Henry V
Summary and Analysis
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Type of Work
Composition and Publication
Historical Background
Plot Summary
Salique Law: Explanation
Characterization of Henry
French-English Wordplay
Figures of Speech
Reference to the Curtain Theatre
Battle of Agincourt
Study Questions
Essay Topics
Biography of Shakespeare
Complete Free Text
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings... 2003
Revised in 2010
Type of Work
.......Henry V is a history play centering on the heroic deeds of England's King Henry V (Prince Hal of Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II).

Composition and Publication Dates
.......Shakespeare wrote Henry V between 1598 and 1599. It was first printed in 1600 in a pirated quarto edition: The Chronicle History of Henry the Fift [sic], With his battel [sic] fought at Agin Court [sic] in France. In 1623, the play was published as part of the First Folio, the first authorized collection of Shakespeare's plays.


.......Shakespeare based the play on information in The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (Holinshed's Chronicles), by Raphael Holinshed and The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and York, by Edward Hall (?-1547).

.......The action takes place in England and France between 1415 and 1420. The specific locales are (1) the palace of the king in London; (2) a street before a tavern in London; (3) the port city of Southampton, England; (4) the king's palace in France; (5) the French city of Harfleur; (6) the English camp at Picardy, France; (7) and the battlefield at Agincourt, France, where Henry defeated the French on October 25, 1415. 

Protagonist: Henry V
Antagonist: The Dauphin (Son of the King of France)
Henry V: King of England and great warrior who rallies his troops with patriotic appeals. Shakespeare introduced Henry to his readers as Prince Henry (also known as Prince Hal and simply Harry) in Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part II. Now in his twenties, Henry has abandoned the folly of his teenage years, when he caroused and womanized, in favor of concentrating all of his energies on being a wise warrior king. Although he exhibits strong leadership qualities, his complete abandonment of his old drinking friends from the slums of London suggests that he can be cold-hearted and disloyal.
Duke of Gloucester, Duke of Bedford: King's brothers.
Duke of Exeter: King's uncle.
Duke of York: King's cousin.
Salisbury, Westmoreland, Warwick: Earls who lead English forces against the French.
Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of Ely: Clergymen who advise the king about his right to invade France and claim the crown. 
Lord Scroop, Sir Thomas Grey, Earl of Cambridge: English traitors.
Sir Thomas Erpingham, Gower, Fluellen, Macmorris, Jamy: Officers in the king's army.
Bates, Court, Williams: Soldiers in the king's army.
Pistol, Nym, Bardolph: Old friends of Sir John Falstaff, a character in Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part II.
Boy: Friend of Pistol, Nym and Bardolph. Unlike Henry V, Boy exhibits a very human quality: fear. On the battlefield at Agincourt, he says, ''Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety.''
Sir John Falstaff (Offstage Character): Once a bosom pal of Prince Henry and one of the great comic characters in English literature in Henry IV Part 1and Henry IV Part II. Falstaff is not listed in Shakespeare's original character list of this play because he has no lines and does not appear on the stage. However, Pistol reports his death in Act II, Scene III: "Boy, bristle thy courage up; for Falstaff is dead." In Act IV, Scene VII, Fluellen and Gower make a brief reference to Falstaff. The death of the fictional Falstaff in Henry V was mourned by no less a personage than Queen Elizabeth I. His shenanigans in the Henry IV plays were highly entertaining to the great monarch. Consequently, Shakespeare resurrected Falstaff to star in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Chorus:  The chorus (one person) recites the famous prologue before Act I. The prologue asks the audience to imagine that the stage of the Globe Theatre presents a view of the historical places mentioned in the play, including the battlefields of France. "Think when we talk of horses," the Chorus says, "that you see them printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth; for 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings, carry them here and there, jumping o'er times, turning the accomplishment of many years into an hour-glass." The chorus actor also introduces the other acts of the play.
Charles VI: King of France.
Isabel: Queen of France.
Katharine: Daughter of the French king and queen. After she marries Henry V, she gives birth to the heir to Henry's throne.
Alice: Attendant of Katharine.
Dauphin: Lewis, the conceited son of the king of France.
Duke of Orleans, Duke of Bourbon, Constable of France: Leaders of the French army.
Rambures, Grandpre: Nobles in the French army.
Pistol's Wife: London tavern hostess formerly known as Mistress Quickly.
Governor of Harfleur
Montjoy: French herald.
Ambassadors From the Dauphin to the King of England
Minor Characters: Lords, ladies, officers, soldiers, citizens, messengers, herald, and attendants. 

