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Free Study Guide-Henry V by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes Online
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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

Henry V does not follow the usual form of construction in a Shakespearean play. Act I and II form a sort of Exposition. They explain the events that will materialize. In this part of the play King Henry resolves to bend France to his "awe, or break it to pieces." When the Dauphin sends an insulting gift of tennis balls, King Henry vows that he will turn the tennis balls to gun-stones. The English are already set for the invasion of the French.

With the execution of three English noble men by King Henry in Act II for accepting French bribes to assassinate him, there is a rise in the action of the play. In Act III the rise in the play's action is further accelerated. In this part of the play, Henry unites all factions under his banner. The siege of Harfleur further enhances the rise in action.


The climax is reached in Act IV, scene 5, in which the English score a decisive win over the French at Agincourt and the French are in full flight. This is the scene in which the Dauphin, Orleans, Bourbon, Rambures and the Constable retire in great distress.

Act V forms a sort of denouement to bring "peace of mind." The outcome of the play is seen in this Act. All the English demands are accepted by the French, including Henry's marriage to Katharine. Henry is recognized as heir to the throne of France. All wish that England and France may never again be enemies in war.

The structure of the play is created to provide a variety of scenes that reveal Henry as a complex and admirable king, from administering justice to playing a lover to extorting the English army to war. The whole play evolves around Henry's character and the qualities that define him as an ideal Christian ruler.

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