Henry V

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Kingship Theme Analysis

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Above all else, Henry V investigates the relationship between a monarch and his people. By exploring the life of the particular king Henry V, the play also explores the role of a king in general. Throughout the play, Henry wears many hats, each representing a facet of his role as monarch. Aside from being absolute ruler, Henry is also a merciful Christian, a fierce war general, a loyal patriot, a tireless optimist, an inspirational orator, and a vulnerable human being.

As absolute ruler, Henry is eminently reasonable, exerting his power with equal parts strength and compassion. The play opens with the news that the wild party-boy Prince Hal (from 1 Henry IV and 2 Henry IV) has turned into the dignified and thoughtful King Henry V, and Henry’s new moderation and even-headedness are repeatedly praised and taken pride in. Henry strongly identifies as a Christian, aligning all of his pursuits with God’s will and frequently showing mercy. He spares the lives of the drunk man who spoke against him and of Michael Williams, who doubted the justness of the war, reminding his advisors that scrutiny and serious punishment should be reserved for serious crimes. That said, Henry will not tolerate dishonesty and approves the execution of Bardolph for stealing to emphasize the importance of moral rectitude among his people: “…when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner,” he says. Yet even in dispensing capital punishment, Henry remains reasonable and immune to petty vengefulness. Sending the conspirators’ Scroop, Cambridge, and Grey to their deaths, Henry informs them that he does not seek revenge against them for himself but executes them to preserve his kingdom’s safety and to obey English law. Henry likewise shows mercy as a war general, though he reserves mercy until after his enemy’s defeat. Henry’s speech to the Governor of Harfleur threatens vicious, blood-curdling violence, yet, as soon as the Governor surrenders the town, Henry orders his soldiers to treat the French with respect.

As the head of England, Henry is also responsible for instilling patriotism among his people, an effort that, in hard times, requires Henry’s unflagging optimism and virtuosic eloquence. Even when the English troops are grimly convinced of defeat, Henry remains cheerful, refusing to back down to the French or to admit any doubts to his people. When his soldiers are exhausted and outnumbered before the Battle of Agincourt, Henry’s rousing St. Crispin’s Day speech stokes everyone’s sense of English pride and honor and invigorates them to win the war. Yet such prodigious feats of speech and spirit take a private toll. Apart from exploring the king’s public role, the play also looks into his private struggles. Henry’s soliloquy describes the immense stress he must undergo daily and daily hide from view. Though Henry is ultimately proud and glad to be England’s monarch, he imagines how luxurious it would feel to sleep the peaceful sleep of a common man, unburdened by kingly responsibility.

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Kingship Quotes in Henry V

Below you will find the important quotes in Henry V related to the theme of Kingship.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

The strawberry grows underneath the nettle
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighbored by fruit of baser quality.
And so the prince obscured his contemplation
Under the veil of wildness, which, no doubt,
Grew like the summer grass, fastest by night,
Unseen, yet crescive in his faculty.

Related Characters: Bishop of Ely (speaker), Henry V
Page Number: 1.1.63-69
Explanation and Analysis:

Act 1 opens with the Bishop of Ely and the Bishop of Canterbury worrying about a bill that would limit the power of the Church; this bill was originally proposed during the reign of Henry IV. But Canterbury and Ely reassure themselves by talking about how much Henry V loves the Church, and how changed he is, praising his poise, reason, and maturity. In Henry IV parts 1 and 2, Henry V is merely Prince Hal, a rambunctious, disappointing son who slums in the pubs with common people.

Here Ely recognizes the change in Henry V, comparing him to a strawberry that grows hidden and surrounded by worser fruit. Hal "obscured his contemplation / Under the veil of wilderness," meaning that he hid his growing intelligence and maturity by acting and appearing wild. This maturity and kingliness, he says, probably "grew like the summer grass, fasted by night, / unseen" until he suddenly appeared confident, competent, and kingly. 

