Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written near 1599. It tells the story of King Henry V of England, focusing on events immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt (1415) during the Hundred Years' War. In the First Quarto text, it was titled The Cronicle History of Henry the fift, : p.6 and The Life of Henry the Fifth in the First Folio text.
The play is the final part of a tetralogy, preceded by Richard II , Henry IV, Part 1 , and Henry IV, Part 2 . The original audiences would thus have already been familiar with the title character, who was depicted in the Henry IV plays as a wild, undisciplined young man. In Henry V, the young prince has matured. He embarks on an expedition to France and, his army badly outnumbered, defeats the French at Agincourt.
The Elizabethan stage lacked scenery. It begins with a Prologue, in which the Chorus (a lone speaker addressing the audience) apologizes for the limitations of the theatre, wishing for "a Muse of fire", with real princes and a kingdom for a stage, to do justice to King Henry's story. Then, says the Chorus, King Henry would "[a]ssume the port [bearing] of Mars". The Chorus encourages the audience to use their "imaginary forces" to overcome the limitations of the stage: "Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts ... turning the accomplishment of many years / Into an hour-glass".
Shakespeare's plays are in five acts. In Henry V, the first act deals largely with the king and his decision to invade France, persuaded that through ancestry, he is the rightful heir to the French throne. The French Dauphin, son of King Charles VI, answers Henry's claims with a condescending and insulting gift of tennis balls, "as matching to his youth and vanity".
The Chorus reappears at the beginning of each act to advance the story. At the beginning of Act II, he describes the country's dedication to the war effort: "Now all the youth of England are on fire... They sell the pasture now to buy the horse, / Following the mirror of all Christian kings ...." Act II includes a plot by the Earl of Cambridge and two comrades to assassinate Henry at Southampton. Henry's clever uncovering of the plot and his ruthless treatment of the conspirators show that he has changed from the earlier plays in which he appeared.
In Act III Henry and his troops besiege the French port of Harfleur after crossing the English Channel. The Chorus appears again: "Grapple your minds to sternage of this navy/And leave your England, as dead midnight still". The French king, says the Chorus, "doth offer him / Catharine his daughter, and with her, to dowry, / Some petty and unprofitable dukedoms." Henry is not satisfied.
At the siege of Harfleur, the English are beaten back at first, but Henry urges them on with one of Shakespeare's best-known speeches. "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; / Or close the wall up with our English dead...." After a bloody siege, the English take Harfleur, but Henry's forces are so depleted that he decides not to go on to Paris. Instead, he decides to move up the coast to Calais. The French assemble a powerful army and pursue him.
They surround him near the small town of Agincourt, and in Act IV, the night before the battle, knowing he is outnumbered, Henry wanders around the English camp in disguise, trying to comfort his soldiers and determine what they really think of him. He agonizes about the moral burden of being king, asking God to "steel my soldiers' hearts". Daylight comes, and Henry rallies his nobles with the famous St Crispin's Day Speech (Act IV Scene iii 18–67): "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers". The French herald Montjoy returns to ask if Henry will surrender and avoid certain defeat, and ransom his men's survival; Henry bids him "bear my former answer back", saying the French will get no ransom from him "but these my joints".
Shakespeare does not describe the battle in the play. Though the French in one scene complain that 'Tout est perdu', the outcome is not clear to Henry, until the French Herald Montjoy tells him the 'day is yours'. The battle turns out to be a lop-sided victory: the French suffered 10,000 casualties; the English, fewer than 30. "O God, thy arm was here," says Henry.
Act V comes several years later, as the English and French negotiate the Treaty of Troyes, and Henry tries to woo the French princess, Catherine of Valois. Neither speaks the other's language well, but the humour of their mistakes actually helps achieve his aim. The scene ends with the French king adopting Henry as heir to the French throne, and the prayer of the French queen "that English may as French, French Englishmen, receive each other, God speak this Amen."
