Henry V: Plot SummaryFrom Stories of Shakespeare's English History Plays by Helene Adeline Guerber. New York: Dodd, Mead and company.
This play is preceded by an eloquent prologue,
wherein the poet, despairing of making his characters live again before our eyes, of enclosing 'the vasty fields of France' in a mere theatre, or of showing us 'the very casques that did affright the air at Agincourt,' makes an eloquent appeal to the
The first act opens in an antechamber
of the royal palace in London, where the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely are discussing a bill, pending for twelve years past, which will deprive the Church of many prerogatives.
They also comment on their new monarch, Canterbury remarking that although Henry V's youth presaged little good, he is now a model ruler. All he says in praise of the King's wisdom, is confirmed
by the Bishop of Ely, who adds that just as strawberries grow beneath the nettle, the King's virtues have ripened and developed under cover of his wildness, ere he inquires how Henry views the bill they have discussed? Canterbury replies that although the King seemed almost indifferent, an offer the Church recently made of funds to make war against France will probably determine him to act in their favour. Still, he adds, that although pleasantly impressed by this offer, his Majesty would give no immediate answer, expressing instead a desire to know more about his claims to the French crown. The arrival of a French ambassador, craving audience, had interrupted this momentous conversation,
and it is this audience the prelates propose to
attend, although they can calculate its import in advance.
We next behold the presence-chamber, where the
King enters with his train, calling for the Archbishop of Canterbury. While this prelate is being summoned, a courtier inquires whether the ambassador is to be admitted, only to be informed that matters of weight must first be settled. The entering clergy having pronounced the benediction,
the King addresses Canterbury, asking whether, in
his opinion, the Salic Law debars him from the
French crown, solemnly warning him to weigh well
his answer, as his decision may cost many lives.
Thus adjured, the Archbishop explains how the ancient law decreeing that no woman should succeed in Salic lands, was framed in early Merovingian times, in the country between the Elbe and the Sala, and hence has no bearing upon the crown of
France, to which Henry inherits a clear title.
When Henry therupon demands whether he may
'with right and conscience' assert this claim, Canterbury urges him to do so, eloquently quoting the Scriptures, and invoking the memory of his glorious kinsman, the Black Prince. Chiming in, the
Bishop of Ely reminds the Monarch he is heir to
all this courage and glory, while his relatives exclaim that his brother kings expect him to act, and that there are men and money enough to make his claim good.
When Canterbury adds that the clergy will volunteer for such a purpose a larger subsidy than has ever been granted before, Henry gravely reminds all present that not only 'must they invade France, but defend England, for the Scotch invariably rise
when there is war abroad. When Canterbury
eagerly rejoins that the lords of the marches suffice
to repel the borderers, Henry retorts he is not
thinking of raids, but of such wars as have brought
terror and ruin before. Thereupon Canterbury defiantly replies that when Scotland attacked England, her King fell into their power, paying no heed to the old adage, which Westmoreland quotes: 'If
that you will France win, then with Scotland first
A spirited discussion now ensues between Exeter
and Canterbury, each of whom illustrates his meaning by similies, that of the Archbishop proving particularly felicitous, for he describes a bee-hive as a model of good government, ere suggesting that the King go to France with one-fourth of the English forces, leaving the remainder at home to defend the
borders and police his realm. So palatable is this
advice to Henry, — who wishes to keep his nobles
too busy abroad to plot at home, — that, after giving orders to admit the ambassadors, he exclaims his mind is fully made up, and that with God's help and that of his subjects, France shall be his.
The entering ambassadors now bow low before
the English monarch, who graciously announces he
IS ready to receive the Dauphin's message, since it
comes in his name. After a courteous preamble, —
having obtained the English King's leave to speak
boldly, — the ambassador briefly states Henry's claims
to certain estates in France are rejected, and that his master, wishing to hear no more about it, sends
him instead 'a tun of treasure.'