These remarks by the bishops signify a resolution of a claim made by Hal in Henry IV part 1, in which he predicted that his transformation from wild youth to king would happen in just this way. He used the metaphor of the sun suddenly bursting through the clouds after being hidden. Put another way, his wild youth (while fun) was a calculated act, a performance, intended to make his eventual kingliness even more powerful.


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Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Therefore take heed how you impawn our person
How you awake our sleeping sword of war:
We charge you, in the name of God, take heed
For never two such kingdoms did contend
Without much fall of blood; whose guiltless drops
Are every one a woe, a sort complaint
‘Gainst him whose wrong gives edge unto the swords
That make such waste in brief mortality.
Under this conjuration, speak, my lord;
For we will hear, note and believe in heart
That what you speak is in your conscience wash’d
As pure as sin with baptism.

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker), Archbishop of Canterbury
Page Number: 1.2.24-36
Explanation and Analysis:

Henry is about to meet with ambassadors from France, but first wants to meet with Canterbury and Ely; the King wants to know for certain whether or not he he has a legitimate claim to the throne of France. Here Henry tells Canterbury to be careful in his answer, and to be truthful in the name of God, since the answer has the potential to "awake our sleeping sword of war." Note that Henry's regal speech and mastery of the 'royal we' supports the claims that he has matured made by Ely and Canterbury in the preceding scene.

Henry introduces the potential of violence and war with great compassion, showing an understanding of how much bloodshed a war would create, and how those who suffer would be "guiltless." He recognizes that war has the potential to waste and destroy lives, and shows hesitancy over going to war for the wrong reasons. War is dangerous, not just a game for glory.

With this heavy interpretation battle and an appeal to conscience and God, Henry tells Canterbury that he will trust the Bishop completely in this matter. After carefully considering the matter and listening to Canterbury's lengthy legal and biblical justifications and encouragement from his entourage (below), the King decides to wage a war in attempt to gain the French throne.

All of that said, one can also read Henry's entire speech to be a performance rather than honest. In this reading, Henry wants to wage war against France, both to conquer it and expand his power and because he knows that having a foreign enemy will help keep his own country united (something that his father, the previous king, advised him just before he died). And yet he also knows that the best way to get the war he wants is not to appear to want it too much, to act like a king who cares only for his subjects.

And finally, one can read Henry's motives as being even more complex. He might both want the war and be concerned about his citizens, and he might want the war because he knows it will help unite England and end the years of civil war that plagued his own father's reign as king (dramatized in Henry IV parts 1 and 2). And so Henry V might be performing here to help get the war he feels his country needs, and be willing to sacrifice some of his people to save his country.

Which motive is true or right is not clear, and it isn't definite that it's only one motive pushing Henry V to act. What is clear is that Henry V is a master of performance and appearances, and you as a reader should always keep that in mind when thinking about the play.  

Your brother kings and monarchs of the earth
Do all expect that you should rouse yourself,
As did the former lions of your blood.

Related Characters: Duke of Exeter (speaker), Henry V
Page Number: 1.2.127-129
Explanation and Analysis:

The Duke of Exeter is here encouraging Henry to make a claim to the throne of France and to start a war. He does so by appealing to Henry's royal lineage and to his peers. The other kings around the world, Exeter says, expect that Henry should "rouse himself," which recalls "awake our sleeping sword" in Henry's own quote just a hundred or so lines earlier.

This rising to the challenge is expected since Henry's ancestors have done so in similar situations. Note that the Lion symbolizes the English crown and is on the English Royal Arms. Blood, too, is a palpable symbol of lineage, legacy, and ancestry. By placing Henry firmly in an impressive line of Kings, Exeter appeals to his sense of pride and duty as a member of his family and the lineage of English kings more generally.

Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

If little faults, proceeding on distemper,
Shall not be wink’d at, how shall we stretch our eye
When capital crimes, chew’d, swallow’d and digested,
Appear before us?