The play concludes with a final appearance of the Chorus who foreshadows the tumultuous reign of Henry's son Henry VI of England, "whose state so many had the managing, that they lost France, and made his England bleed, which oft our stage hath shown". Shakespeare had previously brought this tale to the stage in a trilogy of plays: Henry VI Part 1 , Henry VI Part 2 , and Henry VI Part 3 .
As in many of Shakespeare's history and tragedy plays, a number of minor comic characters appear, contrasting with and sometimes commenting on the main plot. In this case, they are mostly common soldiers in Henry's army, and they include Pistol, Nym, and Bardolph from the Henry IV plays. The army also includes a Scot, an Irishman, and an Englishman, and Fluellen, a comically stereotyped Welsh soldier. The play also deals briefly with the death of Sir John Falstaff, Henry's estranged friend from the Henry IV plays, whom Henry had rejected at the end of Henry IV, Part 2.
Shakespeare's primary source for Henry V, as for most of his chronicle histories, was Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles; the publication of the second edition in 1587 provides a terminus post quem for the play. Edward Hall's The Union of the Two Illustrious Families of Lancaster and York appears also to have been consulted, and scholars have supposed that Shakespeare was familiar with Samuel Daniel's poem on the civil wars. An earlier play, the Famous Victories of Henry V is also generally believed to have been a model for the work.
On the basis of an apparent allusion to Essex's mission to quell Tyrone's Rebellion, the play is thought to date from early 1599. : p.5 The Chronicle History of Henry the fifth was entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on 14 August 1600 by the bookseller Thomas Pavier; the first quarto was published before the end of the year—though by Thomas Millington and John Busby rather than Pavier. Thomas Creede did the printing.
Q1 of Henry V is a "bad quarto", a shortened version of the play that might be an infringing copy or reported text. A second quarto, a reprint of Q1, was published in 1602 by Pavier; another reprint was issued as Q3 in 1619, with a false date of 1608—part of William Jaggard's False Folio. The superior text was first printed in the First Folio in 1623.
Readers and audiences have interpreted the play's attitude to warfare in several different ways. On the one hand, it seems to celebrate Henry's invasion of France and military prowess. Alternatively, it can be read as a commentary on the moral and personal cost of war.Gathered, Shakespeare presents warfare in all its complexity.
The American critic Norman Rabkin described the play as a picture with two simultaneous meanings.Rabkin argues that the play never settles on one viewpoint towards warfare, Henry himself switching his style of speech constantly, talking of "rape and pillage" during Harfleur, but of patriotic glory in his St Crispin's Day Speech.
Some scholars have connected the nationalistic glorification of warfare with contemporary military ventures in Spain and Ireland. The Chorus directly refers to the looked-for military triumphs of the Earl of Essex, in the fifth act. Henry V himself is sometimes seen as an ambivalent representation of the stage machiavel, combining apparent sincerity with a willingness to use deceit and force to attain his ends.
Other commentators see the play as looking critically at the reason for Henry's violent cause.The noble words of the Chorus and Henry are consistently undermined by the actions of Pistol, Bardolph, and Nym. Pistol talks in a bombastic blank verse that seems to parody Henry's own style of speech. Pistol and his friends, thus, show up the actions of their rulers. Indeed, the presence of the Eastcheap characters from Henry IV has been said to emphasise the element of adventurer in Henry's character as monarch.
The play's ambiguity has led to diverse interpretations in performance. Laurence Olivier's 1944 film, made during the Second World War, emphasises the patriotic side, ignoring the fact that the enemy of the play, the French, were in fact allies in that conflict,while Kenneth Branagh's 1989 film stresses the horrors of war. A 2003 Royal National Theatre production featured Henry as a modern war general, ridiculing the Iraq invasion.
In recent years, there has been scholarly debate about whether or not Henry V can be labeled a war criminal.Some denounce the question as anachronistic, arguing that contemporary legal terminology cannot be applied to historical events or figures like those depicted in the play. However, other scholars have supported the proposed viewpoint. For instance, Christopher N. Warren looks to Alberico Gentili's De armis Romanis, along with Henry V itself, to show how early modern thinkers (including Shakespeare) were themselves using juridical approaches to engage with the past. As a result, Warren argues, the question of whether Henry V was a war criminal is not only legitimate, but also "historically appropriate".