Although couched in terms of scathing contempt,
Henry V calmly ignores this rudeness and asks his
uncle what the tun contains? On receiving the
grim reply 'tennis balls' the English Monarch
expresses ironical pleasure that the Dauphin should
deign to jest with him, adding the significant statement, 'when we have match'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 hasard.'
Then, he grimly states he is coming, sword in hand,
to assert his claims to France, and warns the
Dauphin he will soon see his tennis balls turned
into 'gun-stones,' and his mockery wring tears from
the eyes of countless mothers and widows. After
a solemn appeal to the God of battles to avenge his
wrongs, Henry V dismisses the ambassadors under
the usual safe-conduct.
The stranger gone, the King's uncle exclaims
'this was a merry message!' to which expression of
approval Henry grimly rejoins that if they are to
make its sender blush, they must turn their energies towards France, before he leaves the room in a flourish of trumpets.
The second act is also preceded by a patriotic prologue, depicting the wild enthusiasm in England over the coming war, the energetic preparations for the campaign, the discovery of three
conspirators, and the departure of the King to cross
the 'narrow seas' between Southhampton and France.
The curtain rises on a street in London where
Corporal Nym and Lieutenant Bardolph, — who
form part of the coming expedition,— meet and discuss the chances of plunder, and the marriage of their companion, Ancient Pistol, to Nell Quickly, the hostess, once betrothed to Nym. While they are thus talking, the newly-made couple join them, Pistol boasting his wife shall cease to keep lodgers. Thereupon she admits that such occupation has its drawbacks since gentlemen will brawl, a state of affairs plainly illustrated a moment later, when Nym and Pistol, who have exchanged hostile glances and words, prepare to fight. Although Bardolph tries
to interfere, the two would-be fighters revile each
other, until, seeing no other way to check them,
Bardolph draws his sword, threatening to kill the
first who strikes a blow!
In the midst of this quarrel, Pistol bids Nym
leave his wife alone hereafter, and content himself
with courting Doll Tearsheet, just as a boy summons Pistol and his wife to his master, who is very
ill. This news Dame Quickly scarcely credits, although she goes off with the boy, calling to her husband to follow her soon. Meanwhile, although Bardolph offiers to reconcile the two disputants, they renew their quarrel, only to be again checked by
their companion who, this time, succeeds in making
peace between them. He has barely done so, when
the hostess returns in a flutter, bidding them come
quickly to Sir John Falstaff, whose alarming condition the three men attribute to chagrin over the royal displeasure.
The council chamber at Southampton next stands
revealed, where some courtiers wonder how the King
dares trust false men whose plots have been discovered, although they do not yet suspect it. A moment later Henry enters, with the three conspirators in his train, and is overheard rejoicing there is fair wind, so they can soon embark to cut a 'passage
through the force of France.' Every word he utters is fulsomely approved by the traitors, until Henry bids his uncle set free a man imprisoned for insulting him. The traitors now eagerly urge the King to punish this culprit, using arguments which
Henry V combats, urging that mildness and pardon
should be extended for. slight offences, and severity
be reserved only for those of greater weight.
This matter settled, Henry inquires who were
the late commissioners to France, and hearing the
traitors claim this honour, hands them papers, which
he gravely bids them read, as they show he knows
their worth. Meanwhile, he announces to the rest
that they will embark that - evening. Then, perceiving the trio's blanched cheeks and distended eyes, he grimly inquires what is the matter with them? Thereupon all three, convicted of guilt by the very arguments they used, humbly crave his pardon.
After gravely reminding them how they conquered
all inclination to mercy in his heart, Henry adds
that since, for base motives, they conspired with
France to plot his death, they shall be arrested.
Exeter having apprehended them, they again beg their master's forgiveness, recognising however, that they deserve death for betraying their country. Thereupon, Henry, after solemnly rehearsing their delinquencies, pardons their offences towards himself, but sentences them to the block for betraying
England. Then, the traitors led away, he bids the
rest prepare to sail, praying God, who brought to
light a dangerous plot which might have wrecked
their plans, to continue to help them.