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker), Henry, Lord Scroop of Masham, Richard Earl of Cambridge, Sir Thomas Grey
Page Number: 2.2.55-59
Explanation and Analysis:

The King is about to leave for France, but he has discovered a secret, treasonous plot by the English lords Scroop, Cambridge, and Grey. The three ironically flatter the King, thinking that he doesn't know that they are traitors. When Henry instructs Exeter to release a man that was imprisoned for lambasting the King while drunk, the traitors encourage Henry to punish the man severely instead.

In the quote, Henry responds by saying that "little faults" like this one need to be shown mercy ("winked at"), while larger capital crimes which are premeditated need to be given the harsh punishments. In this way, the King carefully calibrates an appearance of ignorance (of the lords own treachery) with his mercifulness (towards the prisoner) to trick the traitorous lords into calling for harsh punishment for anyone who dares to insult or work against the king. 

Henry, in other words, is manipulating appearances to get the lords to demand harsh punishment against traitors. The lords think that their own "appearance" as loyal followers is secure, never realizing that Henry has seen through their guise and is putting on a "play" of his own. Once again, Henry's master of appearances is clear.

Such and so finely bolted didst thou seem:
And thus thy fall hath left a kind of blot,
To mark the full-fraught man and best indued
With some suspicion. I will weep for thee;
For this revolt of thine, methinks, is like
Another fall of man. Their faults are open:
Arrest them to the answer of the law;
And God acquit them of their practices!

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker), Henry, Lord Scroop of Masham, Richard Earl of Cambridge, Sir Thomas Grey
Page Number: 2.2.144-151
Explanation and Analysis:

Still feigning ignorance, Henry asks Scroop, Cambridge, and Grey who should be in charge of England during his campaign in France. When they suggest themselves, he reveals that he knows about their conspiracy. When they beg for mercy, he shows them to be hypocrites (based on their call for harsh punishment of the drunken man who had insulted the king) and criticizes them for their betrayal. 

Henry V says he'll weep for the traitors, comparing their revolt to "Another fall of man." The betrayal is thus described with high stakes and extremely emotional and religious meaning. King Henry is comparing himself to God, and in doing so is asserting his divine right to the throne (the idea that the king ruled because God wants the king to rule). The rebellion then, must be seen as similar to Adam and Eve's act of disobedience that caused them to be thrown out of the Garden of Eden. 

Their crimes now out in the open, Henry orders the conspirators' arrest, saying that only God can "acquit them of their practices," even calling on God to grant them mercy. He later explains that he does not seek personal revenge, but rather acts out of concern for England's safety and respect for its laws. This calm, fair decision is further evidence of Henry's maturation, but also is an example of his ability to project an image of himself as a just and good king always looking out for England.

At the same, Henry's comment that the traitors had left a "blot" that, for Henry, marks even the best men with suspicion indicates that he's now hesitant to trust anyone since the traitors appeared so genuine. It also suggests one of Henry's main concerns as king, which is again about appearances: as king, Henry knows, he can never entirely trust anyone. Everyone is performing when around him, even those who are loyal, because, well, he's the king! (Imagine how you might behave if you were to meet the President of the United States) This means that Henry, as king, must constantly perform for others, while at the same time he can never see the true intentions of others because they are always performing too. Being surrounded always by appearances is one of the costs of being king, and piercing this veil of performance is something that Henry will try to do all through the play in order to get a real sense of what his people think of the world and of him.

Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

O peace, Prince Dauphin!
You are too much mistaken in this king:
Question your grace the late ambassadors,
With what great state he heard their embassy,
How well supplied with noble counselors,
How modest in exception, and withal
How terrible in constant resolution,
And you shall find his vanities forespent
Were but the outside of the Roman Brutus,
Covering discretion with a coat of folly.

Related Characters: The Constable of France (speaker), Henry V, Lewis the Dauphin
Page Number: 2.4.31-40
Explanation and Analysis:

The King of France (Charles), his son Prince Dauphin, and others are discussing the English invasion. King Charles suggests the strongest defense possible, but his son the Dauphin says his father's fears are ridiculous, making fun of Henry V based on the way he carried himself in his youth. Here, the Constable of France tells the Dauphin that he is "too much mistaken in this king," offering further evidence of Henry's transformation.