Historical Background
.......When Henry V debuted in London in 1599, Shakespeare assumed that his audience was aware of key historical events that took place before the action depicted in the play. Here is a summary of those events:
.......After King Henry IV died, the crown passed on March 21, 1413, to his son Henry, the Prince of Wales, a twenty-five-year-old who proved his mettle in battle during a war against rebels from Wales and Scotland. Although civil discord continued to fester in Britain, the new king shifted his attention to France. Because he believed the French may have usurped lands and titles from his ancestors, Henry began considering invading France and seizing the throne. Defeating the French would not only win back lost lands, but it would also win back the hearts and minds of the rebellious forces at home, uniting them under Henry's flag. But young King Henry's conscience demanded that he seek counsel to affirm or deny the justness of his claims against France.
Plot Summary
By Michael J. Cummings... 2003
.......Before Act I, an actor in the role of a chorus stands alone on the stage and asks the audience to imagine that the play takes place, in part, on a battlefield between two great countries divided by an ocean. The stage of the theatre, he says, is the world. “Think,” he says, “when we talk of horses, that you see them / Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth.” The chorus actor further says that events of many years will be condensed “into an hour-glass.” (In the sixth scene of Act II, Henry arrives in France. The year is 1415. In the second scene of  Act V, Henry is betrothed to the king’s daughter, Katherine. The year is 1420.) 
.......Twenty-first century audiences—accustomed to dazzling audio and visual effects in films—may balk at having to imagine scene changes and the fireworks of battle. However, there is something to be said for this approach. It allows theatregoers to experience the scenes as their mind’s eye sees them. It allows them to create the costumes, the weapons, the charging horses, the smoke of battle. Children create their own scenes when listening to a parent reading a fairytale. They hang on every word and every pause. And when the hero wields his sword, they see in it the gleam of the sun and hear in it the peal of triumph. Is there a better way for a story to unfold?
The Story

.......The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely are disturbed that England is considering a law that would appropriate large amounts of church riches to meet expenses of the Crown, including the cost of  military enterprises and welfare for the poor. So they devise a plan to sabotage the proposal: They will offer the king a handsome sum—greater than any that the clergy provided to his kingly predecessors—to help him finance foreign military adventures. During the discussion, the bishops express relief that the young king, who had a reputation as a carousing wastrel, has turned out well. Ely observes: 