The scene is now transferred to Dame Quickly's
Inn, where she is pleading to accompany her warrior-husband part way to Southampton, a boon he denies, while urging his companions to keep up their spirits, although Falstaff is dead. When Bardolph
expresses a longing to be with Sir John either in
heaven or hell, the hostess assures him that Falstaff must be in "Arthur's bosom," after which malapropism she circumstantially describes the edifying end of the fat knight. Then she receives her husband's shrewd instructions and affectionate farewell, and,
bidding his companions kiss his wife, too. Pistol
marches off with them, his spouse watching them
out of sight.
The curtain now rises on the royal palace in
France, where King Charles is attended by the
Dauphin and his lords. After stating he has heard
the English are coming, this monarch takes measures for the defence of his realm, appointing special duties for his son and lords to perform. Although agreeing that immediate measures of defence are necessary, the Dauphin speaks in such contemptuous terms of their adversary, that the Constable sees
fit to warn him he is mistaken in his estimate of
Henry V, and bids him question the ambassadors
to learn with what dignity they were received, how
proudly their challenge was answered, and how
courteously they were dismissed!
Hearing this, the Dauphin reluctantly admits he
may be partly mistaken, adding, however, that he
deems it wiser to under-estimate rather than overestimate a foe. The French King, resuming the initiative, now prudently decides that, considering their adversary strong, they will 'strongly arm to meet him,' remembering it behooves them to wipe
out the shame of the defeat at Crecy, where a relative of the present English King won his spurs.
It is at this moment a messenger announces the
English ambassadors, whom the King orders admitted, telling his court 'this chase is hotly followed.' This expression gives the Dauphin opportunity to exclaim that such being the case, the
moment has come to turn and face their pursuers,
thus getting the better of them! But Exeter is ushered in, and after delivering ceremonious greetings,
haughtily summons the French Monarch to surrender to Henry V France and all pertaining to its crown, substantiating his master's claim by producing his pedigree.
To the French King's calm, 'Or else what follows?' the ambassador replies by a declaration of war, announcing that Henry is already on his way, surrounded by all the pomp and panoply of war, and warning them that the deplorable consequences of
this quarrel rest upon the heads of French King
and Dauphin. Charles VI now promises an answer on the morrow, while the Dauphin, enraged by a scornful message addressed to him, defiantly exclaims that he desires naught so eagerly as to measure strength with England, as he plainly showed
by sending a young and vain monarch playthings! Grimly warning him such contempt may yet cost dear, the ambassador departs, urging the French monarch to give him a speedy answer, lest
his master come and get it in person! A night, however, does not seem too long a space of time for the French King wherein to decide matters of such consequence, so the audience closes with a blast of trumpets.
The prologue to the third act is a chorus, describing the embarking of Henry V, his
crossing of the Channel, his landing at Harfleur,
the preparations for siege, and the return of his ambassador offering Princess Katharine's hand with so
insignificant a dowry, that the insulted English fire
their siege guns and all goes down before them!
The rising curtain reveals Harfleur, which Henry
is besieging, and where, in a picturesque speech, he
urges his men to return to the attack. Then come
renewed bursts of artillery, during which Bardolph
eggs the reluctant Nym on, while Pistol sings a
battle-song, and his boy wishes himself safe in some
London alehouse, for he would willingly exchange
all his 'fame for a pot of ale and safety.' The
captain, a Welshman, now appears to drive the men
forward, whereupon they advance, jocosely protesting, and leave the boy alone on the stage to comment upon the queer masters he is serving, whom he cannot respect, because they lie and steal and try to teach him to do likewise.
Soon after this boy leaves the scene, the Welshman returns, explaining wordily that he will not go to the mines, where the Duke of Gloucester is summoning him, because he knows they are countermined and hence dangerous. While he and his men
hesitate, they are joined by two other captains, an Irishman and a Scotchman, who grumble because the trumpets have sounded a recall, and they have been forced to leave the mines ere they could blow up the town! A disputation on military matters ensues, wherein the nationality of the disputants is clearly revealed by their different dialects and characteristic points of view, ere trumpets sound to announce a parley.
