Henry V Characters
The main characters in Henry V are King Henry V of England, King Charles VI of France, Princess Katharine, and the Dauphin.
- King Henry V of England is the protagonist of the play. A bold and charismatic king, he leads England to victory over France despite difficult odds.
- King Charles VI of France is the prudent French king. He serves as a foil to Henry.
- Princess Katharine is King Charles's daughter. She feels uncertain about her marriage to Henry at the play's end.
- The Dauphin is the arrogant heir to the French throne. He underestimates and provokes Henry.
Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1553
King Henry V of England
Henry is the protagonist of the play. He is fastidious, decisive, ruthless, and charismatic. During his reign, his victories in Harfleur and Agincourt reinforce England’s fearsome reputation in battle.
In the play, Henry drives the action of the plot. It is Henry who orders the Archbishop of Canterbury to justify an invasion in France. And in the fields of Agincourt, it is Henry who motivates his war-weary soldiers to fight.
Although his subjects question his motives for war, it is evident that Henry takes his responsibilities seriously. In the Battle of Agincourt, he takes up arms next to his men. Henry’s courage earns him the title of “warrior-king” of England.
King Charles VI of France
King Charles is husband to Queen Isabeau and father to Louis, the Dauphin, and Princess Katharine. He is pragmatic and prudent, serving as a foil for the more dynamic Henry. Unlike the Dauphin, he does not underestimate the English. It is Charles who reminds his dukes of the humiliation France suffered in the Battle of Cressy. It is also Charles who orders the fortification of France’s defenses.
After the Battle of Agincourt, Charles, ever practical, cedes to Henry’s demands. He agrees to the union between Katharine and Henry to prevent further conflict between France and England.
Princess Katharine of Valois
Princess Katharine is the youngest daughter of King Charles VI and Queen Isabeau of France. She is courteous, amiable, and practical. At the end of the play, she accepts Henry’s proposal, and readers get the impression that wedding festivities soon follow. In reality, Katharine and Henry did not marry until the summer of 1420, after the Treaty of Troyes had been signed.
Katharine appears twice in the play. In her first scene, she is learning English in the company of Alice, her lady-in-waiting. In her second, she speaks with Henry in the French palace. Her loveliness prompts Henry to call her an angel. Katharine’s marriage to Henry cements his claim to the French throne.
The Dauphin (Prince Louis)
The title “Dauphin” designates Louis as the heir of the French throne. Louis is rash, presumptuous, and boastful. Near the start of the play, he sends a gift of tennis balls to Henry, mocking the latter’s claim to the French crown. The Dauphin’s gift sets into motion events that culminate in the Battle of Agincourt. On the eve of battle, Louis underestimates Henry’s resolve, and his presumption leads to tragedy and defeat.
In the play, the duke of Orleans and Constable of France call into question Louis’s combat skills. Interestingly, the real Dauphin did not participate in the Battle of Agincourt. He died of dysentery in his prime.
Queen Isabeau of France
Queen Isabeau is wife to King Charles VI and mother to Princess Katharine and the Dauphin. She makes a brief appearance at the end of the play, joining negotiations between Henry’s lords and her husband’s courtiers. Eager to avoid more hostilities in the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt, Isabeau’s manner towards Henry is conciliatory.
In medieval Europe, a queen consort’s participation in treaty negotiations was rare. However, historical records indicate that Charles VI suffered from mental illness and relied on Isabeau’s input in matters of the state. In the play, she is the only female character granted a measure of power.
The Constable of France
The Constable of France is the commander-in-chief of the French army. He is combative, arrogant, and ruthless. His contempt for the English army leads to his downfall.
The Duke of Burgundy
The duke of Burgundy is a French nobleman. In the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt, he arranges peace negotiations between the French and English.
The Duke of Orleans
The duke of Orleans is a French nobleman. Like the Dauphin, he underestimates the English. After the Battle of Agincourt, he is captured by Henry’s soldiers.
Montjoy is a French herald. He carries messages from the French to the English in the midst of battle. Montjoy plays a pivotal part in the play by affirming the English victory in the Battle of Agincourt.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the Catholic Church in England. He is a shrewd politician and astute judge of character. It is the Archbishop who convinces Henry that he has just cause for war. Canterbury’s quest to manipulate Henry highlights the conflicting interests of Church and state in medieval England.
