Henry V

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Henry V Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on William Shakespeare's Henry V. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's father was a glove-maker, and Shakespeare received no more than a grammar school education. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582, but left his family behind around 1590 and moved to London, where he became an actor and playwright. He was an immediate success: Shakespeare soon became the most popular playwright of the day as well as a part-owner of the Globe Theater. His theater troupe was adopted by King James as the King's Men in 1603. Shakespeare retired as a rich and prominent man to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1613, and died three years later.
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Historical Context of Henry V

The Battle of Agincourt took place during the Hundred Years’ War, a drawn-out series of battles fought between England and France from 1337 to 1453. The war originated in a dynastic dispute over the right to rule France and began when Edward III (Henry V’s great-uncle) went to battle to protect his claim on French lands in 1337. Aside from its effect on English-French relations, the Hundred Years’ War is also notable for introducing the first European standing armies since the Roman Empire and for developing a strong sense of nationalism among France and England’s peoples.

Other Books Related to Henry V

Henry V is the final play in a tetralogy of history plays including Richard II, Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2 that is sometimes called the Henriad. The previous plays track the reigns of King Richard II and King Henry IV, who is Henry V’s father and who overthrew King Richard II to himself become king. Shakespeare’s primary source for these plays was Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles, though he may also have relied on Latin biographies, such as the Henrici Quinti Angliae Regis Gesta, written about Henry V while he was in power.
Key Facts about Henry V
  • Full Title: The Life of Henry V
  • When Written: 1599
  • Where Written: London, England
  • When Published: 1600
  • Literary Period: Elizabethan
  • Genre: History
  • Setting: England and France, 1415
  • Climax: Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech before the Battle of Agincourt.
  • Antagonist: Lewis the Dauphin

Extra Credit for Henry V

The Wooden O. Though it’s impossible to know for sure, it has long been believed that Henry V was the first play to be performed in London’s Globe Theater – the “wooden O” of the play’s prologue – whose construction was completed in 1599. Shakespeare may even have written Henry V specifically as a showpiece for the new theater – a fact which would cast an especially ironic light on all the Chorus’ apologies for the stage’s inadequacy.

Back to Life. Sir John Falstaff dies at the start of Henry V but Shakespeare brings him back to life in The Merry Wives of Windsor, published three years later (though possibly performed earlier). This resurrection supposedly occurred at the behest of Queen Elizabeth herself, who adored the character of Falstaff and demanded a play that portrayed him in love.