William Shakespeare uses a variety of motifs and devices in Act 3, scenes 1 and 2 of his play Henry V. Among such features of these scenes are examples of repetition, similes, flattery, and the use of anecdotes. Instances of each of these aspects of the scenes include the following:
- In the very first line of scene 1, Henry proclaims,
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more (emphasis added)
- Later, he shouts, “On, on, you noblest English.”
- Bardolph enters scene two shouting,
On, on, on, on, on! to the breach, to the breach!
- Pistol at one point says to Fluellen,
Be merciful, great duke, to men of mould.
Abate thy rage, abate thy manly rage,
Abate thy rage, great duke!
Good bawcock, bate thy rage . . .
- Captain Jamy later remarks to some colleagues,
It sall be vary gud, gud feith, gud captains bath:
and I sall quit you with gud leve . . . .
- At one point Henry says that the fathers of his men are “like so many Alexanders.”
- Henry might possibly be flattering his men when he tells them that
. . . there is none of you so mean and base
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
USE OF ANECDOTES
- At one point a boy tells brief illustrative stories about the men he serves, as when he says,
. . . Bardolph stole a
lute-case, bore it twelve leagues, and sold it for
three half pence. Nym and Bardolph are sworn
brothers in filching, and in Calais they stole a
fire-shovel . . .
Of the four features mentioned aboive, repetition seems by far to be the device most often used in these scenes. Perhaps Shakespeare felt that emphatic repetition was especially appropriate to a scene that featured such strong emotions.
I'd like to add that this sense of repetition or iteration in Act III scene 2 is closely linked to the use of numbers in Boy's story. Sums, multiplications or rather demultiplication ("Three such antics do not amount to a man to me). The Arden edition draws the reader's attention to the fact that There were only two Gowers to appear in plays before 1600. In addition, the "three mines" found in Holinshed's Chronicles are alluded to once by Gower plus three times by Fluellen... It obviously contributes to the sense of rhythm in the play and insists on the ludicrous aspect of war. "Four yards" and "countermines" cannot but evoke plot and subplot, Henry's lofty speeches debunked by the presence of mock soldiers and captains.