The strawberry grows underneath the nettle 
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best 
Neighbour’d by fruit of baser quality: 
And so the prince obscured his contemplation 
Under the veil of wildness; which, no doubt, 
Grew like the summer grass, fastest by night, 
Unseen, yet crescive1 in his faculty. (1.1.64-70) 
.......Later the bishops receive an unsolicited opportunity to ingratiate themselves with the king when he summons them to advise him on whether it would be legally and morally correct to attack France. He believes he has a right to the French throne on grounds that the French usurped lands and titles from his ancestors. So he asks the Archbishop of Canterbury for his opinion, telling him "That what you speak is your conscience wash’d / As pure as sin with baptism” (1.2.36-37). 
.......The archbishop then rains a torrent of legalisms upon the king’s ear, including a reference to an old law instituted by a legendary Frankish king, Pharamond, who died in 426. Written in Latin, this law says, “In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedent” (1.2.43), meaning “No woman shall succeed in Salique land.” During his presentation, the archbishop explains how the French are interpreting this law unfairly and hypocritically to prevent Henry from claiming what is rightfully his, the French crown. The explanation is complicated and almost impossible to understand when presented in the rapid-fire dialogue of a stage presentation. (A plain-English “translation” of the archbishop’s arcane explanation of the Salique law follows this plot summary.) 
.......Bishop Ely, the Duke of Exeter, and the Earl of Westmoreland add their voices to the archbishop’s, urging Henry to claim his inheritance and go to war. The archbishop then says that the clergy “will raise your highness such a mighty sum / As never did the clergy at one time. . .” (1.2.138-139). 
.......Henry now seems ready to throw down the gauntlet and declare war. However, on the advice of the archbishop, Henry decides that it would be wise to leave a substantial army behind in England to keep the rebellious Scots in check. 
.......Henry then receives the ambassador of the French dauphin, Lewis, the son and heir of Charles VI, King of France. The dauphin’s ambassador tells Henry that the dauphin regards Henry’s claim on French lands as laughable, although the ambassador presents a gift from the dauphin—a chest containing a treasure. The ambassador says the treasure is Henry’s if he will abandon all claims on France. Exeter opens the chest and finds tennis balls. They are an insult, suggesting that young Henry is fit only to play games, not to rule a kingdom. But Henry surprises the ambassador with a bellicose reply: 
When we have march’d our rackets to these balls, 
We will, in France, by God’s grace, play a set 
Shall strike his father’s crown into the hazard.2
Tell him he hath made a match with such a wrangler 
That all the courts of France will be disturb’d
With chaces.3 (1.2.270-275) 
Henry further says that the tennis balls will become “gun-stones” (1.2.291) and that invading English armies will leave in their wake thousands of widows, sonless mothers, and ruined castles. For generations to come, the French will regret the dauphin’s tennis-ball jest. 
.......In the ensuring days, all England rises up to back Henry, and strong-armed young men eagerly join his cause. Armorers thrive. Farmers sell pastures to buy horses. Warriors sharpen sword and axe. 
.......Meanwhile, outside the Boar’s Head Tavern in the Eastcheap section of London, Bardolph, Nym, and Pistol—drinking companions of Henry in the days when he was a hell-raising teenage prince—discuss with the tavern’s hostess news of the death of Sir John Falstaff, Henry’s boon companion during those old days. Apparently, Falstaff died a broken man. Henry’s rejection of him and his degenerate lifestyle (see Henry IV Part II) have been too much for old Sir John. The hostess (who was Mistress Quickly in the Henry IV plays and is now Pistol’s wife) says Falstaff died well. “I saw him fumble with the sheets and play with flowers and smile upon his fingers’ ends,” after which he “babbled” and “cried out ‘God! God! God!’ ” (2.3.9). Wine and women were Falstaff’s ruination.
.......Boy, another of Falstaff’s companions, notes that the old knight once said the devil would get him because of his womanizing. Boy then says, “Do you not remember, a’ [he] saw a flea stick upon Bardolph’s nose, and a’ said it was a black soul burning in hell-fire?” (2.3.18).
.......After Henry arrives in southern England at the port city of Southampton, he prepares to set sail for France. Three envoys earlier sent to France on the king’s business are brought before him. It seems that these men accepted a French bribe to assassinate Henry. Now every inch a king—a king of justice swift and final—Henry orders their execution, then casts off for France and glory. At the city of Harfleur in September of 1415, Henry and his forces encounter stiff resistance after breaking through the city walls. When the English army is thrown back by the doughty French defenders, King Henry heartens his forces with a patriotic rallying cry. 
.......Among the English forces are those rapscallions from the Boar’s Head Tavern in London, companions of the late Sir John Falstaff. They are less than stalwart when it comes to blood and battlefields. Boy says, “Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety” (3.2.6).
.......After King Henry rallies his troops, they redouble their efforts, and Harfleur is theirs. It is heartening that Scots, Welshmen, and Irishmen all have fought bravely, signaling that England is united under Henry’s leadership. Winter comes. The English are tired, hungry, and weak of spirit after long marches through France. At night, as the French mass their troops, Henry walks about the camp in disguise to assess the mood of his troops and, if necessary, fire them with resolve. 
.......When dawn breaks, a gloomy English soldier predicts the troops will not live to the end of the day. The disguised Henry tells him, “Methinks I could not die any where so contented as in the king’s company; his cause being just and his quarrel honourable” (4.1.91). The French, meanwhile, brag that they will snap the English spine with a massive army of princes and nobles arrayed in glittering armor. When the time for battle finally arrives, five French soldiers stand for battle for every English soldier. Even their restless, neighing horses seem eager for battle. The Dauphin shouts, “Mount them, and make incision in their hides, / That their hot blood may spin in English eyes” (4.2.9-10). The constable of France, one of the leaders of the French army, tells his officers: 
To horse, you gallant princes! straight to horse! 
Do but behold yon poor and starved band, 
And your fair show shall suck away their souls, 
Leaving them but the shales4 and husks of men. (4.2.19-21) 
.......On October 25, 1415, prospects for victory appear bleak for the English. Nevertheless, the redoubtable King Henry V once again stokes new fire into the belly of his men. The king tells them
This day is called the feast of Crispian:5
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, 
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named, 
And rouse him at the name of Crispian. 
He that shall live this day, and see old age, 
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, 
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars. 
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’ (4.3.45-53)
.......Thanks to his eagle-eyed archers and the fury of his foot soldiers, he drenches the battlefield, Agincourt, in French blood and wins the day. It is the turning point in the war against France. Between 1415 and 1420, Henry wins further battles and stabilizes France under English control. On May 21, 1420, he forges a peace treaty at Troyes with King Charles VI of France. The treaty recognizes Henry as heir to the French throne. Furthermore, it grants Henry the hand of the king’s daughter, Katherine of Valois, in marriage. 
 When Henry attempts to win Kate’s heart (Act V), he heaps praises on her and she responds sometimes in French and sometimes in broken English. She asks, “Is it possible dat I sould love de enemy of France?” (5.2.119).  Henry says: 
No; it is not possible you should love the enemy of France, Kate; but, in loving me, you should love the friend of France; for I love France so well that I will not part with a village of it; I will have it all mine: and, Kate, when France is mine and I am yours, then yours is France and you are mine. (5.2.120).
Kate responds: “I cannot tell vat is dat” (5.2.121).  Henry tries to explain in French, but he is little better in that language than Kate is in English. After a time, he ends up kissing her and complimenting her on her charm. King Henry and King Charles then make wedding plans, and Charles says,
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, 
May cease their hatred. . . . (5.2.173-180) 
.......On June 2, 1420, Henry and Katherine marry and have a son, born as Henry VI, King of England and France. However, because the son of King Charles—the same dauphin who gave Henry the tennis balls—does not recognize the Treaty of Troyes or English rule, war again looms on the horizon.
.......The climax of a play or another narrative work, such as a short story or a novel, can be defined as (1) the turning point at which the conflict begins to resolve itself for better or worse, or as (2) the final and most exciting event in a series of events. The climax in Henry V, according to both definitions, is Henry's rousing "St. Crispian's" speech in Act IV, Scene III, before the decisive battle at Agincourt and the victory that followed.
Strong leadership is a powerful weapon. Henry's qualities as a leader make him not only a fit king but also a redoubtable warrior.
A noble cause with noble warriors can win the day against overwhelming odds. Though outnumbered, Henry V defeats the French because his forces believe the cause is noble and just.
Foreign war quells domestic strife. Since ancient times, rulers have gone to war to divert the attention of the people from domestic problems. Henry V is well aware that war with France will unite his subjects and make them forget the domestic issues of the day. In present-day America, some opponents of President George Bush argued that his decision to wage war on Iraq was an attempt to divert attention from economic problems at home. 
A just cause can transform disunity into unity. Henry's army of Welsh, English, and Irish soldiers fight as one army against the French usurpers of English lands.
..The Salique Law

