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Free Study Guide-Henry V by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes Online
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The Archbishop

The Archbishop is a cunning and ambitious Churchman and will do anything to preserve the powers and temporal lands of the Church intact. To this end, he diverts the King's attention from ecclesiastical affairs at home to those abroad. He urges upon him the expediency of undertaking the French war. He satisfies the King as to the validity of his title to the throne of France. At the conclusion of his argument, he rises to a patriotic outburst, "stand for your own." He possesses a penetrating and far-seeing vision. He is an unerring judge of character. He correctly judges Henry's past and present disposition and relies upon his changed character, when he presents his scheme for the preservation of the Church lands. The King consults him upon "things of weight." He, in learned and authoritative fashion, gives sound advice to the King and knows that it will be at one and the same time acceptable to the young King, the country at large, and the church party. His views upon the Scotch problems are sound. His analogy of the Commonwealth being like a beehive is a beautiful rhetorical exposition of the effects of subordination in a Commonwealth.

Bishop of Ely

Bishop of Ely appears to have been introduced into the play to give an added force to the role of the Archbishop. In the first scene, he does little more than ask questions that provide the Archbishop with opportunities to state his position of the church in relation to King Henry. He possesses little individuality and merely echoes the opinions of the Archbishop. He appears only in the first two scenes of the play.

Gower, Macmorris and Jamy

Gower, Macmorris and Jamy are slightly sketchy and less individualized than Fluellen. However, like Fluellen, they are meant to be representative characters. Each represents his nation. Gower is English, Macmorris, Irish and Jamy, Scottish. Gower is also found with Fluellen often and tolerates Fluellen's pedantry. He certainly appreciates Fluellen's sincerity, innocence and frankness. Each seems to be an admirer of the other. Only when Fluellen is elaborating his classic comparison between Alexander of Macedon and Harry of Monmouth, does Gower express a sort of disagreement. Macmorris seems to be hasty, impulsive and sensitive. He is quick to take fire. At Fluellen's reference to his nation Macmorris blows up. Compared with Macmorris, Jamy is certainly good humored and tolerant. When Fluellen desires "a few disputations" with Macmorris, Jamy welcomes the idea. However, he feels that the present moment (when the siege of Harfleur is going on) is inopportune for the discussion.

Bates, Court and William's

Bates, Court and Williams are common soldiers who are meant to be contrasted with the three "swashers" (Bardolph, Nym and Pistol). They are simple-hearted, sincere, a bit rough in the exterior, unceremonious and blunt in speech. They are sometimes censorious of their leader. However, they mean no evil. They are loyal and obedient subjects who still question the relationship of the king to his people. Their grousing is easily silenced by the King's argument. Bates states the case for the soldiers in a plain but indisputable manner: "For we know enough, if we know we are the king's subject: if his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us."

Mistress Quickly

Mistress Quickly is the wife of Pistol. In Act V, Scene 2 the audience hears that she has died during her husband's absence in France from syphilis. She plays a small part in the play and is chiefly remembered for the pathetic way in which she describes Falstaff's death. She has clearly been fond of Falstaff and cared tenderly for him before his passing. One other characteristic is her inaccuracy of speech, in which she strongly reminds the audience of Mrs. Malaprop.

The Boy

The Boy is an astute judge of character and shows himself to be morally upstanding. Once Falstaff's page, he is well aware of the cunning and worthlessness of his companions and attempts to leave their company. The audience can do no better than quote what he has to say about them. Of Pistol he says: "I did never know so full a voice issue from so empty a heart: but the saying is true, ' The empty vessel makes the greatest sound!' Bardolph and Nym had ten times more valor than this roaring devil is' in the old play...and they are both hanged: and so would this one be if he steals anything adventurously." Again, of the three he says, "but all they three, though they would serve me, could not be man to me: for indeed three such antics do not amount to a man." About Bardolph he says "he is white-livered and red-faced:... but fights not." About Pistol he remarks: "he hath a killing tongue and a quiet sword." About Nym he observes that "he hath heard that men of few words are the best men; and therefore he scorns to say his prayers, lest a' should be thought a coward." Unfortunately, the Boy ends up dead at the hands of the French who raid the supply tents that he and the other young boys are guarding.

The Functions of the Chorus

In the Greek plays the Chorus consisted of a band of dancers and singers. Their task was to sing lyrical interludes between acts. Its leader was a character in the play itself and participated in the main action. In Elizabethan plays the part was played by one man but he was outside the main action of the play. In Henry V the Chorus acts as the "Prologue" and "Epilogue" of some of the acts.

The Chorus stimulates the imagination of the audience and incites them to perceive the stage as grander than it actually is. The chorus apologizes for the lack of space and the inability of the stage and its design to represent the epic proportions of the play. Therefore, the Chorus acts as a scene maker, and constantly moves from England to France, across the Channel, in London, Southampton, Agincourt and Troyes. Shakespeare realizes that he has to paint word-pictures that will assist the audience to imagine such great events, therefore the Chorus rather than a character sets the scene.

The Chorus clarifies the action of the play. The play covers the years 1414-20. All the events cannot be represented in the acting time of a few hours. Certain essential events are mentioned in the Chorus. For example, Chorus II mentions the preparations for war on both sides of the Channel. Chorus III gives the start of the fleet and the beginning of the siege of Harfleur. Chorus V covers the events of nearly two years. The Chorus also intensifies coming events by making the audience look forward to them. For example the conspiracy of Act II is foreshadowed in the Chorus. The Chorus helps to show the change of scene. For example, Chorus II moves Henry from London to Southampton. Chorus V returns Henry to London and later to France. For those who remember the poverty of the Elizabethan stage property, such information was obviously a great help.

The Chorus has immense descriptive value. He helps the audience to realize the "pomp and circumstance" of war. The Chorus to Act IV describes the eve of the Battle of Agincourt. Chorus III covers the voyage to the continent. Chorus V describes the intervening time between Agincourt and Henry's return to France.

The Chorus is necessary simply because Henry V contains a stupendous and grand theme. With such a grand story, and with meager means at his disposal, Shakespeare is forced to have recourse to a device that would, "place the hero of his poem in the splendid heroic light." The Chorus is really necessary for the success of his play.

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Free Study Guide-Henry V by William Shakespeare-Free Plot Notes Summary


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