For his argument, the Constable points to the way that Henry acted with the French ambassadors, saying that he heard them with "great state," seeming both "modest in exception" and "terrible in constant resolution." Note the anaphora, the repetition of a word at the beginning of consecutive lines ("how") to emphasize these points. Like Canterbury argued in Act 1 Scene 1, the Constable says that Henry's "vanities" and "folly" in his earlier years were merely an appearance, covering up his "discretion" and true nature as a warrior king.

Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker)
Page Number: 3.1.32-37
Explanation and Analysis:

With his forces about to engage the French in their first battle, Henry delivers this speech, which begins, "Once more into the breach, dear friends." This rousing pre-battle speech is evidence of the eloquence that Canterbury and Ely ascribed to Henry in Act 1 Scene 1. Here he uses language to reinforce his Kingship, and by appealing to his soldiers as both friends and Englishman, rhetorically prepares them with visions of their connection to their country and their king to rally them to face and overcome the horrors of warfare.

In these lines he calls all of his soldiers noble, saying that even the lowest of them have "noble luster" in their eyes. In the preceding speech they have been told to discard their peaceful ways and embrace the battle that will follow, and they have been reminded of England's proud history and many victories. Now, they "stand like greyhounds," ready to fight for their country and their king. Declaring "the game's afoot," Henry gives his final rallying cry, telling his men to follow their spirits and, charging, cry out "God for Harry, England, and Saint George!" In this way he appeals simultaneously to their faith, their sense of camaraderie with each other as soldiers and countrymen, and their sense of duty to their King. Note that by calling himself the informal Harry, he draws his men even closer to him.

Henry may believe all these things, but once again he is also putting on a performance for his men here. He is, through his words, conjuring a vision of a united England while also helping the men to conjure visions of their own best, bravest selves. 

Act 3, Scene 3 Quotes

The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,
And the flesh’d soldier, rough and hard of heart,
In liberty of bloody hand shall range
With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass
Your fresh-fair virgins and your flowering infants.

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker), Governor of Harfleur
Page Number: 3.3.10-14
Explanation and Analysis:

Henry delivers this chilling monologue to the Governor and citizens of the French port city of Harfleur; he asks if the Governor will surrender, saying it is the last chance for mercy. Opposing the brotherly, supportive sentiment of his war-speech to his men in Act 3 Scene 1, here Henry is vicious and threatening, offering the most violent lines of the play. We can note that the most brutal act of violence is not carried out physically, but is instead done with language. The mere suggestion of such atrocities as these is enough to encourage the Governor of Harfleur to surrender; here language and words are weaponry.

The lines excerpted in the quote say that if the Governor refuses to surrender, "the gates of mercy shall be all shut up," and terror will be unleashed. The rough soldiers will with "bloody hands" and "conscience wide as hell" wreak havoc on the town. Henry says they'll move through it, "mowing like grass" to suggest ease, and rape the women (fresh-fair virgins) and murder their "flowering infants." This harrowing slaughter never takes place, as the Governor decides to surrender immediately following the speech.

Act 3, Scene 6 Quotes

…and we give express charge, that in our marches through the country, there be nothing compelled from the villages, nothing taken but paid for, none of the French upbraided or abused in disdainful language; for when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner.

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker)
Page Number: 3.6.110-116
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Henry V speaks to his soldiers once again, offering a contrast to his prewar speech in Act 3, Scene 1 and the terrorizing speech made before Harfleur in Act 3, Scene 3. Bardolph, who was once one of Henry's friends when he was hanging around with Falstaff, has been sentenced to death for stealing from a church; despite pleas from Pistol, Henry approves of the punishment.

