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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 III, SCENE 3

Summary

Henry gives the Governor of Harfleur a final chance to surrender or else he will storm the town and destroy it. He draws a vivid picture of murders, rapes, and looting that will occur when the city is sacked as well as the deaths of people from mothers to children. The Governor replies that the military help expected from the Dauphin has not come and he therefore, must surrender the town, which is no longer defensible. Henry orders Exeter to hold Harfleur against the French. He himself will retreat to Calais, since sickness is spreading among his troops and winter is coming on.

Notes

The capture of Harfleur marks a definite victorious stage in the campaign against France and reveals King Henry's oratory skills as well as he colorfully depicts the ruin of Harfleur if the governor does not concede defeat. His rhetoric is harsh and unyielding as he demands that the governor give up his town or else risk being brutally taken over by "the flesh'd soldier, rough and hard of heart, In liberty of bloody hand, shall range/ With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass/Your fair fresh virgins and your flow'ring infants." This is the cruel nature of war, which makes men immoral and animalistic, guided not by reason but by desire and greed. Henry is warning the governor that this is what will occur and by conceding defeat, the governor will save the inhabitants of his city the fury of the soldier's lust, which Henry will not be able to control.


There is a hint in this scene that the King has to combat on outbreak of disease in the camp, to which is added the hardship of the approaching winter. Therefore, this victory will energize his soldiers for what is to come. His self-possession, indefatigable energy, solicitude for the welfare of his soldiers, and unfaltering pursuit of his ambitious designs are suggested in this scene more than anywhere else, whereas the Dauphin comes off as being irresponsible and not as adept in military affairs as he has not even provided Harfleur with reinforcements.

ACT III, SCENE 4

Summary

In the palace at Rouen, the French King's daughter, Katharine takes lessons in English from Alice, a lady attending to her. As an instructor, Alice has to supply the English equivalent to a French word although she does not know the language very well herself. After Katherine has learned the English equivalents to parts of the body, she repeats them to Alice and is far from correct. However, Alice encourages her by saying that she will do quite well in English and praises the aptitude of her pupil highly.

Notes

Besides introducing the audience to the character of Katherine, who will eventually be King Henry's wife, this scene is significant for several other reasons.

First it is necessary to fill up the interval between scene 3 and 5 for the passage of time. In scene 5, the audience learns that Henry is on the march for Calais and has passed the Somme.

Secondly, all the Frenchmen in the play do not speak English and therefore this scene adds a comic element to the misapplication of English that pervades the play. It seems natural to represent Katharine as learning English, for she knows well that the question of a marriage between her and Henry has been already a subject of discussion.

Thirdly, this scene adds a light touch to the heavier war scenes before and after it. Also this play is peculiarly void of female characters and therefore, Shakespeare takes the opportunity of introducing the French princess as being willing to marry the King of England which puts her in a good light as well as makes the invasion of her country less of a violation than an invitation for unification of the two countries.

The French dialogue itself does not need to be translated as the actors themselves will convey the confusion and difficulties and misuse of translating English into French and the scene is meant to reveal the charming ways of the French king's adolescent daughter and acts as a transition to the next scene that takes place in the palace of the Rouen but deals with the heavier issues at hand in the play.

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