In this lesson, our instructor Rebekah Hendershot teaches Henry V. Youll go over the complete background of the play, the setting, and the characters. Rebekah explains each character in detail, including Henry V, Cambridge, the Chorus, Charles VI, Dauphin, Catherine, and everyone in between. Youll learn each element of the plot from the plan to invade France to the final victory at Agincourt. Themes, major passages, and essay topic jumping-off points are also covered. With Rebekah youll discuss topics such as the relationships between men, Henrys use of language in the play, and the glorification of way. The lesson concludes with a few secrets to make understanding Shakespeare a lot easier.
This lesson will teach you how to read and understand a play by William Shakespeare, one of the greatest playwrights in the history of the English language (and the man who invented quite a lot of it).
These videos are not a substitute for reading Shakespeare, listening to Shakespeare, or watching Shakespeare performed.
Seriously. Don’t be that guy.
Taken from Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles
Part of a tetralogy
King Henry had appeared in Henry IV as the wild “Prince Harry”
One of Shakespeare’s earlier history plays
A Shakespearean action movie
England, early 1400s
An untried and uncertain young king
Recent civil wars
Henry V—Newly crowned king of England, formerly the dissolute “Prince Hal”
Cambridge, Scrope, and Grey—Noblemen who plot against Henry
Chorus—A narrator who speaks to the audience
Dukes of Exeter, Westmorland, Salisbury, and Warwick—Trusted advisors to King Henry, military leaders
Charles VI—King of France, smarter than his son
Dauphin—Brash and overconfident prince of France
Catherine—Daughter of Charles VI
CaptainFluellen, Captain MacMorris, Captain Jamy—Welsh, Irish, and Scottish captains in Henry’s army
Pistol, Bardolph, Nim—Commoners from London. They take on the Boy, a former page of the knight Falstaff
Michael Williams, John Bates, Alexander Court—Common soldiers who argue with the disguised Henry
Hostess—Wife of Pistol
Sir John Falstaff—Former friend of Henry. He does not appear in the play, but dies offstage.
The plan to invade France
Some complicated reasoning
The change in the prince (from Henry IV)
The plot against the prince
The tavern scene
Henry uncovers the plot
The French king is worried
Henry’s demand: give up the crown
Charles’ offer: Catherine and a few small regions
Henry’s speech (“Once more unto the breach”) and its dubious reception
Catherine’s English lessons
Hanging a friend
A French ultimatum
Henry in disguise
Pistol, Fluellen, and an exchange of gloves
Regrets and prayer
St. Crispin’s Day
Victory at Agincourt
Suffolk and York
The dead pages and the French prisoners
A prank with the glove
Pistol loses a wife and a home
Henry and Catherine
Heroism and ruthlessness—a “good” king
The power of language
Kings and commoners
“O for a muse of fire …”
-Act I, Scene 1, 1 ff.
“Then imitate the action of the tiger. Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage. Then lend the eye a terrible aspect …”
-Act III Scene 1, 6-27
“’Tis not the balm, the sceptre, and the ball, The sword, the mace, the crown imperial …”
-Act IV Scene 1, 242-266
“If we are marked to die, we are enough To do our country loss; and if to live, The fewer men, the greater share of honour …”
-Act IV, Scene 3, 20-39
How does this play deal with relationships between men? Consider Henry’s betrayal of Falstaff, Pistol’s loyalty to his friends, and the deaths of York and Suffolk. What is Shakespeare saying about what it means to be a man among men?
What kind of king is Henry? Good? Bad? What does it mean to be a good or bad king in the context of this play? How does Henry line up against the French king Charles, or the Dauphin?
Examine how Henry uses language in this play, including both the Harfleur and St. Crispin’s Day speeches and his fumbling conversation with Catherine. How does he use words to his advantage?
Does this play glorify war and conquest? Is Shakespeare taking a different view?
How does this play deal with marriage, families, and parenting? Examine the husband-wife pairings (Henry and Catherine, Pistol and his wife) and the parent-child pairings (Charles and the Dauphin).
Shakespeare goes out of his way to portray the various peoples of the British Isles—the English, the Scots, the Irish, and the Welsh—as well as the different social classes. How does this play deal with diversity among the English forces?
The Secret of Understanding Shakespeare
Watch it performed (or on film if you can’t get to a theatrical production). All of Shakespeare makes more sense when it’s spoken by actors who have lived his words and know, bone-deep, what he’s talking about. Never underestimate the power of performance. Remember that this is how Shakespeare meant his work to be seen …
Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.
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