The Bishop of Ely
The Bishop of Ely echoes the Archbishop of Canterbury’s support for war with France. Like his fellow clergymen, Ely’s goal is to deflect Henry’s attention away from a bill that threatens the Church’s political and social influence.
The Duke of Westmoreland
The duke of Westmoreland is a loyal nobleman in Henry’s court. On the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, he despairs after seeing the might of the French army. His request for more soldiers prompts Henry to give his famous “we band of brothers” speech.
The Duke of Exeter
The duke of Exeter is another nobleman loyal to Henry. He is courageous, assertive, and gallant. In the play, he manages to hold an important bridge on the banks of the Somme. Fluellen compares Exeter to Agamemnon, the legendary Greek warrior and king.
It is Exeter who warns King Charles of the consequences if the latter refuses to give up his crown. Later, Exeter’s account of the duke of York’s courageous death draws an emotional response from Henry.
The Duke of York
In the play, the duke of York leads the English advance against the French. He dies a valiant death and exemplifies the medieval warrior ethos of sacrifice, commitment, honor, loyalty, and selflessness.
Richard (Earl of Cambridge)
Richard is the chief conspirator in the plot to kill Henry in Southampton. He is executed before Henry sails for France.
Henry (Lord Scroop of Masham)
Scroop is one of Henry’s closest friends. His betrayal hurts Henry deeply, and he is sentenced to death for treason. Scroop’s betrayal highlights the fragility of royal alliances within the medieval power structure.
Sir Thomas Grey (A Knight of Northumberland)
Sir Thomas is one of three nobles who plot to kill Henry in Southampton. Like Cambridge and Scroop, he is sentenced to death for treason.
Bardolph is Henry’s former friend and a lieutenant in the English army. He is sentenced to hang for looting. Henry’s refusal to help Bardolph highlights the transient quality of past alliances and the harsh reality of battlefield ethics.
Nym is Henry’s former friend and a corporal in the English army. He is moody and a man of few words. Nym quarrels with Pistol because the latter married his former fiancé, Mistress Quickly. Like Bardolph, Nym is hanged for looting.
Pistol is Henry’s former friend and Falstaff’s ensign. He is flamboyant, emotional, and rash. In the play, Pistol’s grudge against Fluellen provides instances of comic relief in the play.
At the end of the play, Pistol is the only one of Henry’s former friends still alive. He decides to return to London’s criminal underworld, which is rife with debauchery, violence, and thievery. Pistol’s descent into ignominy highlights the consequences of one’s choices. His fate diverges from that of Henry, who rejects his youthful indiscretions and chooses the burdens of kingship.
Mistress Quickly is the hostess of the Boar’s Head Tavern and Pistol’s wife. Her sensual nature sometimes conceals her sympathetic spirit. Mistress Quickly is convinced that Henry is responsible for Falstaff’s death. At the end of the play, she dies of venereal disease, leaving Pistol grief-stricken.
Falstaff is Henry’s former friend. He is vain, cocky, and pompous. Falstaff is banished from Henry’s presence after the latter becomes king. His death is mourned by Nym, Bardolph, Pistol, and Mistress Quickly. Falstaff’s plight underscores the fragility of attachments in an age of social and political disruption.
John Bates, Alexander Court, and Michael Williams
Bates, Court, and Williams speak to Henry before the Battle of Agincourt. Not realizing that they are conversing with the king, they share candid thoughts about war and the monarchy. The conversation prompts Henry to launch into a soliloquy lamenting the burdens a king must bear.
Captain Gower is English. He serves alongside captains Fluellen, Jamy, and MacMorris in Henry’s army. He acts as a peacemaker after captains Fluellen and MacMorris quarrel about the right way to fight a siege.
Captain Fluellen is Welsh and a loyal ally of Henry. He is affectionate, loyal, sentimental, and passionate. Fluellen cares about Roman martial values, siegecraft, and combat tactics. Like his Irish, Scottish, and English peers, he fights alongside Henry. Fluellen provides comic relief through his interactions with Captain MacMorris, Pistol, and Michael Williams.
Captain Jamy is Scottish and a loyal ally of Henry. He is battle-hardened, unflinching, and purposeful. Like Fluellen, he esteems the Roman conventions of war. Jamy fights in the siege of Harfleur.
Captain MacMorris is Irish and a loyal ally of Henry. He is quick-tempered, tenacious, and implacable. The interactions between MacMorris and Fluellen provide comic relief and ease tensions during the siege of Harfleur.
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