This causes the disputants to desert the scene,
where, shortly after their departure. King Henry
rides up to Harfleur's gate, to confer with the governor, who appears on the wall. After plainly stating, in a speech of great power and dignity, that the town had better surrender to his mercy, Henry sternly adds that unless it yields, its walls will be battered down, and its people exposed to all the
horror of warfare.
The governor rejoins that, although they confidently expected the Dauphin to relieve them, all hopes of his arrival having come to an end, they will trust him and surrender. On hearing this,
Henry joyfully bids the gates be opened to Exeter,
who is placed in charge of the town, with orders
to fortify it against the French, while showing
mercy to all. Then King Henry announces his intention to spend one night only in Harfleur, ere he winters with the rest of his forces at Calais. The curtain falls as the King and his train march into the surrendered city, amid triumphal blasts of
We again behold the French King's palace,
where Princess Katharine is artlessly questioning in
French one of her waiting-women, who has visited England. Alice, having modestly admitted she has a slight knowledge of English, the Princess bids her give her lesson, naming hand, fingers, nails, arm, elbow, neck, and chin. She repeats these words
more or less correctly, in halting accents, innocently
pluming herself from time to time on the facility
with which she is acquiring a difficult foreign language, whose sounds seem strange and uncouth to her ear. The whole scene, — one of ineffable grace and humour, — forms one of the most delightful bits of fooling in the play, and closes with the Princess' departure for dinner, priding herself upon soon be-
ing an excellent English scholar.
We next behold the French King in the same
apartment, exclaiming the English have already
passed the Somme! His Constable and the Dauphin
thereupon urge immediate battle, the Duke of Burgundy averring the English are Norman bastards, whom he longs to face. Their invasion of France seems a foolhardy performance to the Constable, whose strictures upon English climate and people
are equally severe. The courtier's remarks, however, encourage Charles VI, who bids a herald carry his challenge to the foe, and orders all present to hasten to the battle-field and acquit themselves there to such good purpose, that Henry V will be
brought captive to Rouen! These orders are enthusiastically welcomed, the Constable openly regretting the English army is so small and weak that on perceiving the French it will surely melt
away. Repeating his orders to the herald, the
King bids him ask what ransom the King of England offers? Then he commands his son to remain in Rouen with him, although the Prince longs to take part in the fray, and father and son depart,
the former charging the Constable soon to send
word that England has fallen!
The scene is now in the English camp, on the
banks of the Somme, where the Welshman and his
subordinate praise the Duke of Exeter, who is guarding the bridge, one of his helpers being their gallant companion Pistol. The subordinate is just expressing a desire to meet this remarkable man, when Pistol comes to beg the Welshman to intercede with the Duke for Bardolph's pardon, the latter having
been sentenced to the gallows for stealing! Owing
to the pedantic, disputatious temper of his interlocutor, Pistol is interrupted time and again with corrections, puns and comments, which so irritate him that he becomes violently angry when his request is refused. When he has gone, the Welshman and his subordinate discuss him, until the roll of a drum heralds the appearance of King Henry. After greeting the Welshman, he inquires what news has come from the bridge, and learns how the
Duke of Exeter, notwithstanding repeated attacks
from the French, still holds his own and has lost
but one man. This individual, Bardolph, is to be
hanged for robbing a church, a punishment which
Henry wishes might overtake all similar offenders,
ere he repeats his orders to respect property and treat
the natives kindly, for 'when lenity and cruelty
play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soon-
A moment later, trumpets announce the arrival
of the French herald, who defiantly delivers his
master's haughty message. Listening calmly, Henry
inquires the herald's name, ere he bids him carry
back answer that he would fain avoid an encounter
at present, his men being so enfeebled by illness that
one cannot, as usual, equal three Frenchmen! He
therefore begs for free passage, warning the herald,
however, that if hindered In his retreat to Calais,
he intends to cut his way through, dyeing the French
soil with French blood. The Frenchmen having
withdrawn, the English King turns to his brother,
averring they are now in God's hands, and must
camp beyond the river.
