Henry V, the king of England from 1413 to 1422, the wild “Prince Hal” of the “Henry IV” plays. Since his accession to the throne, he has grown into a capable monarch whose sagacity astonishes his advisers. The question of state that most concerns him is that of his right, through his grandfather, Edward III, to certain French duchies and ultimately to the French crown. His claim to the duchies is haughtily answered by the Dauphin of France, who sends Henry a barrel of tennis balls, a jibe at the English king’s misspent youth. Having crushed at home a plot against his life fomented by his cousin, the earl of Cambridge, abetted by Lord Scroop and Sir Thomas Gray, and having been assured by the archbishop of Canterbury that his claim to the French crown is valid, Henry invades France. After the capture of Harfleur, at which victory he shows mercy to the inhabitants of the town, the king meets the French at Agincourt in Picardy. The French take the impending battle very lightly, because they outnumber the English. Henry spends the night wandering in disguise around his camp, talking to the soldiers to test their feelings and to muse on the responsibilities of kingship. In the battle on the following day, the English win a great victory. The peace is concluded by the betrothal of Henry to Princess Katharine, daughter of the French king, and the recognition of his claim to the French throne. To the playwright, as to most of his contemporaries, Henry was a great national hero whose exploits of two centuries earlier fitted in well with the patriotic fervor of a generation that had seen the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
Charles VI, the weak-minded king of France.
Queen Isabel, his wife.
Lewis, the Dauphin of France, whose pride is humbled at Agincourt.
Katharine of France
Katharine of France, the daughter of Charles VI. As part of the treaty of peace, she is betrothed to Henry V, who woos her in a mixture of blunt English and mangled French.
Edward, the duke of York, a cousin of the king, though called “uncle” in the play. He dies a hero’s death at Agincourt.
Richard, the earl of Cambridge, the younger brother of York. Corrupted by French gold, he plots against the life of Henry and is executed for treason.
Lord Scroop and
Sir Thomas Gray
Sir Thomas Gray, fellow conspirators of Cambridge.
Philip, the duke of Burgundy, the intermediary between Charles VI and Henry V. He draws up the treaty of peace and forces it on Charles.
Montjoy, the French herald who carries the haughty messages from the French to Henry.
Pistol, a soldier. He is addicted to high-flown language and is married to Mistress Quickly, formerly the hostess of a tavern in Eastcheap. Later, Fluellen proves him a coward. When he learns of his wife’s death, he resolves to return to England to become a cutpurse.
Nell Quickly, formerly the hostess of the Boar’s Head Tavern in Eastcheap and now married to Pistol. It is she who gives the famous account of the death of Falstaff. She dies while Pistol is in France.
Bardolph, now a soldier, formerly one of Henry’s companions in his wild youth. In France, he is sentenced to be hanged for stealing a pax.
Fluellen, a Welsh soldier, tedious and long-winded. By a trick, the king forces him into a fight with Williams.
Michael Williams, a soldier who quarrels with Henry while the king is wandering incognito through the camp. They exchange gages to guarantee a duel when they next meet. When the meeting occurs, the king forgives Williams for the quarrel.
John, the duke of Bedford and the younger brother of Henry V.
Humphrey, the duke of Gloucester, the youngest brother of Henry V.