In Henry V, how does the Prologue of Act III deal with the issue of nationalism?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A key function of the Chorus in this excellent play is to "fill in the blanks" as it were of what the staging is unable to achieve, and to ask the audience to use their imagination, helped by his words, to "see" what cannot be shown on stage. Thus it is that the Chorus pleads with the audience to "eke out our performance with your mind" and to "Work, work your thoughts." Through the description of the Chorus in this speech and the power of our own imagination, we are encouraged to see the navy leave England and sail to France, and we are taken to a siege.

It is key to realise that, when it comes to the theme of nationalism, the Chorus in this play presents one perspective or voice. The bombastic nature of the Chorus would lead us to believe that everyone in England is swept up in some kind of nationalistic frenzy, as the following lines suggest:

Grapple your minds to sternage of this nave,

And leave your England, as dead midnight still,

Guarded with grandsires, babies and old women,

Either past or not arrived to pith and puissance;

For who is he, whose chin is but enrich'd

With one appearing hair, that will not follow

These cull'd and choice-drawn cavaliers to France?

If we were to listen to the Chorus alone, we would think that all men of age were taken by Henry to fight in France, leaving England only populated by women, infants and old men. The rhetorical question infers that every man would, for honour's sake, be willing to fight for England and go to France. However, before we get swept away, let us remember that Pistol and his cronies are going to France to fight for the soul purpose of making profit. Thus we can see that the nationalistic spirit of the Chorus is undercut by other, dissenting voices in the play.


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