In the quote, Henry expresses the requirement that his army act morally and honorably to the French citizens, and ordering his men to steal nothing from the French villages. "Nothing compelled," and "nothing taken but paid for." What's more, he even prohibits his soldiers from abusing the French people with foul language. He argues that when kindness and cruelty compete for a kingdom, it is the "gentler" that always wins. This decision shows both compassion and calculated leadership. Henry V wants to be honorable and kind since he is a Christian and a gentle ruler, but he also wants to take over France. If the English soldiers are kind to villagers during the war, it is more likely that Henry's rule in France will be accepted by the common people, he believes, after he has defeated the French forces.

Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

I think the king is but a man, as I am.

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker), Michael Williams, John Bates, Alexander Court
Related Symbols: Accents
Page Number: 4.1.105-106
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, once again, Henry is acting as something that he's not. Though instead of feigning ignorance as he did when confronting his traitorous English lords in Act 2, Scene 2, here he is pretends to be a common soldier.

He uses his disguise to observe his soldiers' behavior when they are not in the King's presence, to discuss private matters openly, and to test the feelings of his men. He claims to serve under a man who is certain that the English forces are doomed and says that his commander has not told the King this opinion. 

He utters this line in the middle of a debate with John Bates, Alexander Court, and Michael Williams. He humanizes the King (himself) by saying that he is just a man, giving a lengthy prose speech in which he describes the King thinking and feeling like a normal man (note Henry's ability to alter his language to fit in with his soldiers). Henry here shows the vulnerability and humanity he otherwise could not show, since it might dishearten his troops and his country. By altering his appearance, he is able to articulate the private thoughts that plague the public figure of the King.

He may show what outward courage he will; but I believe, as cold a night as ‘tis, he could wish himself in Thames up to the neck.

Related Characters: John Bates (speaker), Henry V
Page Number: 4.1.117-119
Explanation and Analysis:

In response to Henry's humanization of the King, John Bates responds that he believes the King might show "outward courage" while inwardly wishing himself at home. Ironically, Bates is correct in thinking that the King is using outward appearance to conceal his true self, but instead of concealing fear, he is concealing his royal personage and walking amongst his men.

Bate's arguments represent the belief among many common soldiers that wars are simply blood baths, not righteous and glorious fights in the name of honor and lineage. Further, he implies that the soldiers are just the king's tools, used and then tossed aside to get what the king wants.

But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at such a place.’

Related Characters: Michael Williams (speaker), Henry V
Page Number: 4.1.138-142
Explanation and Analysis:

Michael Williams here continues the discussion while Henry is in disguise. He says that if the King's cause is not just and good, then all of the deaths will be his fault. He lists with gruesome details the limbs that might be dismembered during the battle. These limbs are then given voice, crying "We died at such a place."

This dark imagery demonstrates regular soldiers' visceral experiences during warfare. Williams also suggests that even King Henry will have to answer to God on Judgement day, and that, especially "if the cause be not good," he will face a "heavy reckoning." That the soldiers question the righteousness of the King's cause might suggest that his eloquent, battle-rousing speeches are not as effective as he thinks, and also that England as a whole is not as unified behind him as he thinks.

The king is not bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers, the father of his son, nor the master of his servant; for they purpose not their death, when they purpose their services.

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker)
Page Number: 4.1.160-164
Explanation and Analysis:

Continuing the dialogue in which the responsibilities and powers of kings are called into question, Henry (still in disguise) insists that a king is not responsible for a soldier's death. He argues that a king asks his soldiers to fight, but not to die. Their deaths are ultimately left up to fate and to God, and regardless of the king's intentions, his soldiers have all sinned in the past. That they serve in a war is due to the king, but the end they meet depends on the type of people that they have been in their lives.

Comparing different levels of obligation, son to father, servant to master, and soldier to king, Henry says that those with the higher positions ask for services but not for "death." Just as a father sending his son on a voyage is hopeful he will live, a king leading his people to war hopes that there won't be casualties.

