Henry V

Henry V Summary and Analysis of Act 4

Act Four, Chorus

The two armies are situated very close to one another and the noises from each camp can be heard by the enemy. The chorus indicates the the French are eagerly waiting for the night to go away and that they are supremely overconfident in their victory the next morning. The English, meanwhile, are quietly sitting by their fires looking tired and haggard. King Henry has disguised himself as a common soldier and is visiting his men at each tent in an attempt to lift up their spirits.

Act Four, Scene One

Henry tells his brothers, Clarence and Gloucester, that the army is in grave danger and therefore they need even greater courage. Sir Erpingham, an elderly man, arrives. Henry asks him for his cloak and puts it on, thereby disguising himself as one of the soldiers. He commands Clarence and Gloucester to gather the princes in the camp at his pavilion. In the meantime he himself goes to visit the common soldiers.

Pistol hears Henry approaching and demands his name. Henry replies with Henry le roi, French for "the King." Pistol leaves and Fluellen and Gower arrive, but are unaware that Henry is standing nearby watching them. Fluellen admonishes Gower for talking too loudly, and tells him that just because the French army is unable to be quiet, that does not mean the English army has a right to be overly loud. Both captains leave, and King Henry remarks that although unconventional at times, Fluellen is a very good captain.

Three soldiers, named Bates, Court, and Williams, enter and greet King Henry, who now pretends to be a member of Erpingham's company. Henry tells them that, "I think the King is but a man, as I am" (4.1.99). They are unwilling to fight since they are afraid of dying the next day, but Henry tells them that there is no other place he would rather be than fighting for the King. He further adds that, "I myself heard the King say he would not be ransomed" (4.1.177), indicating the King will fight to the death rather than surrender.

Williams, one of the soldiers, does not believe him and says that the king could easily break his word to them. Henry pretends to take offense at this, and claims that he has been challenged. He agrees to fight Williams if they both survive the battle. They trade gloves and promise to wear the gloves in their bonnets so that they will be able to recognize each other in the future.

Williams, after taking the king's glove, tells him he will box him on the ears if he ever returns to accept the challenge. Bates tells the two men, "Be friends, you English fools, be friends. We have French quarrels enough" (4.1.206). The soldiers exit, and Henry is left alone. He remarks that the soldiers want to blame all their troubles on the King, and mimics what Williams was saying, "Let us our lives, our souls, our debts, our care-full wives, / Our children, and our sins, lay on the King" (4.1.213-214). Henry then comments, "And what have kings that privates have not too, / Save ceremony, save general ceremony?" (4.1.220). He insists that the only thing that separates a king from the commoners is the use of ceremony.

Erpingham finds Henry and tells him that the nobles are gathered and that they are worried about him since he has been gone so long. Henry quickly says a short prayer, asking God to forgive the fact that his father usurped the throne from Richard II. Gloucester arrives and Henry returns with him to meet the nobles.

Act Four, Scene Two

In the French camp, the Dukes of Bourbon and Orleans and Lord Rambures discuss the wonderful morning in anticipation of the coming battle. The Constable arrives and remarks on how spirited their horses seem, and Bourbon tells him they should prick the horses hides so the blood will spray out into the English soldiers' eyes. A messenger interrupts their discourse and informs them that the English have already formed battle lines. The Constable rallies the men by telling them their appearance alone will make the English run away.

Lord Grandpre enters the camp and asks the lords why they are waiting to go to battle. He tells them the English have already walked onto the battle field. He then proceeds to describe the English as "cadaver" and "desperate to their bones" (4.2.39). The other men laugh at the description and finally the Constable orders them to go to the field.

Act Four, Scene Three

The English lords and dukes are assembled, waiting for Henry to arrive and wondering what has happened to him. Clarence informs them that Henry has gone to look at the French army, which Warwick claims has sixty thousand men in it. Exeter comments that the English are thereby outnumbered five to one, and the French also have been well fed rather than on a starvation diet. Salisbury exclaims, "'Tis a fearful odds" (4.3.5), but he nonetheless goes to his command post to lead his troops.

Henry enters the gathering from behind and overhears Warwick wishing for another ten thousand men. Henry speaks to Warwick and the assembled men and says, "No, my fair cousin. / ...The fewer men, the greater share of honour" (4.3.19,22). He tells them that any soldier who does not wish to fight with them should be allowed to leave immediately, because he does not want to share the honor of the battle with such a man. Henry then proceeds to give what is famously known as his "Crispin Day Speech" because he emphasizes that every man will always remember that on this Feast of Crispian (October 25th, a day dedicated to the martyred brothers Crispin and Crispianus) they were wounded while defeating France for the glory of England. In some of his most famous lines, Henry states, "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. / For he today that sheds his blood with me / Shall be my brother" (4.3.60-62).

