomorrow's battle.

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