Study Guide

Henry V

by William Shakespeare

Henry V Analysis

Historical Background

When Shakespeare began writing plays, the English stage was still in its infancy. Because of strong religious attitudes, for centuries the only types of drama allowed were allegories, such as Everyman, which preached moral lessons in a highly formalized fashion. In England, however, things began to change during the early 1500s, under the very secular King Henry VIII. For the first time, plays, such as Ralph Roister Doister and Gammer Gurton’s Needle began showing real people in real-life situations. Still, their plots and characterizations were relatively primitive. It is astonishing to realize that only a few decades later, Shakespeare and his contemporaries would raise staged drama to the heights of artistic excellence and sophistication.

Only a handful of theaters existed in Shakespeare’s time, and the one with which he was most associated was the Globe. Circular in shape (a reference by Chorus in Henry V calls it “this wooden O”), it had a small stage that protruded onto an open courtyard. In box seats overlooking this space sat the nobles, merchants, and other people of wealth. On the bare earth were the common folk (“groundlings”), who paid a few pennies for admission and stood for the entire performance.

Except for a balcony, a few trapdoors, and tapestry curtains, the Elizabethan stage presented little in the way of theatrical illusion. Nor did the audience demand it. Unlike theatergoers of...

(The entire section is 580 words.)

Henry V Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*London. Capital of England and the site of Henry’s royal court, London serves as the setting for the opening scenes of the play. By the fifteenth century, the time in which Shakespeare sets his play, London is the economic, political, and religious seat of power in England. Such concentration of power is underscored by the opening scene in which the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely plot to counter a bill before Parliament that would take away half of the Church’s lands. The clerics propose to fund an English military campaign against the French, if Henry will overlook their taxes. Consequently, the churchmen devise an argument that Henry has clear title to the French throne, territory that the English held in earlier times. Thus, Shakespeare locates in London the imperial power, the political machinations, and the religious finances to support the conquest Henry wishes to undertake.

London also serves as the location of the opening scenes of the second act, when Shakespeare transports playgoers to a common street outside a boardinghouse. There, Bardolph, Nym, and Pistol, former companions of the King in wilder days, decide to follow Henry to France as common soldiers. Again, Shakespeare uses the setting of London to juxtapose the bawdy and common folk with the high royalty of the King. Henry’s actions have consequences from the top to the bottom of society.


*Southampton. Seaport on England’s southern coast from which Henry’s army embarks for France. Southampton is a place of transition: by crossing the water, Henry will leave the land of his own sovereignty to put himself and his men in harm’s way in order to conquer France. Tellingly, it is in Southampton where Bedford and Exeter uncover a treasonous plot against the King. The traitors, according to Henry, have conspired and “sworn unto the practices of France/ to kill us here in Hampton.” Finding traitors on British soil, just at the moment of departure indicated by the setting at Southampton, forewarns the King of the dangers ahead.


*Harfleur (hah-FLUR). Walled city in France under siege by Henry and his army. The third act opens with Henry’s famous “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;/ Or close the wall up with our English dead.” In this scene, Shakespeare does as the opening chorus says he will; through words and imagination, he is able to transform a small stage into the site of a great siege. The siege at Harfleur allows audiences to experience all levels of the attack, from Henry’s exhortations to his men, to Bardolph, Nym, and Pistol’s cowardice, to the Welshman Fluellen’s close attention to the rules of war. It also provides Henry’s first victory on French soil.


*Rouen (rew-AN). City in Normandy that is the site of the royal court of France during the time in which the play is set. Shakespeare shifts his scene immediately from the fray and bloodshed of Harfleur to the Rouen bedroom of Princess Katharine of France, where she is teasing her old serving woman for English lessons. Their light-hearted exchange—entirely in French—contrasts markedly with the discussion that follows among the French king, the Dauphin, and the lord constable about the English king Henry’s sweep through France.


