Summary of Henry V


Following his riotous past, spent in the Boar’s Head tavern, the reformed King Henry (like his ancestor Edward III) seeks to claim the French throne, and ratifies his right by consulting the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Dauphin’s mocking words about Henry’s youth solidifies Henry’s decision to invade France. Henry’s former companions from the tavern  – Pistol, Nym and Bardolph – hear of Sir John Falstaff’s death and decide to join Henry’s army. Henry apprehends three traitors and has them executed.

The French King rejects Henry’s claim to the throne, so Henry’s army, led by English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish captains, attack the French town of Harfleur, which surrenders. The Boy who serves Pistol, Nym and Bardolph, gives a much less glorious account of his companions’ conduct in France. The weakened English soldiers begin to retreat, but are challenged by the French to fight. Henry refuses to offer of a ransom and his army prepare to enter battle at Agincourt, even though they are vastly outnumbered.

The night before the battle of Agincourt, Henry, in disguise, discovers what his common soldiers truly think about the invasion, forcing him to reflect on his responsibility and leadership. In the French camp, by contrast, extreme confidence makes the nobles boast. Henry rouses his troops before the battle, putting their fate into God’s hands. Remarkably, the English win with minimal losses, while the French losses are huge. The victorious Henry visits the French court to make peace and claim the crown. He woos the French Princess Katherine to be his queen to ensure the two countries are united.