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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT III, SCENE 1
King Henry conducts the siege-operations. A breach has already been made in the wall of the besieged city. Henry calls upon his soldiers to advance to the breach or close it with the dead. The King bids them to reject all gentleness of nature, put on the grim look of war, and brave themselves to a mighty effort. He recalls the heroic examples of their ancestors who fought on the soil of France and did not rest until they had more enemies to kill. Let them not dishonor their mothers. Let them follow the example of their fathers. The King appeals to the yeomen to show their traditional courage. He already sees their eyes flashing fire and their eagerness to engage in battle.
A month has passed since the ships have sailed from Southhampton and the first three scenes of this Act cover the siege of Harfleur and begins with a soliloquy from Henry V rousing his troops to battle. His speech follows smoothly from the Chorus prologue that sets the scene for battle although his image of war is not glorified but reveals the violent and dehumanizing aspects of it. Here Henry comes off as a great leader and orator as he incites his men to battle and to take on the masks of war even if it means being bestial, "But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger." If what it takes is acting like animals to win the battle, then the men must do so.
ACT III, SCENE 2
On another part of the battlefield, Nym, Bardolph, Pistol, and Boy are engaged in discussing the merits of war. Inspired by Henry's speech, Bardolph yells out, "On! On! On! On to the breach!" although the others hold him back saying they might be killed. The Boy goes on to recount how Nym, Pistol and Bardolph have made off with fortunes from the war they are fighting and have not discarded their thieving ways. He leaves to seek better company and do battle for the army, which is the reason why they are there. Captain Fluellen and Gower enter and discuss the Duke of Gloucester's plan to dig tunnels underneath Harfleur. Fluellen does not think very highly of the Irish captain Macmorris. MacMorris and Jamy enter from another point and they discuss the stopping of the digging of tunnels. Fluellen attempts to incite an argument with MacMorris but MacMorris ignores him until Fluellen insults his Irish ethnicity. The two are about to have a fight when the alarm is called and they proceed to battle.
The siege of Harfleur is continued in this scene and shows a scene in dire contrast to Henry's speech. Here the many different types of men employed in the war are shown and subsequently diverse attitudes. The first three men are petty criminals and swaggerers, Bardolph, Nym and Pistol. Bardolph takes up the cry, "on, on to the breach!" but they all three linger afraid of actually fighting until Fluellen drives them forward. The boy who is attending on the three has found them out and reveals that he too is not into war and wishes himself back in London. However, compared to the other three who have been attempting to make whatever fortunes they can out of their situation, the boy shows himself to be more idealistic and inclined towards Henry's patriotic sentiments. The three fellows are brought in here not only to provide some comic relief, but also to disclose the harsher and unpleasant aspects of war, the financial remuneration that is often the underlying base for wars, whether it is among petty criminals or within the institution of the church. Although these men are unscrupulous, they also understand the nature of war and the waste of lives that it involves.
The other characters present a motley crew of Henry's military subordinates as well as represent the English colonies of Ireland, Scotland and Wales yet they are more inclined to side with Henry's battle cry and see themselves as worthy soldiers who are dedicated to the cause of war. Their speech patterns as well as prejudices come to light in this exchange especially in the character of Fluellen who makes a disparaging remark to the Irish captain, MacMorris. This shows the rivalry between the countries that have been united by Henry's venture.