*Agincourt (AH-zheen-kohr). Village in northern France that is the site of perhaps the greatest military victory ever enjoyed by the English. Without question, playgoers of Shakespeare’s day would have known the history and significance of Agincourt. The setting, then, is at the core of this historical drama whose purpose is one of nationalism, patriotism, and imperialism. Using the words supplied by Shakespeare and their own imaginations, playgoers could once again relive the glory of being English. Indeed, the celebration of “Englishness” is one of the hallmarks of the Elizabethan Age. Shakespeare’s choice of Agincourt as the crucial setting for his play reflects his desire to connect the late sixteenth century reign of Queen Elizabeth I with the heroic deeds of early sixteenth century King Henry V.

Henry V Quizzes

Act I, Scenes 1 and 2 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Briefly explain why Chorus is used to introduce the play.

2. In Scene 1, what proposed law is worrying the Archbishop of Canterbury, and why?

3. How is Canterbury trying to prevent passage of this law?

4. What do we learn about Henry’s personality from Canterbury and Ely?

5. How does Canterbury justify Henry’s claim to the French throne?

6. How do Henry’s advisors feel about this matter?

7. Why does Henry decide to use only a quarter of his army against France?

8. Who is the Dauphin?

9. What gift does the French ambassador bring to Henry from the Dauphin? What does it imply?

10. What is...

(The entire section is 285 words.)

Act II, Prologue Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Do the English people support the war with France?

2. In line 8, is “Expectation” a simile, a metaphor, or a personification?

3. What is the French attitude toward Henry’s invasion?

4. What simile is used to image England’s national spirit?

5. Who are the three “corrupted men”?

6. What plan do the three conspirators have?

7. Where is the first scene located?

8. Where will the following scene take place?

9. Where will the last scene in Act II take place?

10. What does Chorus call “a nest of hollow bosoms”?

1. Yes. “All the youth of England are...

(The entire section is 175 words.)

Act II, Scene 1 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What titles do the characters in this scene go by?

2. Are these titles official?

3. What news does the boy bring?

4. Who is Falstaff?

5. Who repeatedly says, “There’s the humour of it”?

6. What does “shog off” mean?

7. With what kind of harm do Pistol and Nym threaten each other?

8. Name one kind of recurring animal imagery in this scene.

9. Pistol says he means to be a “sutler . . . unto the camp.” What is this?

10. Where do the characters go at the end of this scene?

1. They call themselves “Ancient” Pistol, “Lieutenant” Bard-olph, and...

(The entire section is 157 words.)

Act II, Scene 2 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Of what crime are Scroop, Grey, and Cambridge guilty?

2. Who knows of the spy plot?

3. What positions do Scroop, Grey, and Cambridge hold?

4. For whom are the three spying?

5. What is their motive?

6. On what decision does Henry seek their advice?

7. What penalty do the three recommend?

8. How do the men discover that their plot has been discovered?

9. What does Henry mean in saying, “Their cheeks are paper”?

10. What sentence does he impose?

1. They are spies, and are therefore guilty of treason.

2. The truth is known to Henry and his advisors....

(The entire section is 154 words.)

Act II, Scene 3 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Who is the Hostess Quickly?

2. Where is Pistol about to go?

3. What are his plans there?

4. What does Hostess Quickly want?

5. Why does Pistol refuse her request?

6. Whom did Falstaff once call “devils incarnate”?

7. According to the boy, where did Falstaff once see a black flea?

8. To what kind of animal does Pistol metaphorically liken himself and the others, once they will all be in France?

9. What did he mean by this?

10. What are the occupations of Pistol, Bardolph, and Nym?


1. She is Pistol’s wife.

2. He is about to leave for...

(The entire section is 173 words.)

Act II, Scene 4 Questions and Answers

Study Questions

1. Who is the Dauphin?

2. What military order does the French king give?

3. What is the Dauphin’s opinion of Henry V?

4. How does the Constable of France’s opinion compare with the Dauphin’s?

5. Who was “the Black Prince of Wales”?

6. What importance did Edward III have in French history?

7. What command does Exeter bring to the French king?

8. What message does Exeter bring to the Dauphin?

9. What threat does Exeter make?

10. What is Charles’ response to Exeter?

1. The Dauphin is the son of the French king and heir to the throne.


(The entire section is 201 words.)

