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Free Study Guide-Henry V by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes Online
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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES

ACT II, CHORUS

The fighting spirit of England has now taken fire. The armor divisions of England have a thriving trade making arms for the soldiers. Even the peasant class has sold lands to buy horses for the campaign. Still mindful of Crecy, they cast aside the frivolities of life. However, the French have been warned of these English preparations. Seeking to divert this purpose, they have employed three nobles-the Earl of Cambridge, Lord Scroop of Masham and Sir Thomas Gray of Northumberland to to kill Henry on the eve of his departure to France. The King has come from London and is ready to sail from Southampton.

Notes

The Chorus again bridges the interval of time during which preparations for war go on in England and negotiations are continued with France. According to the chorus, a wave of patriotic feelings sweeps the country. The war-cry seems to evoke the most generous response. However, there is already the hint of conspiracy and the life of the King himself is threatened. The King is not unaware of it. If the reader's suspense is roused, he is confident too that the King knows how to deal with it.

The scene is presently shifting to Southampton, and then to France, for France is to be the scene of action. It should noted that the action of the play involves frequent violations of the unity of time and place. The business of the Chorus is to gloss over these violations and link up the scenes and acts.


ACT II, SCENE 1

Summary

In Eastcheap, Nym, one of the friends of Falstaff has become a corporal and Bardolph, another friend of Falstaff's, a lieutenant. The corporal is a little doubtful of his sword and says that "It will toast cheese." The first person he draws it on is Pistol who is even less valorous than he and is married to Mistress Quickly, a woman who was supposed to have married Nym. The whole crew hears the news that Falstaff is very ill and Mistress Quickly goes to nurse him. She is convinced that he is dying of sorrow and that he never recovered from King Henry's rejection of him. "The King has killed his heart." The fat old Knight will never be able to go on the expedition to France. However, his trio of old friends plans to accompany the army and make as much money out of it as they can.

Notes

The scene provides a comic relief to the tense war-like atmosphere, produced by the serious matter of policy and war that is engaging the minds of the King and his courtier yet at the same time this scene as others like it shows how war affects the lower classes and how it is perceived differently by them.

The scene introduces such characters as Nym, Pistol and Bardolph, all of whom are old cronies of Prince Hal when he was a wild youth. Now that Hal is King, his friends, especially Falstaff, feel rejected. In fact, Falstaff is ill, supposedly of a broken heart due to Henry's rejection of him. Speculation of the upcoming war and its consequent victims come to light in Nym's speech, "It must be as it may: though patience be a tired mare, yet she will plod."

Henry will rely on men such as these to fight his war against France and they will be the ones to suffer and die. That their attitude towards war is mercenary should not come as a shock as none of them will get the glory due them, but will suffer the most in combat. Therefore, money becomes a reason to go to war not lofty ideals as the prologue of this act suggests.

The altercation that occurs between Nym and Pistol is so ridiculous that it comments on the supposedly just reasons that Henry has decided to go to war in the previous act. These are just as insubstantial yet cloaked behind nationalistic ideals and rhetoric as Pistol's extravagant use of language reveals here. Henry's claim to the French throne is illegitimate in France where Salique Law forbids that the throne be ascended through a female heir. This was created in order to prevent non-French national to gain access through the crown by marrying into French nobility. Henry's bid to the French throne is through Edward II who married Queen Isabella; because of this law, his claim is unjustified although the Archbishop claims to have found a loophole.

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