In a rhetorical display intended to intimidate the Governor of Harfleur into surrendering the city to the English, Henry denies personal responsibility for his soldiers' actions if battle is resumed — "What rein can hold licentious wickedness / When down the hill he holds his fierce career?" — and describes in graphic detail the violence they will do to the townsfolk if his demands are not met:
The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,
And the flesh’d soldier, rough and hard of heart,
In liberty of bloody hand shall range
With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass
Your fresh, fair virgins and your flowering infants.
- —Act III, Scene iii.
On the other hand, Henry is portrayed as a great leader, as he keeps his temper when insulted: "we are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us". He also admits to his past mistakes: "did give ourselves to barbarous licence" and is shown to have great confidence: "I will rise there with so full a glory that I will dazzle all the eyes of France".
A mock trial of for the crimes associated with the legality of the invasion and the slaughter of prisoners was held in Washington, DC in March 2010, drawing from both historical record and Shakespeare's play. Titled The Supreme Court of the Amalgamated Kingdom of England and France, participating judges were Justices Samuel Alito and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The outcome was originally to be determined by an audience vote, but due to a draw, it came down to a judges' decision. The court was divided on Henry's justification for war, but unanimously found him guilty on the killing of the prisoners after applying "the evolving standards of the maturing society". Previously, the fictional Global War Crimes Tribunal ruled that Henry's war was legal, no noncombatant was killed unlawfully, and Henry bore no criminal responsibility for the death of the POWs. The fictional French Civil Liberties Union, who had instigated the tribunal, then attempted to sue in civil court. The judge concluded that he was bound by the GWCT's conclusions of law and also ruled in favour of the English. The Court of Appeals affirmed without opinion, thus leaving the matter for the Supreme Court's determination.
Very brief snippets of Henry V are written originally in the French language; Act 5, Scene 2 is an example.
The Chorus refers to Essex's 1599 campaign in Ireland without any sense that it would end in disaster. The campaign began in late March and was scuttled by late June, strongly suggesting that the play was first performed during that three-month period.
A tradition, impossible to verify, holds that Henry V was the first play performed at the new Globe Theatre in the spring of 1599—the Globe would have been the "wooden O" mentioned in the Prologue—but Shapiro argues that the Chamberlain's Men were still at The Curtain when the work was first performed, and that Shakespeare himself probably acted the Chorus.In 1600, the first printed text states that the play had been played "sundry times". The earliest performance for which an exact date is known, however, occurred on 7 January 1605, at Court at Whitehall Palace.
Samuel Pepys saw a Henry V in 1664, but it was written by Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery, not by Shakespeare. Shakespeare's play returned to the stage in 1723, in an adaptation by Aaron Hill.
The longest-running production of the play in Broadway history was the staging starring Richard Mansfield in 1900 which ran for 54 performances. Other notable stage performances of Henry V include Charles Kean (1859), Charles Alexander Calvert (1872), and Walter Hampden (1928).
Major revivals in London during the 20th and 21st centuries include:
In the Shakespeare's Globe's 2012 Globe to Globe festival, Henry V was the UK entry, one of 37 and the only one performed in spoken English. Jamie Parker performed the role of Henry.
On British television, the play has been performed as:
In 2017, the Pop-up Globe, the world's first temporary replica of the second Globe Theatre, based in Auckland, New Zealand, performed 34 Henry V shows. London-trained Australian actor Chris Huntly-Turner took on the role of Henry, Irish actor Michael Mahony as Chorus, and UK–New Zealand actor Edward Newborn as Pistol/King of France.
Three major film adaptations have been made. The first, Henry V (1944), directed by and starring Laurence Olivier, is a colourful and highly stylised version which begins in the Globe Theatre and then gradually shifts to a realistic evocation of the Battle of Agincourt.Olivier's film was made during the Second World War and was intended as a patriotic rallying cry at the time of the invasion of Normandy.