The scene next changes to the French camp near
Agincourt, where the Constable is priding himself
on his armour, and the Duke of Orleans on his
horse. The Dauphin, however, seems to think his
steed and weapons surpass those of his companions,
for after some more horse talk and boasts about
what they intend to do on the morrow, he departs.
While the Dauphin Is donning his armour, his
companions make fun of him, one of them volun-
teering to eat all the men he kills, for he feels no
faith in the Prince's valour.
The arrival of an excited messenger, announcing that the English are close to their tents, breaks
up this colloquy, and all exclaim the King of England cannot long for day as they do, as there is no doubt of his coming defeat. So sure do they feel of victory, that one man openly wonders why the
English do not run away, only to be informed that
they belong to a mastiff breed which does not know
how to let go ! So the nobles separate, asserting each
Frenchman will capture at least a hundred Englishmen before sunset, and betting on the results of the day.
The prologue of the fourth act, again a chorus, depicts how, after a night of anxious suspense on the part of the English, — who pluck comfort from Henry's looks, and of rash security on
the part of the French, the clatter of preparation is
heard, before a terrible battle is fought at Agincourt.
The rising curtain reveals the English camp,
where King Henry privately acknowledges to his
brothers they are in imminent peril, adding that on
that very account their courage must rise to the
grim occasion. After some reassuring, philosophic
reflections on the advantage of early rising, he next
addresses an aged knight, wishing a softer pillow
awaited him, a wish his interlocutor is too brave to
share. To show appreciation for the courage and
loyalty the old knight displays, Henry begs the
loan of his cloak, ere he bids his brothers summon a
council in the royal tent.
Meanwhile, — disguised by the cloak, — Henry proposes to commune a while alone, but is soon challenged by Pistol, who, not recognising his monarch, converses in familiar strain with him, giving him a free and easy opinion of his superiors, ere he takes
himself away. A moment later, the Welshman he
has described, appears with his henchman, with
whom he indulges in a pretentious discourse, which
diverts Henry. They are soon joined by three
other soldiers, who, thinking they will not live to
see another dawn, dread the approach of day. On
perceiving Henry, — who represents himself a follower of the aged knight, — they ask his opinion of their predicament, whereupon he concedes that although their King is but a man, they had better
obey him without fear. He then cunningly induces these men to give their opinion of their ruler, and swears he could die nowhere so contentedly as in the King's company, 'his cause being just and
his quarrel honourable.' Although not so sure of
this, the three soldiers deem themselves bound to
obey their King right or wrong, leaving him responsible for everything, including their souls! After arguing with them for awhile to demonstrate that every man must answer for his own soul, Henry remarks he has overheard the English King say he
would not be ransomed, a statement the men fancy
devised mainly to make them fight the more bravely.
As a dispute arises on this subject between Henry
and William, one of the soldiers, they finally exchange gloves, each promising to wear his addvrsary's token in his cap, and give the other satisfaction after the battle, the soldier truculently
adding ere he leaves the stage, that he proposes to
strike the bearer of his gage wherever he meets him !
All having gone, Henry muses in a soliloquy of
wonderful force and beauty, upon the responsibility
royalty entails, and which all its pomps and pleasures only thinly disguise. His musings are interrupted by the return of the aged knight, reporting his lords are vainly seeking him. Replying that he will meet them presently in his tent, Henry dismisses
this messenger, and, left alone, fervently prays his
and his father's sins may not be remembered — seeing he has already done penance for them, but
that his soldiers' hearts may be so steeled, that they
will prove victorious in spite of the odds against
them. Again summoned, — by a brother this time,
— the King goes off, earnestly exclaiming, 'the day,
my friends and all things stay for me.'
