The Dauphin sends Henry V a box of tennis balls intending them to serve as a mocking symbol of Henry’s boyish frivolity, but Henry V’s reaction to the gift renders them a different symbol entirely. “Tell the pleasant prince this mock of his / hath turn'd his balls to gun-stones,” Henry says, transforming the tennis balls into a symbol of Henry’s new steely resolve and strength as a monarch. Though he once played games, he will now fight wars, and will fight those wars ferociously. As the tennis balls “turn’d…to gun-stones” against France express seriousness in the guise of play, so too is Henry V’s raucous youth considered in retrospect a mere “veil of wildness” which concealed a shrewd and powerful monarch.
The Box of Tennis Balls Symbol Timeline in Henry V
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Box of Tennis Balls appears in Henry V. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
...treasure more suitable to Henry’s spirit. Henry opens the box and finds it full of tennis balls . He tells the ambassadors to tell the Dauphin that he has underestimated Henry, that... (full context)