Henry V Translation Act 5, Prologue
Vouchsafe to those that have not read the story That I may prompt them; and of such as have, I humbly pray them to admit th' excuse Of time, of numbers, and due course of things, Which cannot in their huge and proper life Be here presented. Now we bear the king Toward Calais. Grant him there. There seen, Heave him away upon your wingèd thoughts Athwart the sea. Behold, the English beach Pales in the flood with men, with wives and boys, Whose shouts and claps outvoice the deep-mouthed sea, Which like a mighty whiffler 'fore the king Seems to prepare his way. So let him land, And solemnly see him set on to London. So swift a pace hath thought that even now You may imagine him upon Blackheath, Where that his lords desire him to have borne His bruisèd helmet and his bended sword Before him through the city. He forbids it, Being free from vainness and self-glorious pride, Giving full trophy, signal, and ostent Quite from himself, to God. But now behold, In the quick forge and workinghouse of thought, How London doth pour out her citizens. The Mayor and all his brethren in best sort, Like to the senators of th' antique Rome, With the plebeians swarming at their heels, Go forth and fetch their conquering Caesar in— As, by a lower but loving likelihood, Were now the general of our gracious empress, As in good time he may, from Ireland coming, Bringing rebellion broached on his sword, How many would the peaceful city quit To welcome him! Much more, and much more cause, Did they this Harry. Now in London place him (As yet the lamentation of the French Invites the king of England’s stay at home; The emperor’s coming in behalf of France To order peace between them) and omit All the occurrences, whatever chanced, Till Harry’s back return again to France. There must we bring him, and myself have played The interim, by remembering you ’tis past. Then brook abridgment, and your eyes advance After your thoughts, straight back again to France.
Those who have not read the story, let me assist you. Those who have, please admit my excuses that time, and large numbers, and the proper way of doing things can't be presented here as they really are. Now we bring the king to Calais. Imagine he's there. From there, carry him away on your winged imaginations across the sea. See, the English beach is made pale by being covered with men, wives, and boys whose shouting and clapping drown out the noisy sea which had cleared the king's way like a bodyguard. So let him land and see him go on to London. Imagination moves so quickly that now you can imagine him at Blackheath, where his lords want him to have his battered helmet and bent sword carried in front of him through the city. He forbids it, being free from vanity and self-indulgent pride, and gives away all of his trophies, symbols, and showy ceremonies to God. But now see, in the quick blacksmith's shops and factories of your imaginations, how London's citizens pour out. The Mayor and all the other officials in their best clothes, like the senators of ancient Rome, with the commoners swarming behind them, go out and bring their victorious king in. In the same way, except that he is lower in rank, if our kind Queen's general came from Ireland, having ended the rebellion there, as he may eventually, consider how many would leave the peaceful city to welcome him! Many more, and with a better reason, did this for Harry. Now imagine him in London, because the French people beg the English king to stay at home; the emperor is coming at France's request to make peace between them. And leave out all the events, whatever happened, until Harry returns to France. We must bring him there, and I myself played the part of the time between the acts, by reminding you that it passed. So allow us to abridge the story, and let your eyes and your imagination pass straight back to France.
LitCharts A+ members also get exclusive access to:
- Downloadable translations of every Shakespeare play and sonnet
- Downloads of 911 LitCharts Lit Guides
- Explanations and citation info for 21,030 quotes covering 911 books
- Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
- PDFs defining 136 key Lit Terms