.......The “Salique land” referred to by the archbishop was in Germany and was occupied by Franks, Germanic people who later moved westward and established France. Under the Salique law (also called Salic law), a daughter could not inherit the property and entitlements of her father. This proscription applied to all women, including the daughter of a king. Thus, despite her royal status, a king’s daughter could not pass on lands and entitlements of the king to her children; she could not give them what she did not legally possess. 
.......In 805, after Charles the Great (Charlemagne) conquered the Saxons (another Germanic people), many of his Franks settled the so-called Salique (or Salic) land, making it—in effect—part of France. One result of this development was that the Salic law supposedly became effective for all of France, not just the Salic portion of it. Therefore, a man descended from the ruling class on the female side of the family was ineligible to become king. Because Henry V is the great-great-grandson of the daughter of a king of France, the French argue, his claim on the French throne is invalid. 
.......However, the bishop points out, French kings over the centuries acceded to the French throne even though their claim to it was based on female ancestry. Apparently, the Salic law did not apply to France after all. It was a dusty, ancient relic which could not be applied arbitrarily in opposition to power politics and ambition. But, the archbishop says, if the Salic law did not apply to previous kings of France—if it was, in fact, no longer in force—it should not apply to Henry in 1413. To contend otherwise was to say that France legitimized illegitimate kings. Therefore, the archbishop concludes, Henry has a right to attack France. God will be on his side.

