Henry V condensed

Prince John had predicted at the end of the last play that Henry V would soon set his sights on France, and he was right.  The year was 1413.  Prince Harry (now Henry V) had provided little evidence as a youth that he would become one of England’s revered kings, being as a young man generally irresponsible and undisciplined.  His buddies would not have been his father’s choice.  The French Dauphin, the heir to the French throne, was among those who underestimated the young king, as we shall soon see.  A remote fact, that the king’s great-great-grandmother had been the daughter of the then French king, becomes the basis for military action against the French.

Act 1. Two of England’s highest level clergy are concerned with some proposed legislation; legislation that has recently resurfaced; legislation that could through taxes seriously impact the Church’s finances.  The clergymen convince the young king that through France’s Salic law and his great-great-grandmother, that he is legitimately the heir to the French crown and that the French should recognize it.  The Church leaders believe that might be able to help finance a military adventure in France; that is if things work out for them on the tax issue.  As an illustration of how disrespectfully the French take the young king, the French ambassador delivers to Henry V a “chest of treasure.”  An aide to Henry V tells the king that the chest is full of “tennis balls, my liege.” 

Act 2.  Three friends of the king are captured and accused of being traitors. They are executed.  The second son of York, Edward III’s fifth son, is one of the three.  He is Richard earl of Cambridge.  Two of this Richard’s grandsons become kings.  This Richard’s son will be a principal in the long-running War of the Roses. This Richard was a big deal. We here learn that Falstaff has died, Hostess Quickly believing his death was the result of a broken heart.  The king of France says “We will consider of this further” when asked by Henry V to “divest yourself of your crown.”  Henry V begins to work through his plans to cross the Channel and invade France.

Act 3. Henry V and his troops land at Calais and quickly move south to the city of Harfleur.  The citizens of Harfleur hand over the keys to the city to Henry V, rather than have their city destroyed.  A French official, Montjoy, visits Henry V, asking him how much ransom he’ll pay to not be captured.  Henry V responds “My ransom is this frail and worthless trunk.”  The two sets of forces prepare for the next day’s battle; the English tired, cold and hungry; the French giddily confident. They are in the fields outside Agincourt. 

Act 4.  Henry V has two of his boyhood friends, Bardolph and Nym, executed for misconduct. This king plays hardball. During the night before the battle is to begin, the king borrows a captain’s cloak and mingles among the troops, offering encouragement and answering questions.  At dawn the next morning, a French officer approaches his men saying “The sun doth gild our armor. Up my lords.”  From time to time Henry V provides his men with some of literature’s best pep talks.  The battle at Agincourt begins.  It’s Saint Crispin’s Day, he being the patron saint of shoemakers.  The battle ends a few hours after it had begun, leading to a one-sided victory for the English.  As a side issue, Aumerle, the original duke of York’s older son (the other son having been executed as a traitor earlier in this play), the son who had discourteously dealt with Bolingbroke, his cousin, back in Richard II, only to be pardoned when Bolingbroke became Henry IV, was one of the few English officers killed in this famous battle in France.

Act 5.  The duke of Burgundy is a French royal who had married into English royalty. Burgundy had married Richard duke of York’s sister Margaret; Margaret being the sister to two future English kings.  Burgundy diplomatically approaches Henry V.  Henry V lets him know that peace will be on his terms.  Henry V sends his brothers forward along with Westmorland to negotiate an acceptable peace with the French, but asks that the French king’s daughter remain with him as security.  The French king agrees.  In a most awkward and sweet proposal, Henry V asks the French princess, Katherine, to become his wife and England’s queen.  She agrees, conditioned on her father’s approval, her English no better than his French.  Her father and mother agree to the union.  Westmorland returns announcing that acceptable peace terms have been reached. 


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