At sunrise, we behold the French camp all astir,
the Dauphin and Duke of Orleans calling for their
steeds in their frantic haste to begin the fray.
When the Constable joins them, the Dauphin rashly
proposes to excite their horses by gashing their hides
so they can sprinkle the foe with their blood! A
messenger, — announcing that the English are
drawn up In battle array, — hastens the departure
of the Dauphin, Duke of Orleans, and Constable,
which latter contemptuously mentions the starved
array of men Henry has to oppose to France's brilliant host, vowing that if blown upon, 'the vapour of our valour will o'erturn them.' Before his boastful speech ends, another knight joins them, also deriding the meanness of the foe, whose very steeds stand with dropped heads and dejected mien, while
bands of crows hover over them to pick their bones!
Then the Dauphin suggests it would be chivalrous
to feed the enemy so as to make them more worthy of their steel, ere all set out, exulting at the prospect of the easy triumph awaiting them.
Meantime, In the English camp, the lords are
coming to the conclusion that, although only one
against five, they must make a brave stand. So
little do they expect to survive the day, however,
that they take solemn leave of one another, exchanging good wishes. Salisbury has just left the group when King Henry appears, just in time to overhear Westmoreland fervently wish they had ten thousand more Englishmen at hand. This wish is
not echoed by the King, who boldly avers that if
they are to die, England will lose men enough, but
that should they triumph, 'the fewer men, the
greater share of honour!' Instead of calling for
additional forces, therefore, he is in favour of proclaiming that all those who are afraid of the coming fight, can depart with passport and pay, proudly vowing we would not die in that man's company that fears his fellowship to die with us.' Then he
enthusiastically adds future ages will speak of this
encounter, proclaiming that 'he to-day that sheds
his blood with me shall be my brother.' This
promise so thrills his hearers, that when Salisbury
announces the French are about to charge, all express readiness to enter the fight, and Westmoreland openly wishes he and the King were alone against the foe, so that they could reap the glory!
They are about to leave the scene when the
French herald reappears, announcing he has come
to give Henry a last chance to withdraw from a
quarrel, in which he and all his men must perish,
and to offer ransom. On hearing that the Constable has sent this message, Henry haughtily rejoins, 'Bid them achieve me and then sell my bones' adding the solemn warning that it is not
wise to attempt to sell a lion's skin ere the beast is
slain! Then, in a stirring speech which reveals
high courage, he adds that many of his men. Instead of rotting on this plain, will yet rest beneath
honoured brasses in England, and that although
they present a sorry appearance compared with the French host, they are none the less ready to measure strength with their gay foes. Bearing this haughty message, the herald departs, solemnly warning Henry 'thou never shalt hear herald any more'
only to receive the biting retort that he will soon be
back for ransom! The English now being ready
to mount, the Duke of York craves permission to
lead the van, a request Henry grants, ere he
departs exclaiming, 'and how thou pleasest, God,
dispose the day!'
We next behold the field of battle, where Pistol
has seized a Frenchman, whose name and quality
he is anxious to discover so as to calculate the
amount of ransom he can claim. Thanks to his
boy, who acts as his Interpreter, the matter is settled
after a comical scene, and Pistol and his captive
withdraw, while the boy muses on the death by
hanging of Bardolph and Nym, and regrets that he
must remain with the baggage.
In another part of the battle-field, the Constable,
Duke of Orleans and Dauphin congregate, and
from their exclamations and consternation we conclude all is lost, and that the King whom they expected to offer ransom is now their victor! In
vain hope of turning the tide, all rush back Into the
fray, for in spite of overwhelming losses, they still
greatly outnumber their foes.
Further off, on the same battle-field, Henry is
congratulating those around him upon what has
already been done, though the French still hold the
field, and Inquiring how his uncle York has fared
in the fight? In reply, Exeter describes this hero's prowess, ere he fell beneath many wounds, relating how he and Suffolk died side by side, after exchanging touching congratulations and farewells. This news, which saddens all present, deeply affects
the King, who, hearing a trumpet blast, exclaims
the French are returning and that the prisoners
must be slain, so all will be at liberty to fight!