Characterization of Henry
.......Shakespeare may have concentrated too much attention on Henry V as a heroic warrior and king and not enough attention on Henry V as a man. Unlike Hamlet, Richard III, Lear, and Othello, Henry V is almost one-dimensional. His psyche remains ensconced in his gray matter, unexamined. 
.......On the other hand, Shakespeare's depiction of Henry as a nearly flawless superhuman established the young king as a model for monarchs and statesmen of later generations. The spirit of his fiery, never-say-die patriotism and echoes of his rousing rhetoric have rallied the British in times of crisis down through the ages. In his Second World War speeches, Winston Churchill, an admirer of Henry, paraphrased the king. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher has been compared to Henry. Americans have been among Henry's admirers, too, including Woodrow Wilson and John and Robert Kennedy. 

Lofty Verse

.......Henry V is famous for the patriotic fire of its imagery. Two passages that have inspired generations of Englishmen focus on the rallying cries of Henry during the heat of battle. The first occurs at the beginning of Act III after the English breach the walls of the city of Harfleur but are thrown back in fierce fighting. Undaunted, Henry says,

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: 
But when the blast of war blows in our ears, 
Then imitate the action of the tiger; 
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, 
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d6 rage; 
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect; 
Let pry through the portage7 of the head 
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it 
As fearfully as doth a galled rock 
O’erhang and jutty8 his confounded base, 
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean. (3.1.3-15) 
.......In this passagea rhetorical tour de forceShakespeare blends a gallimaufry of ingredients in a bubbling patriotic stew. Consider first alliteration, the repetition of consonant sounds. This figure of speech occurs in the first two lines with the repetition of “w” sounds: once, once more, wall, and with. Man in the third line then mates with modest in the fourth line. Shakespeare next gives us blast of war blows; stiffen the sinews, fair nature with hard-favour’d, pry the portage, and wild and wasteful
/.......Shakespeare also uses stark contrasts, setting modest stillness against the blast of war, then fair nature against hard-favour’d rage. He also sets off concrete images with abstract onestiger and blood, for example, set off by fair nature and hard-favour’d rage. He follows with a simile comparing the terrible aspect of the eye prying (looking out) to the appearance of a brass cannon on a vantage point. A metaphor then compares brow to a galled (projecting) rock. All of these devices enable Henry to deliver a rousing oration, one that appeals to the emotions and inspires heroic action. 
.......The second rousing passage also appeals to the emotions. In this passage, Henry tells his troops on the day of the French-English showdown (October 25, 1415, the feast day of two declared Roman Catholic saints, Crispin and Crispinian, who were martyred in beheadings) that posterity will long remember their deeds in the battle about to take place. Henry says: 
This day is called the feast of Crispian: 
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, 
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named, 
And rouse him at the name of Crispian. 
He that shall live this day, and see old age, 
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, 
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian’: 
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars. 
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’ 
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names, 
Familiar in his mouth as household words, 
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, 
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester, 
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d. 
This story shall the good man teach his son; 
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by, 
From this day to the ending of the world, 
But we in it shall be remembered; 
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; 
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me 
Shall be my brother. . . . (4.3.45-68)
.......In this passage, Shakespeare uses repetition skillfully to call attention to the importance of the occasion. In particular, he repeats the word day, sometimes rhyming it internally with say, to attach special meaning to the date of the battle, October 25, St. Crispian’s Day. (See Note 5, below.) In addition, he has Henry repeat we in line 65"we few, we happy few, we band of brothers"to foster the sense of brotherhood necessary for successful soldiering.