Act III, Prologue Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. According to Chorus, how fast does this scene fly?

2. What is the “hempen tackle” on which boys climb?

3. What is the course of the voyage that Chorus describes?

4. Who is guarding England in Henry’s absence?

5. What are “fatal mouths”?

6. What offer has Henry received from the French king?

7. What is Henry’s answer?

8. What sound effects are used here?

9. Where will the present action take place?

10. What is the English army doing there?

1. It flies “as fast as thought.”

2. It is the ship’s rigging—ropes and stays.


(The entire section is 154 words.)

Act III, Scene 1 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is a siege?

2. To what “breach” does Henry refer?

3. What, says Henry, should they do if not storm the breach?

4. What clue do we get here about the power of the English army?

5. Whom does Henry liken to “so many Alexanders”?

6. What are considered manly virtues during peacetime?

7. What does the simile “like the brass cannon” refer to?

8. Whom are the “noblest English” to set an example for?

9. Who are yeomen?

10. What does the metaphor “the game’s afoot” mean?

1. It is a military attempt to capture a fortified (and usually walled)...

(The entire section is 190 words.)

Act III, Scene 2 Questions and Answers

Study Questions

1.What action did the French king take between Acts II and III?

2.What does Henry mean by “Once more unto the breach”?

3.What reaction does he get from Pistol, Bardolph, Nym, and the boy?

4.Why do they finally rejoin the battle?

5.What change comes over the boy?

6.What are the “mines” to which Fluellen alludes?

7.Of what nationality are Fluellen, Macmorris, and Jamy?

8.How is this fact important to the situation?

9.What is their personal relationship?

10.Are all their differences resolved in this scene?

1.He offered Henry a bribe—Princess Katharine...

(The entire section is 195 words.)

Act III, Scene 3 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why don’t the English simply storm the breach and take Harfleur?

2. Is Henry discouraged about their prospects at the start of this scene?

3. In speaking to the men of Harfleur, does Henry accept responsibility for the acts of his soldiers if the town falls?

4. Why does the governor finally surrender?

5. Does Henry make good on his threat to ravage the town?

6. At this point in the play, how powerful does the English army look?

7. What physical disadvantages does Henry’s army face?

8. What does the Dauphin’s decision about Harfleur tell us about his character?

9. How do the English react to the...

(The entire section is 231 words.)

Act III, Scene 4 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Approximately how old is Katharine?

2. Why would she want to learn English?

3. Is she worried or apprehensive about the possibility of marrying Henry?

4. What is her opinion of English?

5. Why are words like “the,” “nails,” and “elbow” misspelled?

6. Who is Alice?

7. What is the subject of the English lesson?

8. What is “de nick”?

9. What is the likely purpose of such mispronunciations?

10. How would an actor communicate the meaning of French words to an English audience?

1. She is about 14 or 15.

2. She knows her father has promised...

(The entire section is 164 words.)

Act III, Scene 5 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. To what news are the French nobles reacting in this scene?

2. What effect has this news had on the French people?

3. How would you describe the mood of the characters here?

4. Whose criticism do the men feel most keenly?

5. What prompts the king to demand for a ransom from Henry?

6. What is the gist of the Constable’s speech (lines 15-27)?

7. What opposite images are used here for France and England?

8. What course of action does the Constable urge?

9. Does the French king take this advice?

10. What prediction does the Constable make?

1. They have learned of...

(The entire section is 205 words.)

Act III, Scene 6 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Of what two characters does Fluellen speak admiringly? Why?

