Henry V


William Shakespeare

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Henry V: Act 4, Scene 7 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
On another part of the field, Fluellen and Gower are irate that a group of French soldiers have abandoned the battle, raided the English camps, stolen supplies, slaughtered the guard boys, and set the king’s tent on fire. They are glad that Henry V ordered the French prisoners’ throats slit. Fluellen compares Henry to Alexander the Great, though Fluellen says ‘Big’ instead of ‘Great,’ which comes out sounding like ‘Pig’ because of Fluellen’s accent. Like Alexander the Great, Fluellen says, Henry is gallant, was born in a town with a river, and killed his best friend, Sir John Falstaff.
The French soldiers who abandoned the battle and resorted to theft have not lived up to their king’s Act 3 scene 5 injunction to fight courageously and honorably. Fluellen intends to speak seriously but his accent renders his language comical. Still, despite its comedy, Fluellen’s metaphor casts Henry in a grand light by comparing him to the historical hero Alexander the Great.
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Henry V enters furious, ordering no mercy be shown French soldiers. Montjoy enters and asks Henry’s permission for the French to go out on the battlefield and sort out the corpses of their noblemen from the corpses of their commoners, now unworthily touching noble blood. Montjoy admits that the English have won the battle and Henry grants him the permission he asks. Henry names the fight the Battle of Agincourt. Fluellen reminisces about Henry’s great-uncle Edward’s victory in France and reminds Henry of his Welsh blood, then proclaims how proud he is to be Henry’s countryman.
The French request to sort out their corpses reveals how important class distinctions are to France, even in war. This perspective stands in implicit contrast to Henry’s professed notion of an English “band of brothers,” united in honor and courage regardless of social standing. Fluellen’s comments reveal that Henry, being Welsh, is himself a representative of England’s multicultural diversity.
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Henry V calls in Williams and asks him about the glove in his cap. Williams recounts his oath to fight the man he argued with the night before. When asked, Fluellen concurs that Williams must keep his oath. Henry urges Williams to keep it and dismisses him after discovering William is Gower’s soldier. Henry then gives Fluellen a glove to wear in his cap that he says he took from Alencon in battle. Any man who challenges it, Henry claims, will be a friend of Alencon and should be brought before Henry. Henry sends Fluellen off to fetch Gower and, after he exits, sends Warwick and Gloucester to follow him, explaining that the glove is Williams’ and that Fluellen may be beaten up for it. Henry admits that he should be wearing the glove himself and asks them to stop any fight Fluellen and Williams might get into.
Now that the war is won, Henry can have a bit of fun. Here he coordinates an elaborate array of false appearances, misleading Fluellen and Williams alike. Still, he mercifully deploys Warwick and Gloucester as referees to make sure his handiwork does not cause serious harm.
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