Pithy Prose

.......King Henry’s lofty verses contrast sharply with the prose rhetoric of the common soldiers amassed to fight for him. For example, during the fury of battle, Boy commentswith a kind of pithy eloquence“Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety” (3.2.6). To Boy and to many of his compatriots, battlefield glory, won at the cost of one’s own life, has far less appeal than leading a simple, undistinguished life in which one retains life and limb.

French-English Wordplay

.......Whether Shakespeare spoke French fluently is unknown, but he knew enough of the language to write droll passages in which the English and French misunderstand or mispronounce words in each other’s language. For example, on the field of battle, a French soldierthreatened by Pistolasks, “Est-il impossible d’eschapper la force de ton bras?” (Is it impossible to escape the force of your arms?” 4.4.17.) Pistol, misunderstanding bras (arms), replies, “Thou damned and luxurious mountain goat / Offer’st me brass?” (4.4.19-20). Such passages provide comic relief from the deadly serious fighting and from the lofty oratory of the king. 

Figures of Speech

.......Following are examples of figures of speech in Henry V. For definitions of figures of speech, see Literary Terms.


Never was such a sudden scholar made. (1.1.35)

The grave doth gape, and doting death is near. (2.1.32)

Let floods o’erswell, and fiends for food howl on! (2.1.54)

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. (5.2.144)

Hear him but reason in divinity, 
And, all-admiring, with an inward wish 
You would desire the king were made a prelate: 
Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs, 
You would say it hath been all in all his study. (1.1.42-45) 

 His hours fill’d up with riots, banquets, sports; 
And never noted in him any study, 
Any retirement, any sequestration 
From open haunts and popularity. (1.1.60-63) 

What shall I say to thee, Lord Scroop? thou cruel, 
Ingrateful, savage and inhuman creature! 
Thou that didst bear the key of all my counsels, 
That knew’st the very bottom of my soul, 
That almost mightst have coin’d me into gold 
Wouldst thou have practis’d on me for thy use! (2.2.98-103) 

Never Hydra-headed wilfulness 
So soon did lose his seat. (1.1.38-39)
Comparison of Henry V's stubborn willfulness as a young man to that of 
the Hydra. In Greek mythology, the Hydra was a serpent with nine heads. 

Turn him to any cause of policy, 
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose. (1.1.49-50)
Comparison of a difficult policy problem to the Gordian knot. In ancient Greek legend, the Gordian knot--tied by King Gordius of Phrygia--was seemingly impossible to undo. A story said only the future conqueror of Asia could undo it. When he was marching through Asia with his army, Alexander the Great simply cut through the knot with his sword.

