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Henry V

by William Shakespeare

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Henry V is a study of kinship, patriotism, and heroic determination, tempered by tender comedy as Henry courts Katherine, Princess of France.
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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Henry V
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 160
Words: 40K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

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 siege 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.

My Thoughts:

Back in May of '21, I decided to Take A Break from Shakespeare. I was just burned out and even Henry V, the play I am most familiar with and enjoy, was not working for me. I had thought about taking an entire year off (you know you are getting older when planning your reading schedule now encompasses years instead of weeks or even months) but was a bit afraid that if I stopped that long that I might not get back on the horse. So here we are.

In highschool I had watched the Kenneth Branaugh production of Henry V. It really hit home to my teenage self and ended up occupying a place in my mind where I judged all other Shakespeare films to it. I still do in fact. So while I was reading this I had scenes from the movie interjecting themselves into my brain. I also had the Musical Score running through my head. Man, that is some good music!

All of that is to highlight just how biased I am in this play's favor. I enjoyed reading this. It was interesting and having the “histories” lining up chronologically allowed me to have a fuller grasp of Henry as a character, as well as a few of his “old crew” who got themselves into various sorts of trouble.

It was encouraging and refreshing to enjoy Shakespeare again. While I have had, and will continue to have, issues with the Bard, they aren't big enough to stop me from reading him. At least as long as I'm not approaching burn out. I'm going to try reading him until the end of '23 and see if two years is a good period or not. Three years was definitely much too much.

★★★★☆ ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Jan 16, 2022 |
Fell in love with Henry and wasn't disappointed. Shakespeare is marvelous. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
I'm still not a huge fan of Shakespeare's history plays, but I liked Henry V more than most of the others. Of course, I watched Tom Hiddleston play Henry V in the Hollow Crown before reading, so the story had more theatrical resonance with the live performane bolstering it. The strength of this play comes from its focus on Henry's war and negotiations with France, which, while I may not be able to judge the historical accuracy of, provided ample room for some top notch speeches, dichotomous character development, and a well-driven plot. Being the titular character, Henry really overshadows everyone else in the story and provides the majority of scenes which kept me engaged; he displays an uncanny knack for commandeering and rattles off some truely inspirational pep-talks to his troops (many of which we will see requoted in later years by other war leaders), but he hasn't quite let go of his impish tendencies of youth. We see him disguised and acting the part of a commoner once again, as he baits and debates with an unwitting group of soldiers, and then see him play a flirtatious rogue with Katherine, princess of France in the final moments of the play. He may be viewed as a king known for his prowess in combat, but Shakespeare does much to explore the man behind the crown - even if these characteristics are less than historically accurate, it gives us pause to think about who these legendary characters are in their everyday lives. ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
This is another of the outstanding Folger library ebook editions of Shakespeare's works. This edition also contains an excellent essay on Henry V that really adds value.

This play tells the story of Henry V and his conquest of France at Agincourt. Known mostly for its inspiring martial speeches, it is surprisingly humorous in many ways. For example, the bragging of the French nobles just before the battle of Agincourt which they were to lose so completely is wonderful. Also entertaining are the contrasts between the nobles and the soldiers from Eastcheap. ( )
  M_Clark | Jan 25, 2021 |
55. Henry V by William Shakespeare
Originally performed: 1599
format: 240-page Signet Classic paperback
acquired: Oct 4
read: Oct 9 – Nov 13
time reading: 10 hr 50 min, 2.7 min/page
rating: 4
locations: France mostly
about the author April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616

Other contributors:
[[John Russell Brown]] -Editor, 1965, 1998
[[Sylvan Barnet]] – series editor and general introduction, 1963, 1998
[[Raphael Holinshed]] - from Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1587 edition)
[[William Hazlitt]] – from Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays, 1818
[[W. B. Yeats]] – from Ideas of Good and Evil, 1961
[[E.M.W. Tillyard]] – from Shakespeare’s History Plays, 1944
[[Jonathan Dollimore]] and [[Alan Sinfield]] - History and Ideology: The Instance of Henry V, 1985
[[Diana E. Henderson]] - ”Enter Queen Isabel”: The Difference it Makes, 1997

Within the series of Shakespeare's history plays this is the only one with a real hero. It follows up on the political intrigue and wars of Richard II, and Henry IV parts 1 and 2. And it should lead to the failures of Henry VI, captured in three different plays, parts 1-3 (which I haven't read).

One of the afterward essays calls this one of Shakespeare's second rate plays - which i think means nice lines but many weaknesses. The main weakness might be drama, or lack of it. Or maybe the mythical glorification of a problematic king and his problematic wars and their problematic consequences is the biggest weakness - if you're looking for that kind of accuracy. I like think Shakespeare needed a plot counter point for his other history plays, and perhaps had some other needs too for his new theater, the Globe. Anyway, I've now read it.

2020
https://www.librarything.com/topic/322920#7326594 ( )
  dchaikin | Nov 27, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (79 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brissaud, PierreIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Craik, T. W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gentleman, DavidCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gollancz, IsraelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrison, G. B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaegi, AnnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kittredge, George LymanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lamar, Virginia A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muhammad, Muhammad AwdTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neilson, William AllanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rossi, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tonkin, HumphreyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verity, A. W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walter, J. H.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, Louis B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Henry V is Shakespeare's ninth and last English historial play, apart from King Lear and Cymbeline, which treat of pseudo-history, and the late Henry VIII, in which he collaborated with John Fletcher.

Introduction, New Penguin Shakespeare.
O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
Quotations
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,

Or close the wall up with our English dead!

In peace there's nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility;

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger:

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work is for the complete Henry V only. Do not combine this work with abridgements, adaptations or simplifications (such as "Shakespeare Made Easy"), Cliffs Notes or similar study guides, or anything else that does not contain the full text. Do not include any video recordings. Additionally, do not combine this with other plays.
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Henry V is a study of kinship, patriotism, and heroic determination, tempered by tender comedy as Henry courts Katherine, Princess of France.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140707085, 0141013796

Recorded Books

2 editions of this book were published by Recorded Books.

Editions: 1456100041, 1449889654

 

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