Henry V

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Katherine Character Analysis

Daughter of King Charles VI and Queen Isabel. Henry V requests her hand in marriage as part of the peace treaty at play’s end. She speaks with Henry in broken English, suspicious of his rhetoric and hesitant to accept his professions of love. She is betrothed to Henry with her parents’ blessing. She speaks with a French accent.

Katherine Quotes in Henry V

The Henry V quotes below are all either spoken by Katherine or refer to Katherine. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Kingship Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Henry V published in 2004.
Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

But, before God, Kate, I cannot look greenly nor gasp out my eloquence, nor have I no cunning in protestation; only downright oaths; which I never use till urged, nor never break for urging.

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker), Katherine
Page Number: 5.2.148-152
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Henry is in the process of wooing Katherine, the French daughter of King Charles. Henry has not only defeated the French, he seeks to solidify his and the English hold on the French throne by marrying the French Princess, Katherine, and in time producing an heir to both the English and French thrones.

The two kings have made an agreement about the marriage beforehand in verse, and now, in part due to the language barrier (Katherine speaks mainly French; Henry mainly English), Henry and Katherine, with translation help from Katherine's servant Alice, speak in prose. That Henry switches to prose here makes sense, given the content of his language, which suggests mildly that he is no great speaker and is ineloquent. He says to his future wife that he has no special words or cunning, "only downright oaths," which he never uses until urged to do so and never breaks no matter what.

In this exchange we see another kingly tactic at work, this time on the battle field of love. Henry has demonstrated that he is a quite capable speaker, giving powerful speeches to his men before war. But here, he takes a modest approach, intentionally appearing humble to make Katherine feel safe. Especially with the language barrier, he wants to seem like a simple husband opposed to a mighty king. Even though they are marrying for political reasons, and it is her father that has decided on the marriage, Henry wants to make it seem like Katherine has a choice. All through the play it has been clear that Henry believes that in order to rule he must also be loved by his people, and he goes to great efforts to speak and present an image that his people will love. Henry's belief and tactics with Katherine are just the same, seeking not just obedience but genuine love by presenting himself in just the right way.

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Your majestee ave fausse French enough to deceive de most sage demoiselle dat is en France.

Related Characters: Katherine (speaker), Henry V
Related Symbols: Accents
Page Number: 5.2.227-228
Explanation and Analysis:

Katherine has carefully rejected Henry's advances, despite his lengthy arguments and constructed appearance of humility. In the lines preceding this quote, Henry has slightly broken the humble, unschooled character he has been building. Henry talks about what their son will do and asks what Katherine thinks, before giving her a lengthy, praising epithet in French.

To this French Katherine responds the above line, saying that Henry has "fausse [false] French enough to deceive" even the smartest women in France. The moment that Henry drops his act of humility and inserts pomp and pretension, Katherine calls him out for being false, demonstrating that despite her accent, she is intelligent. She sees through both acts, both the exaggerated humility and the forward romantic praise in French. To proceed, Henry must say "Fie upon my false French" and be direct and honest with her. There is an implication here that perhaps, in Katherine, Henry has found someone with whom he can be honest, can and must share his true self.

Take her, fair son, and from her blood raise up
Issue to me; that the contending kingdoms
Of France and England, whose very shores look pale
With envy of each other’s happiness,
May cease their hatred.

Related Characters: King Charles (speaker), Henry V, Katherine
Page Number: 5.2.360-364
Explanation and Analysis:

Spoken by the King of France, this quote is one of the last in the play. Katherine has agreed (as if she had a choice) to the marriage, and for now there is peace. Here King Charles speaks to Henry, telling him to produce a male heir so that the French and English bloodlines merge (including Charles own blood), so that the "contending kingdoms / Of France and England" may have peace, instead of hating and envying each other.

These lines are optimistic, and Act 5 ends on a strong note, but the Chorus explains that the child Charles wished for, Henry VI quickly lost France and caused harm to England as well. In fact, Shakespeare's audience would have been extremely familiar with the actual history (Henry V died just months after his son was born; and Henry VI was eventually killed by a rival family, the Yorks, in the events leading up to the rise of Richard III) and have seen Shakespeare's plays about that history (the three Henry VI plays as well as Richard III), so King Charles' optimistic lines would have been seen by audience members as deeply ironic.

The failure of Henry V's son to hold on to the legacy that Henry passed down also suggests two things. First, just how capable and adept Henry V himself was. He truly did unite an England that before his reign and just after was riven by civil war, and he did so with a kind of performance and mastery of appearances that made him, at least while he was alive, a kind of cure for the underlying fractures within English society. Second, at the same time, his amazing success was temporary, itself almost no more than an appearance or illusion that disappeared or was proved false as soon he died. Just as the play could not really recreate the past (as the Chorus states in the Prologue), Henry's own performance as king could not make the brief period of his glorious reign last into the future.

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Katherine Character Timeline in Henry V

The timeline below shows where the character Katherine appears in Henry V. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 3, Prologue
Warfare Theme Icon
Appearances Theme Icon
...recounts, has delivered a message to Henry at Harfleur: King Charles offers Henry his daughter Katherine and a few scant, useless dukedoms as dowry. Refusing King Charles’ offer, Henry has launched... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Language Theme Icon
In the French palace, Katherine asks her lady-in-waiting, Alice, in French, if Alice will give her an English lesson. Alice... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Kingship Theme Icon
Warfare Theme Icon
...Queen Isabel, bringing along Exeter, Bedford, Warwick, Gloucester, Clarence, and Westmoreland. The Duke of Burgundy, Katherine, and Alice are also present. King Charles and Queen Isabel welcome Henry warmly and the... (full context)
Appearances Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Henry V tries to woo Katherine and the two engage in a comical exchange in French and English, with Alice attempting... (full context)
Kingship Theme Icon
England Theme Icon
Appearances Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...Bedford, Warwick, Gloucester, Clarence, and Westmoreland. The Duke of Burgundy asks Henry V about wooing Katherine and the two engage in an innuendo-laced exchange about courting tactics. King Charles announces that... (full context)