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Shakespeare Explained: Quick Questions on Henry V


1. In what way does the first prologue give the key note of the play?

In the spirited references to great military deeds.

2. Why are prologues employed in this play?

To narrate events which are not or cannot be shown on the stage and to suggest to the audience what is about to be shown.

3. Was Henry ignorant of the details given in this act?


4. Why are they given so fully?

They are reviewed here in order to refresh Henry's memory. Of course the real purpose is to inform the audience, not Henry.

5. Do you like Henry's reply to the French Ambassadors?

Yes. [Answers will vary.]

6. Why?

A dignified, forceful, fearless statement is generally interesting. How different is this reply from the one Richard II would have made!


7. What is the substance of the prologue?

All England has made great preparations for the war. France has found three traitors who, for gold, have agreed to kill the king. The action will take place in England and in France.


8. Can you describe the personal appearance of these characters from their conversation?

They are wordy cowards, hard drinking, low, dishonest rogues.

9. Why were such characters introduced in the play?

They appeared in Henry IV; since this is a continuation of that story they naturally appear. They furnish the comic element which entertained. The parts were written for those members of Shakespeare's company who always played low comedy parts.

10. What does Henry do in this act to compel your respect?

The stern, dignified, sorrowful manner in which he gives the conspirators over to justice merits our respect.

11. What is the dramatic purpose of Scene iv?

It presents to the audience those who are to oppose Henry and his forces in the coming action.


12. From what Chorus says in this prologue can you tell what is to happen in this act?

Beginning with line 25 the action of Act III is outlined.

13. Do you like Henry's speeches before Harfleur?

You should. The one in Scene i is known by almost everyone who knows Shakespeare.

14. Contrast the speeches of the French king with those of Henry.

They are the speeches of brave men.


15. Note what Chorus tells you in the prologue.

The low opinion of the French for the English; the condition of the English troops; the manner in which Henry spent the night; the inability of the actors to represent adequately the great battle of Agincourt.

16. Does Henry's talk with his soldiers, and his subsequent soliloquy, serve any dramatic purpose?

Dramatic suspense is created.

17. Do you think the practical joke Henry plays on Williams would naturally follow the battle?

After the period of great suspense which preceded the battle had given way to joy at the success of the English arms such a joke seems natural.

18. What purpose does it serve?

It shows the human, democratic nature of this popular English king.


19. What purpose does this prologue serve?

It shows the way the English people received their victorious king and, with apologies — lines 3-6 — passes over a period of about five years.

20. What becomes of the comedy characters?

Falstaff and Pistol's wife (Mrs. Quickly) are dead; Nym and Bardolph have been hanged; Pistol goes to England intending to lead a life of crime; the Boy walked away in Act IV, Scene iv.

21. Do you like Henry as a lover?

His blunt, honest, unpolished speeches make us smile and wish him success.

22. Is there a real reason for giving the epilogue?

Henry VI, son of Henry V, lost all his father had won; the epilogue rounds out the story.


23. In what ways does this play differ from others you have read?

Henry V constitutes an exception to the general rules upon which Shakespeare worked. "High actions" are here described as well as exhibited; and high passions, in the Shakespearean sense of the term, scarcely make their appearance upon the scene. Here are no struggles between will and fate; no frailties of humanity dragging down its virtues into an abyss of guilt and sorrow; no crimes; no obduracy; no penitence. We have the lofty and unconquerable spirit of national and individual heroism riding triumphantly over every danger ... — Knight, Pictorial Shakespeare.

24. To what type of drama does it belong?

It is a chronicle play of the historical type.

How to cite this article:
Lunt, Forrest. Shakespeare Explained. New York: Hearst's International Library, 1915. Shakespeare Online. 10 Jan. 2011. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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