Gloucester, Bedford, Exeter, Erpingham, Salisbury, and Westmoreland are in the English camp, grimly wishing for more soldiers. The battle is about to begin and the English are outnumbered five to one. Henry V enters and pooh-poohs their fears. “If we are mark’d to die, we are enow to do our country loss; and if to live, the fewer men, the greater share of honour.”
Gloucester and the other English lords are looking at the war from a practical perspective. Their forces are steeply outnumbered and so they wish for more troops. Yet Henry airs a more optimistic, romantic perspective, appealing to the men’s sense of honor and glory.
Henry V goes on to deliver a rousing speech, insisting he is glad there are no more troops, that he would not want to fight in the company of anyone not brave enough to come to battle. Those afraid, he says, can go home – he’ll give them passports and a travel stipend. But those who stay and fight he calls “we happy few, we band of brothers,” and declares that England will forever afterwards celebrate this day, St. Crispin’s Day, in memory of their bravery and honor. They will be household names and heroes. The men are duly inspired.
This speech marks the climax of the play. In it, Henry wields his dazzling rhetorical powers to lift his soldiers’ spirits and unite them in an image of themselves that will prove the strongest weapon of all. His language invites the soldiers to see themselves as brave, noble men, regardless of class, and places common soldiers on equal footing with the king himself. They are all a “band of brothers,” united in a patriotic cause that will make them English heroes.
Montjoy comes in to ask on behalf of the Constable if Henry V will give himself over as ransom now before his troops’ certain defeat. Henry refuses, conveying his faith in his soldiers’ valor and England’s impending victory. He tells Montjoy not to come asking for ransom ever again. Montjoy exits and Henry V muses to himself that he suspects Montjoy will come once more. York enters asking to permission to lead the troops and Henry gives it, sending everyone off to battle.
As usual, Henry’s role as king demands unshakeable public confidence in his troops. Yet Henry’s private suspicion that Montjoy will return (i.e. to collect Henry’s ransom after Henry's forces have been defeated) suggests that his outward show of confidence may hide uncertainty within.