Henry V

by William Shakespeare

first reading selection

Scene 1: The Churchmen and Henry

[This scene runs from 4:11-5:27. For those with DVDs, it occurs at the end of ch. 3.]

Act I, Scene 1. A room in the palace of the king of England

[Two churchman discuss a recent meeting that one of them had with Henry V.]

Canterbury: My lord, I’ll tell you: that self bill is urg’d,
Which in the eleventh year of the last king’s reign
Was like to have passed against us.

Ely: But how, my lord, shall we resist it now?

Canterbury: It must be thought on. If it pass against us,
We lose the better half of our possession.

Ely: But what prevention?

Canterbury: The king is full of grace and fair regard.

Ely: And a true lover of the holy church.

Canterbury: The courses of his youth promised it not:
Since his addiction was to courses vain;
His hours filled up with riots, banquets, sports;
And never noted in him any study.

Ely: But, my good lord,
How now for mitigation of this bill
Urged by the Commons? Doth his majesty
Incline to it, or no?

Canterbury: He seems indifferent,
Or rather swaying more upon our part
For I have made an offer to his majesty
As touching France…

Scene 2: The Decision to Invade France

[This scene runs from 5:28-14:32.. For those with DVDs, it runs from the beginning of ch.4 until the end of ch. 6.]

Act 1, Scene 2. Henry’s Council Chamber

Henry V: Where is my gracious lord of Canterbury?

Enter Canterbury and Ely

Canterbury: God and his angels guard your sacred throne
And make you long become it!

Henry V: Sure, we thank you.
My learned 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 pray take heed how you impawn our person,
How you awake our sleeping sword of war:
We charge you in the name of God and take heed;
For never two such kingdoms did contend
Without much fall of blood....

Canterbury: Then hear me, gracious sovereign, ...
There is no bar
To make against your highness’ claim to France
But this, which they produce form 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....
Yet their own authors faithfully affirm
That the land Salic lies in Germany
Between the floods of Sala and of Elbe;...
Then doth it well appear this Salic law
Was not devised 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;...
King Pepin which deposed Childeric,
Did as heir general, being descended
Of Blithild, which was the daughter of 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,...
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 aforesaid Duke of Lorraine:
By the which marriage the line of Charles the Great
Was reunited to the crown of France.
So that, as clear as is the summer’s sun,
[uneasy laughter at this statement]
...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....

Henry V: May I with right and conscience make this claim?

Canterbury: The sin upon my head, dread sovereign!...
Stand firm for your own; unwind your bloody flag;...

Exeter: Your brother kings and monarchs of the earth
Do all expect that you should rouse yourself,
As did the former lions of your blood....

Westmoreland: Never king of England
Had nobles richer, and more loyal subjects,
Whose hearts have left their bodies here in England
And lie pavilioned in the fields of France.

Canterbury: O, let their bodies follow my dear liege,
With blood and sword and fire to win your right;
In aid of which we of the spirituality
Will raise your highness such a mighty sum
As never did the clergy at one time
Bring in to any of your ancestors....

Henry V: Call in the messengers sent from the Dauphin.
Now we are well resolved; and by God’s help,
And yours, the noble sinews of our power,
France being ours, we’ll bend it our awe.
Or break it all to pieces....
enter the French ambassador
Now we are well prepared to know the pleasure
Of our fair cousin Dauphin....

Ambassador: Your highness lately sending into France
Did claim some certain dukedoms, in the right
Of your great predecessor, King Edward the Third.
In answer of which claim, the prince my master
Says that you savour too much of your youth....
He therefore sends you, meeter for your spirit,
This tun of treasure; and in lieu of this,
Desires you that the dukedoms that you claim
Hear no more of you. This the Dauphin speaks.

Henry V: What treasure, uncle?

Exeter: Tennis balls, my liege.

Henry V: We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us;
His present and your pains we thank you for:
When we have matched 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....
And we understand him well
How he comes o’er us with our wilder days,
Not measuring what use we made of them....
But tell the Dauphin I will keep my state,
Be like a king and show my sail of greatness
When I do rouse me in my throne of France....
And tell the pleasant prince this mock of his
Hath turned his balls to gun-stones; and his soul
Shall stand sore charged for the wasteful vengeance
That shall fly with them: 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 unbegotten and unborn
That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin’s scorn....
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.

Exeter: This was a merry message.

Henry V: We hope to make the sender blush at it.
Therefore, my lords, omit no happy hour,
That may give furtherance to our expedition;
For we have now no thought in us but France,
Save those to God that run before our business.
Therefore let every man now task his thought
That this fair action may on foot be brought.

[Henry leads his army to France.]

Scene 3: Henry’s Battle Speech at Harfleur

[This scene runs from 43:22-45:16. For those with DVDs, it begins 30 seconds into ch. 14.]

Act III, Scene 1. Before the walls of Harfleur.

Henry V: 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-favoured rage:
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swilled with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height! On, on, you noble English!
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you called fathers did beget you!...
And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture. Let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit; and upon this charge
Cry, “God for Harry, England, and Saint George!”
[The men shout this battle cry and follow Henry back to the breach]

Scene 4: Taking Harfleur

[This scene runs from 48:01-50:49. For those with DVDs, it begins with ch. 16.]

Act III, Scene 3. [Troops have been repulsed again; Henry rides alone back toward the breach where all is quiet; he unleashes an ultimatum to the Governor who appears on ramparts above.]

Henry V: How yet resolves the governor of the town?
This is the latest parle we will admit;
Therefore to our best mercy give yourselves;
Or like to men proud of destruction
Defy us to our worst: for, as I am a soldier, ...
If I begin the battery once again,
I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur
Till in her ashes she lies buried....
Therefore, you men of Harfleur
Take pity of your town and of your people,
Whiles yet the cool and temperate wind of grace
O’erblows the filthy and contagious clouds
Of heady murder, spoil, and villainy.
If not, why in 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....What say you?
Will you yield, and this avoid?
Or, guilty in defence, be thus destroyed?

Governor: ...The Dauphin, of whose succours we entreated,
Returns us that his powers are not yet ready
To raise so great a siege. Therefore, dread king,
Enter our gates; dispose of us and ours;
For we no longer are defensible.

[Henry rides back to his men. He dismounts, exhausted, and speaks to Exeter.]

Henry V: ...Go you and enter Harfleur; there remain
And fortify it strongly ‘gainst the French.
Use mercy to them all.
For us, dear uncle,
The winter coming on and sickness growing
Upon our soldiers, we will retire to Calais.

second reading selection from Henry V

third reading selection from Henry V

Henry V Questions

Guide to unit 2

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