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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, SCENE 4

Summary

The French King, alarmed at the coming English attack, orders defenses to be prepared. He tells the Dauphin to prepare for an attack but the Dauphin thinks that the attack is not serious, since the English King is so foolish. The King and the Constable disagree with him. The King acknowledges that Henry comes from warrior stock and that they should be on the defense. The Duke of Exeter arrives with a message from Henry, demanding the French crown. He has a contemptuous message for the Dauphin as well. The French King promises to reply the following day. Exeter urges to make haste, since Henry has already landed in France.

Notes

This scene is notable for its revelation of the ineptness of the French court and the divisiveness that will lead to its downhill. The King of France, as it appears, is supporting a cautious policy about going to war as he knows that Henry is more powerful than the Dauphin gives him credit. However, the Dauphin advocates the war policy and dismisses Henry as a fun-loving and careless rogue. Both recognize the necessity of organizing the defense of the country. The Dauphin is without practical experience. He is rash and headstrong and is a contrast to the evenhanded Henry. Perhaps he will be found wanting in action. He treats the English invasion lightly. However to his father, the English victories of Cressy and Portiers are too near to be forgotten. The Dauphin certainly underrates the English in the same arrogance of spirit that led him to send a present of tennis-balls to King Henry. Ironically, the seriousness, which he fails to discover in King Henry, is sadly lacking in him.


What is interesting is that Henry has managed to put the declaration of war into French hands. By claiming that France is now under English rule, Henry makes it appear as if it will be France who are the aggressors and unwilling to capitulate to what is supposedly England's land. If they defend themselves, they are also putting their people's lives in danger. Henry once again skillfully manages to have his adversaries self-indict themselves and take responsibility for their actions.

ACT III, THE CHORUS

Summary

The Chorus describes the sailing of the English fleet from Southampton and the siege of Harfleur by the English army. The ambassador returns with an offer from the French King: the hand of his daughter Katharine, with some dukedoms as dowry. The offer is rejected, and the English cannons bombard Harfleur.

Notes

The Chorus fills in the time from the sailing of the King's army to the siege of Harfleur. Besides filling in the lapsed time since the prior Act, the chorus asks the audience to imagine King Henry embarking at Southampton with his well-equipped army. The sun is shining brilliantly on his royal flags that stream from the mastheads. Whistles are blowing, the ship-boys are running about their tasks and the sails are filling with wind.

The audience is asked to use their imagine and pretend they are standing on the shore, watching this royal fleet dancing like a city on the waves, on its voyage to Harfleur. The audience is invited to follow its fleet and leave England "as dead midnight still," as the best cavaliers and even youths, hardly old enough for the fight, have all sailed with the fleet. The troops land in France and commence the siege of Harfleur, their huge guns gaping menacingly at the town. Primarily, the Chorus presents a romanticized view of military action with its images of glory and patriotism and rouses the audience to engage in the scene it is depicting.

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