The Earl of Salisbury enters again and tells Henry that the French are already on the field of battle and marching towards them. King Henry orders his lords to take up their battle stations. He then meets with Montjoy, a messenger sent by the Constable of France, for one last negotiation. Montjoy asks him if he will agree to the terms that were previously offered him (Henry was told to leave France and to kneel in apology to King Charles). Henry tells him to come and collect his bones himself rather then expect them to be handed over willingly. He then sends Montjoy away, telling to not come again if it is to ask him for surrender.

Act Four, Scene Four

Pistol, accompanied by the Boy, has come across a French soldier whom he is threatening to kill. He first makes fun of the man's French, but soon has the Boy translate for him. Pistol tells the man that he will kill him unless he pays a ransom. The man agrees to give Pistol two hundred crowns for which he is let loose and ordered to follow Pistol so that he can pay him. The Boy comments at the end that Pistol is far worse a thief than Bardolph or Nim ever were. He then remarks that if the French were only aware that most of the luggage in the camp was guarded by mere boys then they would have an easy time of stealing it.

Act Four, Scene Five

The French leaders, namely the Constable, Bourbon, Orleans and Rambures meet briefly on the battlefield. They all say that the day is lost and that the army is in complete disarray. Bourbon finally takes charge of the situation, saying, "The devil take order. Once more back again! / And he that will not follow Bourbon now, / Let him go home, and with his cap in hand" (4.5.10-12). The Constable agrees with him, and they return to the battle.

Act Four, Scene Six

Henry enters the stage with his soldiers and their prisoners. Exeter meets him and tells him that York, who lead the charge, commends himself to King Henry. Henry asks Exeter whether York is still alive. Exeter then tells how Suffolk fell first and died on the battlefield, at which point York went over to where Suffolk lay and also fell down. York told Suffolk that he would join him in heaven and died with him arm around the other man's neck.

Henry is saddened by the loss of his men but does not have time for tears. He realizes that the French have regrouped on the field and are leading another attack. Henry tells his soldiers to kill their prisoners so they can keep fighting, which they do. Pistol ends the scene by saying, "Cut the throat" in French.

Act Four, Scene Seven

Fluellen and Gower are outside Henry's pavilion discussing the decisions that Henry has made throughout the play. Fluellen compares Henry to Alexander the Great and draws a long analogy between the two men and the places where they were born. When Fluellen mentions that Alexander killed his friend Cleitus in anger, Gower interrupts him and says, "Our King is not like him in that. He never killed any of his friends" (4.7.33-34). Fluellen tells Gower not to cut him off prematurely, and then points out that Henry turned away Sir John Falstaff.

King Henry enters with his army and the new French prisoners including Bourbon and Orleans. Henry tells his herald that he was not angry before but he is now because some horsemen are standing on a hill refusing to attack the English but also refusing to retreat. He orders the Herald to inform that they should vacate the field or he will kill off all of the prisoners.

Montjoy enters at that moment and begs permission from Henry to allow the French to catalog their dead and separate the noblemen from the common soldiers. Henry tells him that he does not know if he has won yet since the horsemen are still riding around the battlefield. Montjoy tells him that he has conquered the French army and that the castle located nearby is Agincourt. Henry then declares the battle to have taken place on the field Agincourt, thereby naming the battle.

Fluellen comments that Henry's ancestor Edward the Black Prince won a valiant battle in France as well. Henry agrees with him. Fluellen then tells Henry that at the time the Welsh fought in a leek garden and put leeks into their hats, a symbol that is still a sign of a Welsh soldier. He lastly praises Henry as his king and tells him that he will never be ashamed of him, "so long as your majesty is an honest man" (4.7.104-105).

Williams enters with Henry's glove in his cap and Henry orders Exeter to fetch him. He asks Williams why he is wearing the glove, and Williams tells him that he has a feud to settle with the owner. Henry then orders Williams to go fetch Captain Gower and bring him. Once Williams has left, Henry hands Fluellen the glove he received from Williams and tells him to wear it in his hat. He further gives instructions that Fluellen should arrest any man that challenges him on account of the glove. He then sends Fluellen to fetch Gower as well, knowing that Fluellen and Williams will meet each other. Henry tells Warwick and Gloucester what he has done, and orders them to follow Fluellen and prevent him from harming Williams.

Act Four, Scene Eight

Williams enters with Gower, telling Gower that Henry probably want to see him in order to knight him. Fluellen soon arrives and Williams, seeing the glove, challenges Fluellen by hitting him. Fluellen calls him a traitor and orders Gower to stand aside so he may arrest Williams. Warwick and Gloucester arrive and ask what the problem is. Henry soon appears with Exeter, and Fluellen hands Williams over to Henry.

