Act IV, Scene 8 Summary and Analysis
The final scene concludes the action between Henry and Williams. Mistaking Fluellen for the disguised Henry he met earlier, the soldier strikes the officer, an act for which he is immediately accused of treason. Warwick and Gloucester arrive too late to prevent the blow, but after a moment Henry enters and explains everything. By way of pardoning Williams, he fills his glove with crowns.
An English herald enters with an account of the casualties. Some 10,000 Frenchmen died during the battle, but only about 25 Englishmen died. In light of this seemingly miraculous discrepancy, Henry once more attributes the victory to divine intervention, and he prescribes the death penalty for any soldier who boasts of it or “take[s] that praise from God/Which is His only.” The scene, and the act, ends with the singing of hymns.
The Williams subplot is resolved in this episode. The soldier’s crime, says Henry, stems from his earlier threat to strike him—a treasonous act for which Fluellen now says, “let his neck answer for it.” This recapitulates the offense mentioned early in the play where a drunken man made an insulting remark (see Act II, Scene 1). In pardoning Williams, Henry rounds out the action and reestablishes the rule of mercy. A parallel may also be seen with the two other cases in which he was called upon to pass judgment, over the three spies at Southampton and over the thief Bardolph. If anyone found him too unforgiving then, he clearly redeems himself. This final act of clemency seals our impression of him as a man of greatness both spiritually and militarily.
As for the presumed “miracle” of the Agincourt victory, history offers a less exalted (but equally intriguing)...
(The entire section is 416 words.)