2. In military terms, what was the effect of Exeter’s accomplishment?

3. Does Fluellen seem to be a good judge of character? How do you know?

4. How does Pistol explain Bardolph being sentenced to death for theft?

5. What object did Bardolph steal, and where did he get it?

6. Is the death sentence unduly harsh for such a crime?

7. What is surprising about Henry’s refusal to pardon Bardolph?

8. Henry tells the messenger, Montjoy, that his army is sick and enfeebled. What might be his reason for admitting this?

9. Does Henry challenge Charles to...

(The entire section is 225 words.)

Act III, Scene 7 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Where are the French during this scene?

2. What is the subject of discussion among the French?

3. Who says his horse is “pure air and fire”?

4. Do the others agree with him?

5. To what human being does the Constable compare the Dauphin’s horse?

6. Why does the punning, joking, and verbal jousting seem odd or inappropriate here?

7. About whose virtue does the Constable say, “never anybody saw it but his lackey”?

8. What metaphor does Rambures use in acknowledging the valor of the English?

9. According to Rambures, what meals are the English served by their wives?

10. What does he mean...

(The entire section is 209 words.)

Act IV, Prologue Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What preparations for war does Chorus describe?

2. Are the two camps far apart?

3. What time is it?

4. Which soldiers are gambling?

5. What are the English soldiers doing?

6. What is implied about the physical condition of the English?

7. That appearance does Henry present to the men? Why?

8. Who is called “Harry”?

9. When will the battle begin?

10. At this point, how do the English chances look?

1. He describes the noise of armor, the neighing of horses, and the whispers of sentinels.

2. No, they are quite near each other.

3. The...

(The entire section is 150 words.)

Act IV, Scene 1 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1.Why does Henry adopt a disguise?

2.When Henry asks Pistol for his opinion of the king, is the reply positive or negative?

3.Have Henry and Pistol known each other before?

4.What is Henry’s opinion of Fluellen?

5.Do any of the soldiers voice disapproval of King Henry?

6.Henry argues that every subject’s duty belongs to the king, but “his ___ is his own.” What word is missing?

7.In Henry’s dispute with Williams, what sign of recognition do the two exchange?

8.According to Henry, what prevents a king from getting a good night’s sleep?

9.For whom has Henry hired 500 people to pray?


(The entire section is 213 words.)

Act IV, Scene 2 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What does Constable say will “suck away the souls” of the English?

2. According to Grandpre, what is the state of the English army?

3. What are “carrions”?

4. What is the mood of these French commanders?

5. What irony is there in their attitude?

6. Do the French commanders fight on foot?

7. According to the Constable, what could the French lackeys and peasants do?

8. How does Grandpre describe the English horses?

9. What mocking suggestion does the Dauphin make?

10. What time of day is it?

1. He says the mere sight of the French will do so.


(The entire section is 160 words.)

Act IV, Scene 3 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. How many is “threescore thousand”?

2. About how many English troops are there in Henry’s army?

3. What is Henry “covetous” for?

4. On what saint’s day does the Battle of Agincourt occur?

5. Why does Henry say his men are “happy”?

6. What offer does Montjoy make to Henry?

7. Why does Henry liken King Charles to a man in the Bible who sold a lion’s skin?

8.How many times has Montjoy negotiated with Henry?

9. Why does Charles have reason to think that Henry will pay a ransom?

10. What counteroffer does Henry repeat to Montjoy?

1. It is 60,000....

(The entire section is 175 words.)

Act IV, Scene 4 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is the French soldier afraid of?

2. How does he hope to save himself?

3. What is Pistol’s reaction?

4. Who translates for the Frenchman?

5. What is the boy’s reaction to these proceedings?

6. When the Frenchman cries “O Seigneur Dieu!,” what is his meaning?

7. How does Pistol mistake his meaning?

8. How does the action of this scene parallel that of the preceding scene?

9. Why do you think Shakespeare has the boy translate in this scene?

10. What “luggage” does the boy decide to help guard?

1. He is afraid Pistol will kill him.

2. He...

(The entire section is 157 words.)

Act IV, Scene 5 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What three authorities are invoked at the start of this scene?

