365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

293. Plot summary: “Henry V”

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Set in the fifteenth century, Shakespeare’s “Henry V” takes place soon after the young king has taken his place at the throne. Tensions between England and France have been growing, and a juvenile and insulting message from the Dauphin of France is the last straw for Henry. War is declared and the troops are beginning to be gathered.

Back where Henry used to spend his time partying, the Boar’s Head Tavern, old friends of Henry have begun to prepare themselves for war. Though they were once good friends of the king, Bardolph, Nim, and Pistol could not be further from him now, both in status and in character. They wax nostalgic over the death of Falstaff (one of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters, and someone who had once been a dear friend of Henry).

Henry learns that there is a conspiracy to plot his murder, and he has the traitors executed. The English troops make their way to France and begin an amazingly successful fight, especially considered that they are so outnumbered and on foreign soil. At the battle of Harfleur, Henry delivers a passionate speech, inspiring his troops and helping to lead them to victory. Tragically, it turns out that Nim and Bardolph have been caught looting, and despite their former friendship with Henry, are hanged for their crimes.

The biggest battle is that of Agincourt, and the English are outnumbered five to one by the French. Henry decides to disguise himself as a common soldier to get to know his soldiers better and find out how they feel about the battles. He later has a soliloquy about how difficult it is to be king, then prays to God and rallies his troops once more with another inspiring speech, leading the English to a miraculous victory. The French surrender.

A subplot concerns the marriage of Henry to the French princess Katherine, meaning their son will be the king of France, which unites the two countries at last.

A unique thing about this play is its use of a chorus to recognize the fact that there is no real way that a stage can truly portray the battles, so they actually plead for the audience to use their imaginations. Shakespeare made “Henry V” a truly unique achievement among the other history plays, making it equally theatrical and informative. Though some details were doubtless fudged, the play creates a hero out of the young king.


Written by Caroline Mincks

July 21, 2010 at 12:21 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

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