By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: eBook; my copy
“Henry V” is based on the life of King Henry V of England, and focuses on events immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt (1415) during the Hundred Years’ War. The play is the final part of a tetralogy, preceded by “Richard II”, “Henry IV”, part 1 and “Henry IV”, part 2. The plot follows the young prince (a reckless and undisciplined character in “Henry IV”) as he matures into a man and embarks on an attempted conquest of France.
And here we are, at the final play of Shakespeare’s tetralogy. Technically this isn’t the last for me per se as I still have to go back and finish reading “Richard II”, but it was nice to read this before I got around to watching the final episode of The Hollow Crown (*tear*) But anyway, here I am reviewing this play 🙂
This book is part of the William Shakespeare Reading Challenge 2014 that I am participating in.
I found “Henry V” to be quite different compared to the previous plays in this tetralogy: there is a chorus at the beginning of each act, which set the stage for what was going to happen in the act. It took some getting used to, but it was a good bridge between acts. The plot is pretty straightforward: the Henry V that we are introduced to in this play is nowhere near the guy he was at the start of Henry IV. He carries himself with a sense of regal authority and he is focused on waging war against France. Thematically it’s not as interesting as some of the other plays, but unlike Henry IV, part 2 (review) it didn’t bore me so much as well.
The St. Crispin’s Day speech, as many have probably read elsewhere, is quite a moving, rallying speech, and it was nice to finally read the play in its entirety to know where this speech came from. I first read a small portion of this speech from the beginning page of Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers but the entire speech is quite a rousing and memorable one (the following is just the latter portion of the whole oration):
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
– Act IV, Scene iii, 18 – 67
Overall, my reading of Henry V fared better than the previous play in this tetralogy. As I said, it’s pretty straightforward story-wise. I look forward to watching the adaptation as I think it will probably be better to see the play as opposed to just reading it.