2. What does the French “ranks are broke” mean?

3. What do these Frenchmen intend to do?

4. What motivates them to do so?

5. If they decide to live, what is their probable future?

6. How does their state of mind here compare with the way we last saw them?

7. What suggestion does the Dauphin make?

8. Do the English now outnumber the French?

9. How does this fact make their behavior all the more shameful?

10. Why is the Dauphin’s reaction more shameful than that of the others?

1. The French call...

(The entire section is 213 words.)

Act IV, Scene 6 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What values do the deaths of York and Suffolk exemplify?

2. How might their death be contrasted with the French in the preceding scene?

3. Why would killing prisoners be considered barbaric and dishonorable?

4. Why does Henry give this order?

5. What effect might this have on the audience’s estimation of Henry?

6. Does Henry know the battle’s outcome yet?

7. How many times did Exeter see York during the battle?

8. When Suffolk saw York die, what did he do?

9. What is Exeter’s emotional response to this memory?

10. Does this news suggest that the English are winning or losing?


(The entire section is 176 words.)

Act IV, Scene 7 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What explanation could be offered to explain or justify Henry’s order to kill the prisoners?

2. What change would be wrought by a rearrangement of the script?

3. What key piece of information is given at the start of this scene?

4. What special significance might this have for Henry?

5. What clue do we get that the event has affected him deeply?

6. To what does Henry attribute his victory?

7. What action occurs after the victory?

8. Why does Henry have Fluellen wear one of Williams’ gloves in his cap?

9. Where does Henry say he got the glove?

10. What does he expect to happen when the two...

(The entire section is 215 words.)

Act IV, Scene 8 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What happens when Fluellen meets Williams?

2. How does this dispute end?

3. In round numbers, what are the casualties of the battle on both sides?

4. What are Non Nobis and Te Deum?

5. Why does Henry order his men to sing them?

6. Why does Fluellen take Williams for a traitor?

7 Is Williams reconciled with Fluellen by the gift of money?

8. Does Henry apologize for having deceived Williams and Fluellen?

9. Did many of the French ruling class die in the battle?

10. What penalty does Henry prescribe for boasting of victory?

1. Williams strikes him.


(The entire section is 163 words.)

Act V, Prologue Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What geographic locales are mentioned in the Prologue?

2. What is a whiffler?

3. What does the metaphor of a whiffler refer to here?

4. What do Henry’s “bruised helmet and bent sword” signify?

5. What do his advisors want Henry to do with these objects?

6. What is his answer to them? Why?

7. Why does Henry delay in taking over the French throne?

8. To whom or what are the London mayor and citizens compared?

9. What does Henry’s rejection of glory tell us about him?

10. Why did Shakespeare not stage the homecoming scene?

1. Calais, the English beach,...

(The entire section is 208 words.)

Act V, Scene 1 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What events transpired between Acts IV and V?

2. Where has Fluellen placed the leek he intends to force Pistol to eat?

3. How does this parallel the quarrel between Henry and Williams?

4 Besides the beating, what other misfortunes has Pistol suffered?

5. Does he decide to change occupations as a result?

6. Who is described as “swelling like a turkey-cock”?

7. What is Pistol’s reaction to the leek?

8. What is a cudgel?

9. During Elizabethan times, was it a compliment to call someone a Trojan?

10. Before leaving, Fluellen gives Pistol a groat. What is this?


(The entire section is 190 words.)

Act V, Scene 2 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What attitude do the attendees of this meeting seem to have?

2. What is the purpose of the conference?

3. The Queen of France likens Henry’s eyes to “balls of the burning basilisk.” What is a basilisk?

4. What does Burgundy call “this best garden of the world”?

5. What are docks, kecksies, and burrs?

6. What might they symbolize in Burgundy’s “garden”?

7. To overcome Katharine’s shyness, how does Henry describe himself?

8. Henry says he has something “not worth sunburning.” What is it?

9. Does Charles disagree with any of Henry’s treaty demands?

10. How many of Henry’s...

(The entire section is 175 words.)