Henry V Act III, Scene 4 Summary and Analysis

William Shakespeare

Act III, Scene 4 Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Katharine: daughter of Charles VI

In a room of the French palace, we find Princess Katharine getting an English lesson from her serving-woman, Alice. As Alice asks the English words for various parts of the body, the young woman laughs and speaks disparagingly of the language.

This scene—more accurately, an interlude—introduces the princess whom Henry will later woo and marry. Though the reason for her interest in learning English is not clearly established, we may assume that Katharine knows her father has offered her to the English king (i.e., as a payoff for leaving France), and she wants to prepare for this.

Here we get a sense of the young woman’s lively intelligence, her cheerfulness, and her apparent willingness to go with Henry if necessary. This is important for us to know, because in a purely technical sense, she is little more than a pawn of history, with no choice over her fate. Seeing her as a flesh-and-blood individual makes us care about her. The scene also prepares us for the later action, in which Henry, rather than simply claiming her as a prize of war, is at pains to win her heart. Here we see what he finds attractive about her.