The second major film, Henry V (1989), directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, attempts to give a more realistic evocation of the period, and lays more emphasis on the horrors of war. It features a mud-spattered and gruesome Battle of Agincourt.
The third major film, The King (2019), starring Timothée Chalamet as Henry V, was adapted from Shakespeare's plays Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II, and Henry V.
In 2012, the BBC commissioned a television adaptation of the play as part of The Hollow Crown series. It was part of a tetralogy that televised the entirety of Shakespeare's Henriad. Produced by Sam Mendes and directed by Thea Sharrock, it starred Tom Hiddleston as Henry V, who had played Prince Hal in The Hollow Crown's adaptations of Henry IV, Part I and Henry IV, Part II. The BBC scheduled the screening of Shakespeare's history plays as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, a celebration of British culture coinciding with the 2012 Summer Olympics.
In 2004, post-modern choreographer David Gordon created a dance-theatre version of the play called Dancing Henry Five, which mixed William Walton's music written for the Olivier film, recorded speeches from the film itself and by Christopher Plummer, and commentary written by Gordon. The piece premiered at Danspace Project in New York, where it was compared favorably to a production of Henry IV (parts 1 and 2) at Lincoln Center.It has been revived three times—in 2005, 2007, and 2011—playing cities across the United States, and received a National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces in Dance Award.
Suite from Henry V is a 1963 orchestral arrangement of music that composer William Walton wrote for the 1944 Olivier film. The arrangement is by Muir Mathieson, and is in five movements.
Henry V – A Shakespeare Scenario is a 50-minute work for narrator, SATB chorus, boys' choir (optional), and full orchestra.The musical content is taken from Walton's score for the Olivier film, edited by David Lloyd-Jones and arranged by Christopher Palmer. It was first performed at the Royal Festival Hall in London, in May 1990. Performers for this premiere were Christopher Plummer (narrator), the Academy Chorus, Choristers of Westminster Cathedral, and Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. The conductor was Sir Neville Marriner. A CD of the work with these performers was released by Chandos in 1990.
O For a Muse of Fire is a symphonic overture for full orchestra and vocal soloist, written by Darryl Kubian. The work is 12 minutes long, and was premiered by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in March 2015.The work is scored for full orchestra, with vocal soloist. The vocal part incorporates selected lines from the text, and the vocal range is adaptable to different voice types. The soloist for the premiere performances with the New Jersey Symphony was former October Project lead singer (and former Sony Classical artist) Mary Fahl.
The Battle of Agincourt was an English victory in the Hundred Years' War. It took place on 25 October 1415 near Azincourt, in northern France. The unexpected English victory against the numerically superior French army boosted English morale and prestige, crippled France and started a new period of English dominance in the war that would last for 14 years until France defeated England in the Siege of Orléans in 1429.
The Life and Death of King Richard the Second, commonly called Richard II, is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written around 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and chronicles his downfall and the machinations of his nobles. It is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays about Richard's successors: Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; and Henry V.
Henry V is a 1944 British Technicolor epic film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play of the same title. The on-screen title is The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fifth with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France. It stars Laurence Olivier, who also directed. The play was adapted for the screen by Olivier, Dallas Bower, and Alan Dent. The score is by William Walton.
Henry V is a 1989 British historical drama film adapted for the screen and directed by Kenneth Branagh, based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name about King Henry V of England. The film stars Branagh in the title role with Paul Scofield, Derek Jacobi, Ian Holm, Emma Thompson, Alec McCowen, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Brian Blessed, and Christian Bale in supporting roles.
Richard III is a play by William Shakespeare. It was probably written c. 1592–1594. It is labelled a history in the First Folio, and is usually considered one, but it is sometimes called a tragedy, as in the quarto edition. Richard III concludes Shakespeare's first tetralogy and depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of King Richard III of England.