Henry matches up the two pairs of gloves and tells Williams that he was the man whom Williams promised to hit. He then has Exeter fill the glove with crowns and give it Williams, whom he tells to wear it in his cap. Williams, insulted by the way things have turned out, says, "I will none of your money" (4.8.62). Fluellen encourages Williams to take the money, although whether he does is ambiguous.

A messenger arrives and gives Henry a list of the French dead. Henry tells his men that over ten thousand French soldiers died, a large number of whom were high ranking nobility. He is then handed another piece of paper listing the English dead, which only lists four men of high rank and twenty-five common soldiers. He orders them to go to the village and allows Fluellen to tell the soldiers how many French they killed.


Henry's use of a disguise so that he can walk amongst his men mimics the descent of Christ. For the first time Henry uses prose so that his men can understand him plainly, and it is through the use of language that he will convince the men. The chorus describes this as, "A little touch of Harry in the night" (4.0.47). Throughout this scene Henry becomes more like Christ, the King come to earth.

The idea of Henry as a Christ-figure is further supported by what he says to his men. He tells them that, "I think the King is but a man, as I am" (4.1.99). This version is quite different from Richard II who states "I live with bread like you" (Richard II, 3.2.171). Richard II can only be a man. Henry, however, has learned his doubleness of speech from Falstaff and he is therefore able to be a King and a man at the same time.

The comparison with Richard II continues in this scene when Henry trades gloves with Williams. Recall that Richard II begins with Bolingbroke throwing down his glove in anger and demanding a duel. Here there is an actual trading of gloves, again in anger, but quite distinctly symbolizing not a challenge but rather a means of recognition. This difference is taken further even further when Henry raises up William's glove filled with crowns. Instead of letting the glove remain on the ground, Henry returns it as if to a friend, weighed down with wealth.

However, in the game that Henry plays with Williams, the audience can see a problem emerging. The games played by Henry are really not games because he always wins. Unlike in his youth where Falstaff could lose but still get one or two punches in, now that Henry is king no one can touch him. Williams learns this the hard way when he wrongly hits Fluellen. Even when he is offered a glove full of crowns he is resentful of the outcome. "I will none of your money" (4.8.62). Indeed, the scene leaves the audience wondering why Henry wanted to play the game in the first place. It has been thought by some critics that Henry's love of games led him to attack France in the first place, given that he had subdued all the challenges at home.

This dichotomy of Henry's position with that of the common soldiers is spoken loud and clear by Bates, "Then I would he [Henry] were here alone. So should he be sure to be ransomed, and a many poor men's lives saved" (4.1.116-117). The fact is, although Henry tries to hide it, there is a difference between the soldiers and their king, essentially the fact that they will be killed but he will be ransomed. The same thing happens even if Henry's motives for the war are wrong. Bates comments, "If his cause be wrong, our obedience to the King wipes the crime of it out of us" (4.1.125-127). Thus even if Henry is wrong, the fact that the soldiers must obey him makes him right.

In fact, the real reason Henry challenges Williams is not to make sport with him, but rather because Williams is one of the only people to actually blame Henry for what happens to his soldiers:

"But if the cause be not good, the King himself hath a

heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and

heads chopped off in a battle shall join together at the latter

day, and cry all, 'We died at such a place'- some swearing,

some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor

behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their

children rawly left" (4.1.128-134)

Since Henry has consistently tried to pass the blame for the battle off onto other men, this amounts to heresy. It is Henry's inability to accept personal responsibility for his actions that makes him challenge Williams. Once the soldiers leave, Henry still tries to justify himself to the audience, saying, "The King is not bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers" (4.1.146). Having heard Williams speak and knowing that men will soon die, it is difficult for us to believe him at this point.

Henry has sometimes been likened to a modern Hotspur (his enemy in Henry IV, Part I). Indeed, in his quest for glory he starts to sound exactly like Hotspur. Henry says, "No, my fair cousin. / ...The fewer men, the greater share of honour" (4.3.19,22). His desire for more honor for each soldier by having fewer soldiers is however made different by Hotspur in one key respect. Look at his remark, "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. / For he today that sheds his blood with me / Shall be my brother" (4.3.60-62). The "we happy few" could be a quote from Hotspur. Yet, the "band of brothers" is pure Hal, the type of man we know Henry to be from his previous role in Henry IV, Part I.

The perception of Henry among the soldiers is also interesting to see. Fluellen, in his comparison of Henry V with Alexander the Great, comments that Alexander killed his best friend. Gower immediately interrupts him and states, "Our King is not like him in that. He never killed any of his friends" (4.7.33-34). However, Fluellen is quick to point out that this is not true. He reminds both Gower and the audience that Henry has killed of Falstaff, a rejection of friendship that has stunned audiences again and again. However necessary it was for Henry to dismiss Falstaff's negative habits and influence from his life, it is difficult to forgive him for harming and ultimately killing his friend.