An introduction to Henry V

Opening – Henry bad lad one of the East cheap gang

Audience expectations after Henry IV parts I and II so they have to be told how he’s changed.


Branagh’s Henry V is a quiet, mild-mannered, gentle man, but with steel at his heart.

How does Shakespeare present Henry as a great king, politician and leader?

He forces the Church to take responsibility for the war; forces the courtiers to give money and then Henry agrees to invade France.


Dauphin’s messenger brings a message comprising of tennis balls a reference to Henry’s misspent youth. Henry uses it as an excuse to invade France! Insult!

And now he works as a politician; schmoozing everyone to get them on his side!


Chorus speeches set the scene.

Once in Southampton Henry disposes of three traitors showing his deftness as a politician.

Off to France

At Harfleur Henry makes the common man feel just as important as anyone else.


The Dauphin’s speech about his house is like BMW go faster stripes!


Night before battle of Agincourt encourages the men outnumbered though they are.

Refers to present, future and distant future ensuring a resonance with future generations!


Henry’s old friend Bardolph steals a cross from a church and is hanged showing Henry’s justice is absolute.


Henry the king

  • Prepared to be ruthless if needs be but views the consequences of war with horror as any man.
  • He walks ‘from watch to watch, from tent to tent’ radiating warmth and confidence.
  • He inspires comradeship and cheerfulness in the face of danger.
  • Immediately after the battle Henry attributes the victory to God and forbids the company to boast of the deaths.
  • After the surrender Katherine is a spoil of war but Henry goes out of his way to woo her, to make her want him. He mocks himself, his lack of good looks, his lack of eloquence, he does not woo like a tyrant. And he kisses her not formally on the hand but on the lips as a lover.