Henry V


William Shakespeare

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Henry V: Act 4, Scene 6 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Henry V, Exeter, and the troops are gathered as Exeter reports York’s noble death: badly wounded, York stumbled upon his dead cousin Suffolk on the battlefield, kissed his bloody face, lay down beside him, asked Exeter to commend his service to the King, and died. Exeter sheepishly admits the scene brought him to tears. Henry says there is nothing to be ashamed of, that the story has gotten him teary too. An alarm sounds signaling French reinforcements and Henry orders the English soldiers to kill their prisoners.
Exeter is initially embarrassed by his own emotion, thinking tears unsuitable to the manly composure demanded by war. Yet Henry’s assurances illustrate the king’s compassion and show that he understands war is a human matter, not without emotion. At the same time, Henry then orders that the French prisoners be killed as soon as the tide of the battle seems to be turning—a cold-blooded move that ensures the prisoners can't be freed and fight once more against the English. Henry displays both compassion and cold-bloodedness at nearly the same instant—all to build and protect the power of England.
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