The Life of Henry the Fifth (a History)

Opening with "O for a Muse of fire", the Chorus explains the chain of events leading up the Henry V's reign as king, as chronicled in Richard II, 1 Henry IV, and 2 Henry IV. The Archbishop of Canterbury and Ely urge Henry V to lay claim to France (tracing the claim back to Edward III) and to fight for it if necessary. Canterbury even promises that the Church will help fund a war. An ambassador from the French Prince (the Dauphin) brings a case of tennis balls to mock Henry V, who quickly vows to attack France. Nym, Pistol, and Bardolph agree to go to France with Henry V to help fight. Falstaff, sick and depressed, cannot. On his way to France, Henry V discovers that Richard Earl of Cambridge, Henry Lord Scroop of Marsham, and Sir Thomas Grey, knight of Northumberland have been paid by the French to murder Henry V. Though they repent, Henry V has the three executed. Falstaff dies in bed, and Pistol's wife Mistress Quickly says goodbye to Nym, Pistol, Bardolph, and Falstaff's boy as they leave for battle. The Dauphin tells the English ambassador the Duke of Exeter (Henry V's uncle; Thomas Beaufort) that he wishes to battle with Henry V, though the King of France (Charles VI) is considering appeasement. Henry attacks the French city of Harfleur and wins. During the battle, the boy, disgusted by their cowardly and criminal behavior, leaves Bardolph, Pistol, and Nym. The French nobles convince the King of France to fight Henry V, but the king won't let his son (the Dauphin) fight even though his son wants to.

Bardolph steals money from a church, and Pistol reports the crime, whereby Bardolph and Nym are executed. The French ambassador Montjoy brings threats from the King of France to Henry V to which Henry vows to continue to fight. On the eve of the battle, the French nobles are very eager to fight and stay up all night, arming at 2 am; the Dauphin arms at midnight. Henry V goes around his camp, disguised as a commoner, trying to raise his soldiers' spirits, though it is hard, since they are all tired and sickly, yet still brave. Before battle, Westmoreland wishes "we had more men" but Henry V quickly responds saying the fewer men, the more honor per person when the battle is won. In battle, Pistol captures a Frenchman for ransom, and the boy (Falstaff's servant) returns to the unguarded camp. The Earl of Suffolk and Edward the Duke of York (Henry V's cousin) both die in battle. The French, losing the battle, defy the Law of Arms and kill all of the boys in the English camp. In retaliation, Henry V has all of the French prisoners killed. The English win the Battle of Agincourt (on Saint Crispin Crispian's Day) with minimal losses: 5 English nobles die plus "five-and-twenty" other English men compared to 10,000 dead Frenchmen. Pistol's wife Nell Quickly dies, and Pistol, in despair, vows to return to England to live the life of a thief.

Henry V meets with Katherine (King of France's daughter) while Exeter, the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester (Henry V's brothers), the Earl of Warwick, and Huntingdon iron out a peace settlement. The King of France agrees to the settlement, including Henry V's marriage to Katherine and Henry's control of France.

Back to the index

Standard Disclaimer

Last Modified April 17, 2002