In another part of the field we hear the Welshman grumbling because the French have attacked the luggage and slain some boys. Then he displays his learning and accent by comparing 'Alex-
ander the Pig' and Henry of Monmouth, the latter's
principal advantage consisting, from his point of
view, in having been born in Wales!
While the Welshman's men are still approvingly
discussing their ruler and his dramatic dismissal
of Falstaff, Henry appears, exclaiming this is
the first time he has been angry since landing
in France, and bidding a herald summon the
Frenchmen on the hill to fight or leave. A moment later the French herald reappears, humbly answering Henry's taunt by a request to bury his dead. Although Henry still professes not to know who has won, the herald assures him he is victor,
whereupon Henry modestly attributes this triumph
to God's agency, adding that the battle is to be
known as Aglncourt, from the castle within sight
of the field. This decision pleases the Welshman,
who reminds the King they are countrymen, ere he
goes to ascertain how many Englishmen have been
The King now summons Williams, who is standing near by, and inquires why he wears a glove in his cap like a tournament favour? The man rejoins it is the gage of a soldier whom he has pledged himself to strike, and with whom he is to fight. This
being according to military code, the Welshman
praises William, ere Henry bids him go in quest of
his captain. While the soldier is executing this order,
Henry delivers to the Welshman, Williams' glove,
bidding him wear it in his cap, claiming to have
taken it from Alengon in the fray, and that anyone
who challenges him for wearing it is a friend of that
traitor! Pleased with such a charge, the Welshman departs, but has barely gone, when Henry bids some noblemen follow him, hinting that the glove he wears may earn him a box on the ear which he will resent, but adding that he wishes no harm to
result from this encounter since it is merely a jest.
A few moments later, Williams having gone to
Henry's tent to summon the captain, suddenly confronts the Welshman wearing his glove. Quick
as a flash the soldier redeems his promise by striking his antagonist, who not only resents the blow but dubs him traitor! The quarrel such an accusation provokes, summons first the Dukes, and then the King, who, after gravely listening to both
sides, demands the soldier's glove, and producing his
own, proves that they form a pair. When he
gravely states how this soldier offered to strike him,
the Welshman clamours the man deserves death, but
the culprit himself pleads he is not to blame for
showing disrespect since his King was in disguise,
cleverly adding, that 'All offences, my lord, come
from the heart: never came any from mine that
might offend your majesty.' His defence is graciously accepted by Henry, who bids Exeter return him the glove filled with gold, and begs the Welshman to forgive him, a pardon he grants, generously
offering Williams as indemnification for the blow
a shilling, an immense sum for so thrifty a soul.
The entrance of the English herald, bringing the
tak of slaughtered Frenchmen and of prisoners
taken, now rivets the King's attention. After
reading this list, Henry ascertains that besides fifteen hundred noble prisoners, the French have lost ten thousand men, including some of high degree. When he eagerly inquires how the English stand, he learns with delight, that aside from York and
Suffolk, only twenty-five men have been slain, a disproportion between the losses on both sides which calls forth fervent and renewed thanksgiving on his part. Then he announces that they will betake themselves to the neighbouring village, to sing Te
Deum in the church there, humbly acknowledging
that God fought for him. Afterwards he proposes to hasten back to Calais, going from thence to England, 'where ne'er from France arrived more happy men!'
The fifth act also begins with a chorus, relating how the king, after returning to Calais, crossed the seas, was rapturously welcomed home and modestly gave thanks in Westminster Abbey.
Then how peace was settled by the Emperor's intermission, ere Henry returned to France.