Take heed how you . . . 
. . . awake the sleeping sword of war. (1.2.26-27)
Comparison of a sword to a sleeping creature 

For once the eagle England being in prey, 
To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot 
Comes sneaking and so sucks her princely eggs. (1.2.174-176)
Comparison England to an eagle and Scotland to a weasel

              There’s not, I think, a subject 
That sits in heart-grief and uneasiness 
Under the sweet shade of your government. (2.2.29-31) 
Comparison of Henry's government to sweet shade for the people

                                  Take mercy 
On the poor souls for whom this hungry war 
Opens his vasty jaws. (2.4.111-113)
Comparison of war to a hungry monster

Simile and Metaphor
Consideration like an angel came, 
And whipp’d the offending Adam out of him. (1.1.28-32)
Simile: comparison of consideration (sober-mindedness) to an angel
Metaphor: Comparison of Henry V's former delinquent behavior to the biblical Adam 
                               Impious war, 
Array’d in flames like to the prince of fiends. (3.3.17-18)
Comparison of the appearance of war to the appearance of the devil

                    O! for honour of our land, 
Let us not hang like roping icicles 
Upon our houses’ thatch. (3.5.24-26) 
The Constable of France compares himself and other Frenchmen to icicles

Reference to the Theatre in the Play

.......In the prologue of the play, Shakespeare refers directly to the Curtain, the threatre in which the play debuted in 1599. He asks, "Can this cockpit [theatre] hold the vasty fields of France?" In other words, can the small stage of the Curtain adequately present a play set on a vast battlefield? He then asks, "Or may we cram within this wooden O the very casques9 that did affright the air at Agincourt?"  The wooden O of course refers to the circular Theatre. Shakespeare was preparing his playgoers to use their imaginations to pretend that a great battle is to take place on the stage of the theatre, just as modern audiences pretend that everything they are about to see in movies such as Gladiator and Raiders of the Lost Ark is real and devoid of artifice.

The Battle of Agincourt

When: October 25, 1415
Where: Field between two forests near the village of Agincourt, France. The town is now known as Azincourt.
Combatants: About 6,000 Englishmen under the command of King Henry V and 20,000 to 30,000 Frenchmen under the command of Charles d’Albret, constable of France.
Weather: Rain, heavy at times, which muddied the battlefield.
Reason for the Battle: Disputed claims to French lands and the French crown. The battle was part of the Hundred Years’ War, a series of engagements fought between 1337 and 1453. 
Outcome: English victory. However, it did not end the war.
Deciding Factors: (1) Inability of the French to maneuver. The heavily armed French cavalry and foot soldiers bogged down in the mud of the narrow field. (2) Crack English archers, who rained arrows on the struggling French. (3) The leadership of Henry V.

Study Questions and Essay Topics 

  • Which character in the play do you most admire ? Which chararacter do you least admire?
  • Write an informative essay analyzing Henry V's ability as a military leader.
  • In an essay, compare and contrast the Henry of this play with the Henry of Henry IV Part I.
  • Is Henry primarily interested in achieving glory for himself? Or is he sincerely and selflessly devoted to the English cause?
  • Write an informative essay analyzing the strategies used by the English and French in the real-life Battle of Agincourt.

1...crescive: Increasing, growing.
2...hazard: Term used in court tennis (also called real tennis), which differs from lawn tennis. Court tennis is played indoors with cloth balls. Hazard refers to a part of the court consisting of three openings. A serve into one of these openings wins a point. 
3...chaces: Balls that a player fails to return.
4...shales: Shells.
5...Crispian: Crispin, a third-century Christian martyr. Crispin was born in Rome. It is believed that he and his brother, Crispinian, began evangelizing in northern France at Suessiona (modern Soissons) in AD 284 while working as shoemakers. They were beheaded two years later under orders from Maximian, co-emperor of Rome with Diocletian from 286 to 305. After their canonization as saints, their feast day was set as October 25. The Battle of Agincourt took place on this day in 1415. 
6...hard favour'd: fierce, savage.
7...Let pry through the portage: Let the fierce gaze shoot from the eyes.
8...jutty: jut out.
9...Casques: Helmets of the thousands of arrayed soldiers.