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Henry V (play)

Henry V is a play by William Shakespeare based on the life of King Henry V of England. It deals only with the events immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt.

It is important to note that the play was one of a series of "histories" written by Shakespeare, and would have been performed as such. Audiences would already have been familiar with "Prince Hal" as depicted in the Henry IV plays as a wild undisciplined lad. In Henry V, the young prince has grown into a mature man and is about to embark on the attempted conquest of France. Because of the scene changes that would have been required in order to convey the changes of location, Shakespeare introduces the character of Chorus (a throwback to the chorus of Greek and Roman drama), who acts as a kind of narrator, explaining developments to the audience and encouraging them to use their imaginations.

The early scenes deal with the embarkation of the fleet for France, and include a dramatised version of the real-life incident in which the Duke of Cambridge and two others plotted to assassinate Henry at Southampton. Henry's clever and ruthless uncovering of the plot is one indication of how he has changed from the earlier plays in which he appears.

As with all Shakespeare's serious plays, there are a number of minor characters, some definitely comic, whose activities are intended as a diversion for restless audiences. In this case, they are mostly common soldiers in Henry's army, and include Pistol, Nym, Bardolph, and Fluellen. The play also deals briefly with the death of Falstaff, another character from earlier Shakespearean works.

The play includes several well-known speeches, the most quoted of which, beginning, Once more unto the breach, dear friends..., actually comes not from the Agincourt scene, but from the scene depicting the siege of Harfleur[?], earlier in the play. As the action unfolds and victory looks less certain, the young king's heroic character is shown by his decision to wander around the English camp at night, in disguise, so as to comfort his soldiers and find out what they really think of him.

Following the victory at Agincourt, there is a charming scene in which Henry attempts to court his future wife, Catherine of Valois. This is not historically accurate, as the princess was only a child at the time of Agincourt, and their wedding did not take place for some years afterward.


  • King Henry V
  • Duke of Gloucester, brother to the King ([Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester]])
  • Duke of Bedford, brother to the King (John, Duke of Bedford)
  • Duke of Clarence, brother to the King
  • Duke of Exeter, uncle to the King (Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter)
  • Duke of York, cousin to the King
  • Earl of Salisbury
  • Earl of Westmorland
  • Earl of Warwick
  • Archbishop of Canterbury
  • Bishop of Ely
  • Earl of Cambridge (Richard, Earl of Cambridge)
  • Lord Scroop
  • Sir Thomas Grey
  • Sir Thomas Erpingham
  • Gower, Fluellen, MacMorris, Jamy, all fictional officers in King Henry's army
  • Bates, Court, Williams, all fictional soldiers in King Henry's army
  • Pistol, Nym, Bardolph, a boy, Herald (all fictional)

  • King of France (Charles VI of France)
  • Louis, the Dauphin
  • Duke of Burgundy
  • Duke of Orleans
  • Duke of Bourbon
  • Duke of Britain
  • Duke of Berri
  • Duke of Beaumont
  • Constable of France
  • Rambures, a French Lord
  • Grandpre, a French Lord
  • Governor of Harfleur
  • Montjoy, a French herald
  • Ambassadors to the King of England

  • Queen of France
  • Katherine, daughter to the King and Queen of France (Catherine of Valois)
  • Alice, a lady attending on her
  • Hostess of the Boar's Head tavern in Eastcheap, formerly Mistress Quickly, now married to Pistol (fictional)

  • Lord, ladies, soldiers, etc.
External Link
  • Henry V (http://www.shakespeare-literature.com/Henry_V/index) - searchable, indexed e-text
  • the e-text of Henry V (http://www.abacci.com/books/book.asp?bookID=849)

Movie Versions The play spawned two big screen movies of the same name as well as several made for TV or video movies.

  • The 1989 film was produced by Bruce Sharman[?] with the British Broadcasting Corporation and Renaissance Films. Kenneth Branagh was the factotum. This version was more gritty than the Olivier film, but offered little more in the way of realism. Phyllis Dalton[?] won the Oscar for Best Costume Design. Branagh was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Director.

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