Through this entire debate between the disguised Henry and his soldiers we see a king able to share his viewpoints and argue with common soldiers, to pierce the appearances that he would never be able to see past were he to be undisguised. Meanwhile, Henry himself is able to preserve the infallibility, fearlessness, and regal presentation that becomes a ruler. At the same time, these soldiers are espousing ideas that are far more threatening to the very idea of kingship and therefore to Henry himself than the plots of some treacherous lords could ever be. How or whether Henry ends up responding to these ideas will therefore also give a much stronger indication of his own character and core beliefs -- will give the audience the ability to pierce the performance that Henry has been putting on as king for the entire play. And, indeed, near the end of the play Henry finds a way to both reveal that he was the man who was arguing with Williams and to reward him rather than punish him, signaling his recognition that it was his own disguise that led to the discussion, his general status as a good and fair king to his men, and, perhaps, an indication that he prefers Williams open disagreement to the "appearance" of agreement put on by his sometimes traitorous lords.

Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker)
Page Number: 4.3.62-69
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines, also excerpted from the St. Crispin's Day Speech, are probably the most famous from the play. In an impressive display of rhetoric and masterful use of language, Henry makes his soldiers feel like his equals and relish their opportunity to fight for and with him. He marks the exclusivity of the chance with "we few," and immediately modifies it to "we happy few," making clear that the group is not a grim company marching towards death but rather a lucky group of men granted a rare chance to achieve glory.

He then calls the whole group a "band of brothers," and says that whoever on that day fights with him will be his brother. To instill in them bravery and the desire to fight, he places them on his kingly level, inviting them to share in his glory. He then appeals to their sense of patriotism and honor by suggesting that any Englishmen missing the fight will curse themselves for missing the opportunity and question their own manhood. Again, we see Henry use masterful language to energize his men with multiple, overlapping ideals. These speeches are extremely performative, and indicative of Henry's success as a king.

Act 4, Scene 7 Quotes

Praised be God, and not our strength, for it!

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker)
Page Number: 4.7.92
Explanation and Analysis:

This line is uttered by Henry on the battlefield; Montjoy, a French herald, wants permission for the French to sort out their dead by social class, revealing a crucial difference between the French army and England's "band of brothers." When Montjoy admits that England has won the day despite the tremendous odds against their small army defeating the much larger French one, Henry says this quote, giving praise to God and not his own strength. This line reinforces Henry's status as a Christian, and the belief that his will is aligned with God's. Ultimately, he seems to believe that he won not because of any particular greatness of his men, but instead because it is what God desired.

Though, as with Henry's stated uncertainty about going to war in the first place in Act 1, Scene 1, it is possible to read Henry's statement here in more complex ways. He could mean that the outcome was up to God, with the added implication that the English deserved God's support precisely because they are humble enough to recognize that the outcome was God's will and not their own. By refusing to act arrogantly, Henry is in some sense also asserting England's, and his own, right to rule. 

All the water in Wye cannot wash your majesty’s Welsh plod out of your pody, I can tell you that: God pless it and preserve it as long as it pleases his Grace and his Majesty too.

Related Characters: Captain Fluellen (speaker), Henry V
Related Symbols: Accents
Page Number: 4.7.112-114
Explanation and Analysis:

The battle is won, and Henry has named it the Battle of Agincourt. Here Fluellen, a Welsh captain in the army, reminisces about Henry's relatives, which brings the appeal to royal lineage full circle. Henry's men persuaded him to act as the "former lions of [his] blood" did, and now Fluellen praises Henry saying that he has lived up to those great ancestors. In these lines Fluellen refers specifically to Henry's Welsh relatives, saying that "all of the water in Wye" couldn't wash the King's Welsh blood ("plod") out of his body ("pody"). Note that the alliteration of blood and body is altered, yet still preserved by Fluellen's accent.

These lines also show that Fluellen feels close to his King and feels the sense of brotherhood, camaraderie, and patriotism which Henry tried to instill in his men. The lines also help to illustrate and stake a claim about English greatness: that the country is unified across its many cultures and people: British, Welsh, Scottish, etc. Henry must represent and account for all of the different cultures that he rules; as king he is the entirety of his country and his peoples. In this moment, it is the Welsh aspect of his Englishness that shines, but more broadly Henry has been successful in embodying and unifying them all.

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.

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.