From which Shakespearean work does the quote below come and what are the circumstances in which it is spoken?    A good leg will fall, a straight back will stoop, a black beard will turn white....

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henry V, Act V Scene ii

King Henry to Katharine:

What! a
speaker is but a prater; a rhyme is but a ballad. A
good leg will fall; a straight back will stoop; a
black beard will turn white; a curled pate will grow
bald; a fair face will wither; a full eye will wax
hollow: but a good heart, Kate, is the sun and the
moon; or, rather, the sun, and not the moon; for it
shines bright and never changes, but keeps his
course truly.

This quote is taken from the play Henry V written by Shakespeare. It appears in Act V, Scene ii. King Henry is addressing Katharine at the time when he speaks these lines. It is the beginning of his request that she take him as her husband:

If thou would have such a one, take
me; and take me, take a soldier; take a soldier,
take a king. And what sayest thou then to my love?
speak, my fair, and fairly, I pray thee.

The setting is in France at a royal palace. King Henry and his entourage enter by one door. The French King and Queen and Princess Katharine enter at another. Henry greets the King as "brother France" and the King of France returns the greeting with "most worthy brother England." The Queen bids Henry give up the "venom" of his former looks toward France and "change all griefs and quarrels into love." The Prince of Burgundy begs that France may once more turn to cultivating the long neglected land overcome by war and that the soldiers may know peace instead of meditation on bloodshed. Henry replies that the peace Burgundy desires lies with the King's acceptance of Henry's terms of surrender.

Queen Isabella urges that the terms be accepted. Henry replies that Katharine herself is the largest part of the terms. Queen Isabella responds that Katharine has the King's and Queen's permission to make her choice. Henry, Katharine and her chaperon are left alone and Henry makes his eloquent proposal. After a long Shakespearean negotiation of points of view, Katharine finally says, "Den it sall also content me," to which Henry replies, "Upon that I kiss your hand, and I call you my queen."