Henry V Act IV, Prologue Summary and Analysis

William Shakespeare

Act IV, Prologue Summary and Analysis

Summary
In a subdued, less lyrical style, Chorus asks the audience to imagine the two warring camps during the night before the battle. He describes, on the English side, whispering sentinels, neighing horses, and noisy armor-makers—but on the other side, the “confident and overlusty French” playing dice. He then fortells the action, in which Henry, disguised, passes among the troops and “Bids them good morrow with a modest smile,/And calls them brothers, friends, and countrymen.” Finally, the Chorus apologizes for the inadequacy of the stage in enacting this historic tale, saying:

we shall much disgrace
With four of five most vile and ragged foils [props, stage swords]
Right ill-disposed in brawl ridiculous,
The name of Agincourt.

Analysis
This speech is marked by vivid imagery. Night is personified as a “foul womb.” Likewise, “fire answers fire” as the two camps oppose one another, and “Each battle sees the other’s umbered face.” Night is then likened to a “foul and ugly witch [who] doth limp/So tediously away.” Note that the time is three o’clock.

Note, too, that the French are seen gambling, as was also the case in the preceding scene. This will have important philosophical meaning at the climax of the battle.