Just as Henry V presents a multifaceted perspective on warfare, it also portrays a diverse portrait of England. Throughout the play, England is understood as a royal line, a malleable geography, a multicultural melting pot, and a source of patriotic pride. Faith in England’s royal line and indignation at France’s attempt to truncate that line spurs the action of the play. Henry V goes to war, he believes, to claim a monarchic right over France inherited from his great-uncle Edward III. Though King Charles and the Dauphin deny that claim, the French are nevertheless intimidated by England’s royal line. Henry comes from “victorious stock,” King Charles reminds his son. A sense of that stock stands stronger in the English mind than any sense of national geography. England’s borders are permeable. Henry goes to war to extend them and thinks, in going, that the Scottish will inevitably try and push them back. With England’s lands in constant flux, the English place more weight on national character than on geography, taking pride in the “lions” of Henry’s blood and striving for honor and courage. Indeed, even the French acknowledge that English toughness and bravery seem at odds with the damp, dull, murky landscapes of England.
While the play celebrates royal lineage, it also celebrates the diverse lineage of common Englishman by incorporating characters from a wide variety of backgrounds and English subcultures. Characters hail from every class and from many different cultures: Henry V and Captain Fluellen are Welsh, Captain MacMorris is Irish, and Captain Jamy is Scottish. Though the captains’ heavy accents identify their backgrounds, their high ranks in the army prove that those backgrounds haven’t biased English society against them. In fact, Captain Gower (who is English) chastises Pistol for failing to show Fluellen’s Welsh heritage due tolerance.
Perhaps most crucially, England is a source of patriotic pride and a rousing cause to fight for. Henry’s inspirational speeches to his troops before the battles of Harfleur and Agincourt understand this fact and convince English soldiers to forget exhaustion, illness, and fear for the sake of England, uniting army members of every stripe in their common identity as honorable citizens of England, a “band of brothers” embracing any brave Englishman from the lowliest soldier to King Henry V himself.
England Quotes in Henry V
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!’
Where have they this mettle?
Is not their climate foggy, raw and dull,
On whom, as in despite, the sun looks pale,
Killing their fruite with frowns? Can sodden water,
A drench for sur-rein’d jades, their barley-broth,
Decoct their cold blood to such valiant heat?
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.
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.
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.
Will you mock at an ancient tradition, begun upon an honourable respect, and worn as a memorable trophy of predeceased valour and dare not avouch in your deeds any of your words? I have seen you gleeking and galling at this gentlemen twice or thrice. You thought, because he could not speak English in the native garb, he could not therefore handle an English cudgel: you find it otherwise; and henceforth let a Welsh correction teach you a good English condition.
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.