The rising curtain reveals the English camp in
France, where the Welshman, taunted by his captain for wearing the traditional leek in his cap, explains he does so merely to defy Pistol, whose appearance on the scene is the signal for the renewal of a former quarrel. After receiving two blows
from his truculent Welsh adversary, Pistol becomes
so humble, that he reluctantly eats the leek at this
companion's bidding, although when the Welshman
has gone he mutters he will be revenged, until his
captain reproves him for insolence and cowardice.
The captain gone, Pistol concludes fortune Is very
unkind, for he has just heard his wife Is dead, news
which determines him to hasten back to England,
and make his living there by stealing.
The next scene is played in the French palace at
Troyes, where the French and English monarchs
meet. After greeting Charles VI, Queen Isabella,
Princess Katharine, and the nobles with all due
ceremony. King Henry receives a kindly welcome
from Isabella, who hopes soon to see his enmity turn
Into love, — a wish he cordially reciprocates. The
great nobles having paid their respects. Burgundy
proclaims himself equally attached to both monarchs,
between whom he has been trying to establish peace,
and adds there is no reason why this peace should
not prove lasting and prosperity be restored to
France whose present state is pitiable. In reply,
King Henry declares all readiness to make peace,
provided his demands are granted, and appoints his
uncle, brothers and two nobles to discuss terms with
the King of France, granting them full power to
ratify, augment, or alter the conditions. As the
King of France leaves the hall with these commissioners, the Queen decides to follow them to prevent friction, but consents to leave her daughter Katharine In the company of Henry, who gallantly states 'she is our capital demand!' Left alone with the King and her hand-maiden Alice, the Princess stammers in reply to Henry's complimentary address, 'I cannot speak your England.' Henry, who cannot speak French, but nevertheless hopes to win her as bride, vows he will be glad if she can love him; but, when he eagerly presses her to say whether she likes him, her innocent
query in regard to the meaning of the word 'like,'
wrings from him the assurance 'an angel is like you,
Kate, and you are like an angel!' a compliment she
credits only when Alice assures her she has undoubtedly understood it aright.
Finding his suit, — carried on in English, — does not progress as fast as he would like, Henry, who has frankly confessed he is no courtier, makes a desperate and grotesque attempt to carry it on in French, a language the princess politely assures him
he speaks far better than she does English! But
when Katharine ventures to answer some of his
protestations by stating it impossible to love 'de
enemy of France,' Henry ardently assures her that
far from being France's enemy, he loves the country
too dearly to part with its smallest village, adding
laboriously that 'when France is mine and I am
yours, then yours is France and you are mine.'
Then, as this reasoning does not seem sufficiently
convincing, he adds a blunt, straightforward declaration of love, which wins from Katharine a maidenly 'dat is as it sall please de roi mon pere,' a response which proves so satisfactory that Henry vehemently assures her it shall please him, ere he kisses first
her hands and then her lips, explaining when she
demurs under plea that it is not usual in France, that
'nice customs curtsy to great Kings!' This whole
courting scene, In broken English, is one of the
prettiest pieces of graceful comedy the poet has ever
penned, and as such is deservedly popular.
It ends with the return of the French King and
his train, the Duke of Burgundy, — who has presided over the peace negotiations, — playfully inquiring how Henry has meanwhile sped in his wooing?
After some exchange of witty repartee with the royal
suitor, the Duke announces the King of France has
subscribed to all England's demands. This settled,
Henry joyfully asks for Katharine's hand, which
is granted him, it being stipulated that her children
and his shall reign over France and England after
the death of the present French ruler. To seal this
treaty, Henry kisses his bride in the presence of both
courts, while Isabella calls down Heaven's blessing
upon them, as well as upon both countries, and all
present cry Amen! The curtain falls only after
Henry has announced he will receive the oaths of
the French nobles on the morrow, pledging his own
word to Katharine, and solemnly yet joyfully adding 'and may our oaths well kept and prosperous be!'
The epilogue to this play, put in the mouth of the chorus, states how from this alliance sprang Henry VI, who, at his father's untimely death, became King of France and England at nine months
of age, and how during his reign all the English
conquests in France were lost.