Act III, Scene 2 Summary and Analysis
Captain Fluellen: a patriotic Welsh officer in Henry’s army
Captain Gower: another Welsh officer, friend of Fluellen
Captain Jamy: a Scottish officer in Henry’s army
Captain Macmorris: an Irish officer in Henry’s army
The boy and his friends Pistol, Bardolph, and Nym retreat from the battle, but Fluellen, a Welsh officer, commands them to return to the fray. After the others depart, the boy reflects on the low morals of his companions and decides to part company with them.
Fluellen reenters and is urged by Gower, a fellow Welshman, to help two other officers dig tunnels under the Harfleur wall. They are soon joined by these others—captains Macmorris, an Irishman, and Jamy, a Scot. An argument erupts between Fluellen and Macmorris and is about to escalate into a duel when word arrives that Henry has called a parley of his officers. The two vow to resume their dispute later.
This scene begins with an obvious parody of the preceding one, as the ignoble Pistol echoes Henry’s speech: “On, on, on, on, on! To the breach, to the breach!” It momentarily breaks the serious mood of the play until Fluellen chases the three rascals back to the battlefront.
Then, however, the boy’s soliloquy sounds an interesting new note, as he comments quite explicitly on these rascals. Bardolph is a cowardly (“white-livered”) faker, who “faces it out but fights not”; Pistol is likewise all talk and no action, with “a killing tongue and a quiet sword”; and Nym “never broke any man’s head but his own, and that was against a post when he was drunk.” Recognizing them for the thieves and rogues they are, the boy concludes that “Their villainy goes against my weak stomach, and therefore I must cast it up.”
In separating himself from the others, the boy takes on a new stature, emerging as a person of importance and moral authority. Note, too, how closely his deserting of the three rogues mirrors Henry’s renunciation of them, implying a parallel between the young man and the king. This will lend significance to the boy’s fate in Act IV.
The quarrel between Fluellen and Macmorris, a drama-within-the-drama, underscores the ethnic rivalries that exist just below the surface and recalls the disunity back in England. Shakespeare’s audience...
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