Henry VI, Part 2 is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591 and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England. Whereas Henry VI, Part 1 deals primarily with the loss of England's French territories and the political machinations leading up to the Wars of the Roses, and Henry VI, Part 3 deals with the horrors of that conflict, 2 Henry VI focuses on the King's inability to quell the bickering of his nobles, the death of his trusted adviser Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the rise of the Duke of York and the inevitability of armed conflict. As such, the play culminates with the opening battle of the War, the First Battle of St Albans (1455).
In the First Folio, the plays of William Shakespeare were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. The histories—along with those of contemporary Renaissance playwrights—help define the genre of history plays. The Shakespearean histories are biographies of English kings of the previous four centuries and include the standalones King John, Edward III and Henry VIII as well as a continuous sequence of eight plays. These last are considered to have been composed in two cycles. The so-called first tetralogy, apparently written in the early 1590s, covers the Wars of the Roses saga and includes Henry VI, Parts I, II & III and Richard III. The second tetralogy, finished in 1599 and including Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I & II and Henry V, is frequently called the Henriad after its protagonist Prince Hal, the future Henry V.
The siege of Harfleur was conducted by the English army of King Henry V in Normandy, France, during the Hundred Years' War. The defenders of Harfleur surrendered to the English on terms and were treated as prisoners of war. It was the first time that an English army made significant use of gunpowder artillery in the siege of a large urban settlement.
Henry IV, Part 2 is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written between 1596 and 1599. It is the third part of a tetralogy, preceded by Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 and succeeded by Henry V.
Harfleur is a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in the Normandy region of northern France.
Ancient Pistol is a swaggering soldier who appears in three plays by William Shakespeare. Though full of grandiose boasts about his prowess, he is essentially a coward. The character is introduced in Henry IV, Part 2 and reappears in The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V.
Edward IV, Parts 1 and 2 is a two-part Elizabethan history play centring on the personal life of King Edward IV of England. It was published without an author's name attached, but is often attributed to Thomas Heywood, perhaps writing with collaborators.
Henry V of England has been depicted in popular culture a number of times.
Fluellen is a fictional character in the play Henry V by William Shakespeare. Fluellen is a Welsh Captain, a leader of a contingent of troops in the small army of King Henry V of England while on campaign in France during the Hundred Years' War. He is a comic figure, whose characterisation draws on stereotypes of the Welsh at that time, but he is also portrayed as a loyal, brave and dedicated soldier.
The Famous Victories of Henry the fifth: Containing the Honourable Battel of Agin-court: As it was plaide by the Queenes Maiesties Players, is an anonymous Elizabethan play, which is generally thought to be a source for Shakespeare's Henriad. It was entered by printer Thomas Creede in the Stationers' Register in 1594, but the earliest known edition is from 1598. A second quarto was published in 1617.
William Walton's music for the 1944 film Henry V has been arranged by several musicians for non-cinematic performances. The first suite was arranged in 1945 by the conductor Malcolm Sargent. In 1963 Muir Mathieson, who had conducted the music for the original film soundtrack, arranged a longer suite, and in 1988 the musicologist Christopher Palmer constructed an hour-long "Shakespeare Scenario" using most of the music Walton composed for the film.
"Henry V" is fourth episode of the first series of the British television series The Hollow Crown, based on the play of the same name by William Shakespeare. The episode was produced by Rupert Ryle-Hodges, directed by Thea Sharrock and starred Tom Hiddleston as Henry V of England. It was first broadcast on 21 July 2012 on BBC Two.
Bardolph is a fictional character who appears in four plays by William Shakespeare. He is a thief who forms part of the entourage of Sir John Falstaff. His grossly inflamed nose and constantly flushed, carbuncle-covered face is a repeated subject for Falstaff's and Prince Hal's comic insults and word-play. Though his role in each play is minor, he often adds comic relief, and helps illustrate the personality change in Henry from Prince to King.
Corporal Nym is a fictional character who appears in two Shakespeare plays, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V. He later appears in spin-off works by other writers. Nym is a soldier and criminal follower of Sir John Falstaff and a friend and rival of Ancient Pistol.
The concern of productions in the contemporary era…is bringing the darker, more sceptical passages into a living relation with the more heroically straightforward.