HENRY V by William Shakespeare

Bevington, Welsh and Greenwald
SHAKESPEARE: Script, Stage, Screen
Chapter 13
Hal as Superhero, Statesman, Manipulator and Lover. In
this play, the slacker Prince Hal completes his education as
politician-prince. This play is also the culmination of the eight
history plays...The chorus is able to paint word pictures of the
action and battles which the play documents...In doing so, he
shows the public Henry (inspiring) and the private Henry
(internal doubt). The play has twice been adapted into classic
Laurence Olivier’s sunny, stylistic daring patriotic pagaent in 1944
Kenneth Branagh’s muddy, close-in, war-is-hell adaptation in 1989
Both films suggest that Shakespeare interpretations reflect “the
age and body of the time”
Unlike other works in the canon, HENRY V can be dated
accurately as it contains a direct and explicit reference to
contemporary events (In Act V, CHORUS compares
Henry’s heroic arrival in London to the return of Essex
in 1599) Also the reference to the ‘wooden O’ seems a
clear reference to the new Globe Theatre in Southwark
The play is filled with contradictory voices--Henry can
be viewed as a patriot prince “the mirror of a Christian
king” or a Complex Manipulator...George Bernard Shaw
deplored Henry V as a prig and imperialist warmonger,
an assessment shared by William Butler Yeats
The cast of characters
spans many social
classes and national
origins--The English
Clergy, the trusted
nobles, regional
captains and
On the French side are
King Charles VI, his
Queen Isabel, their son,
the Dauphin, princess
Katharine, the
Constable and noble
envoy Montjoy. Sections
of the play are in French
• An anonymous play, THE
V (c. 1588)
A follow-up with Falstaff was
promised in the epilogue to
Henry IV, Part Two (1598)
• In the 16th century, Henry V
was widely viewed as a genuine
hero along with Richard the
Lionheart, Edward III, and his
son, The Black Prince. This
play enhanced his reputation
The actual Henry V succeeded
his father in 1413 and died in 1422
after his triumph at Agincourt in
1415...He married Katharine in
1420...His son was 5-months old
when Henry died of
dysentery...The crowning of the
child king, Henry VI led to the
War of the Roses
During his brief life, Henry V
twice raised armies to do battle
with France
Many historians deemed the Battle at Agincourt a
foolhardy and irresponsible campaign, these lesser
elements are borne out in the following episodes of the
- The lengthy justification of the Archbishop of
Canterbury over Salic law
- Henry’s threats against the French
- The poignant reminisces of Falstaff by his comrade
- The skepticism of Henry’s common soldiers and the
parodies of honor (Pistol and Le Fer)
The English Chronicles and English Myth • Holinshed’s
Chronicles (1587) • Hall’s Union (1542) • Daniels First
Four Books
 The two clerics commend young King Henry as a superb
Language is one of the plays themes as Henry V forges his
public identity as King with God’s Blessing (I.2.230-3)
When the play ends, Chorus with “full mouth” proclaims
him King of both England and France
Shakespeare uses blank verse for the English aristocrats,
earthy prose for Pistol, Nym and other commoners
In two scenes, Katharine haltingly learns English and
speaks both English and French
Henry uses political rhetoric most memorably
in the play, for example…
The rhetort to the French ambassador over the tennis balls
“Once more into the breach...” (3.1.1-34)
His soliloquy on the burdens of Kingship (4.1.228-282)
The emotional rhetoric of the St. Crispin’s Day speech
His adoption of the rhetoric of the “blunt soldier” in wooing
• The celebratory mood of the play is tempered by an
exploration of royal limits
• He does present a complex and balanced portrait of a
monarch who behaves according the Renaissance
notions (the “good” side of Machiavelli’s descriptions of
the Prince)
• With the Welsh, Scots, Irish and English captains,
Henry engages in nation-building
piety is another theme explored by the play...Henry’s
piety is shown as complex and at times contradictory
The Chorus
The Battle Scenes
The English v. The French
Ian McKellan as Henry V, 1963
See pages 488-496
In the Elizabethan Era, it was a
topical play. After the Restoration,
there are mentions of the work, but
in certain sections, not all by
Shakespeare. Popular adaptations
were by Colley Cibber and Charles
Molloy. Shakespeare’s version of the
play was restored in 1738.
Colley Cibber as Pistol
 Productions featured spectacle and
a restored text
 Feb 1738, it was performed four
David Garrick played Chorus in
1747 and 1748
Kemble’s famous production
(popular from 1789-1848) omitted
Macready restored the Chorus in
his 1839 staging
Charles Kean’s 1859 production
featured great spectacle...he also
cast his wife as the Chorus
 William Poel challenged spectacular
productions with his productions at
the Elizabethan Stage Society
Since Poel, modern productions have
veered toward the anti-illusionistic
and toward the poetic
John Martin-Harvey’s 1916
production was in the “Elizabethan
William Bridges-Adams attempted
Elizabethan authenticity again in
Olivier’s patriotic film is based upon
a 1937 production at the Old Vic
directed by Tyrone Guthrie
Anthony Quayle’s production at
Stratford (1951) was a
culmination of the Richard II,
Henry IV cycle
Adrian Noble’s 1984 production
at the RSC starred Branagh and
influenced the film
Michael Bogdanov’s
production for the
English Shakespeare
Company (1986) was very
modern in style
Richard Olivier’s
production for the
opening of the restored
Globe (1997) played up
the comedy
On film and video
Directed by David Giles with David Gwillim as Henry
 Michael Pennington as Henry in THE HENRY
TRILOGY “The War of the Roses”
 Henry IV, Part One
 Henry IV, Part Two
 Henry V
 Video adaptation of Bogdanov’s 1986 production
Kings” was produced by the
BBC as a television beginning
in 1960. It is available today as
a set of 5 DVDs. It spans more
than a hundred years from the
reign of Richard II (1377-1399)
to the defeat of Richard III at
the Battle of Bosworth Field in
In this version of HENRY V, Judi Dench played the role
of Princess Katherine and Robert Hardy was Henry V.
Sean Connery played Hotspur in the Henry IV sections
of the broadcast.
The Hollow Crown is a lavish new series of
filmed adaptations of four of Shakespeare’s
most gripping history plays; Richard II,
Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2 and
Henry V. The films tell the rise and fall of
three Kings and how their destiny shaped
English history. Richard II (Ben Whishaw) is
a vain, self-indulgent man who rules with
little regard for his people’s welfare. He is
ultimately overthrown by his cousin
Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear), who ascends
the throne as Henry IV (Jeremy Irons).
Henry IV’s reign is marred by his own guilt
over Richard’s death, civil war, and the
gnawing fear that his son Hal (Tom
Hiddleston) is a total wastrel unworthy of
the throne. When Hal comes to the throne
as Henry V he is left to bury the ghosts of his
father’s past while fighting both the French
forces as well as his own inner demons.
Henry IV’s reign is marred by his
own guilt over Richard’s death, civil
war, and the gnawing fear that his
son Hal (Tom Hiddleston) is a total
wastrel unworthy of the throne.
When Hal comes to the throne as
Henry V he is left to bury the
ghosts of his father’s past while
fighting both the French forces as
well as his own inner demons.

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