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I shall ne'er be ware of mine own wit till I break my shins against it.

      — As You Like It, Act II Scene 4


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History of Henry V

Act I

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Scene 1. London. An ante-chamber in the KING’S palace.

Scene 2. The same. The Presence chamber.


Act I, Scene 1

London. An ante-chamber in the KING’S palace.

      next scene .


  • Archbishop of Canterbury. My lord, I'll tell you; that self bill is urged,
    Which in the eleventh year of the last king's reign
    Was like, and had indeed against us pass'd, 40
    But that the scambling and unquiet time
    Did push it out of farther question.
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. It must be thought on. If it pass against us,
    We lose the better half of our possession: 45
    For all the temporal lands which men devout
    By testament have given to the church
    Would they strip from us; being valued thus:
    As much as would maintain, to the king's honour,
    Full fifteen earls and fifteen hundred knights, 50
    Six thousand and two hundred good esquires;
    And, to relief of lazars and weak age,
    Of indigent faint souls past corporal toil.
    A hundred almshouses right well supplied;
    And to the coffers of the king beside, 55
    A thousand pounds by the year: thus runs the bill.
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. The courses of his youth promised it not.
    The breath no sooner left his father's body,
    But that his wildness, mortified in him,
    Seem'd to die too; yea, at that very moment 65
    Consideration, like an angel, came
    And whipp'd the offending Adam out of him,
    Leaving his body as a paradise,
    To envelop and contain celestial spirits.
    Never was such a sudden scholar made; 70
    Never came reformation in a flood,
    With such a heady currance, scouring faults
    Nor never Hydra-headed wilfulness
    So soon did lose his seat and all at once
    As in this king. 75
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. Hear him but reason in divinity,
    And all-admiring with an inward wish
    You would desire the king were made a prelate:
    Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs, 80
    You would say it hath been all in all his study:
    List his discourse of war, and you shall hear
    A fearful battle render'd you in music:
    Turn him to any cause of policy,
    The Gordian knot of it he will unloose, 85
    Familiar as his garter: that, when he speaks,
    The air, a charter'd libertine, is still,
    And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears,
    To steal his sweet and honey'd sentences;
    So that the art and practic part of life 90
    Must be the mistress to this theoric:
    Which is a wonder how his grace should glean it,
    Since his addiction was to courses vain,
    His companies unletter'd, rude and shallow,
    His hours fill'd up with riots, banquets, sports, 95
    And never noted in him any study,
    Any retirement, any sequestration
    From open haunts and popularity.
  • Bishop of Ely. The strawberry grows underneath the nettle
    And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best 100
    Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality:
    And so the prince obscured his contemplation
    Under the veil of wildness; which, no doubt,
    Grew like the summer grass, fastest by night,
    Unseen, yet crescive in his faculty. 105
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. It must be so; for miracles are ceased;
    And therefore we must needs admit the means
    How things are perfected.
  • Bishop of Ely. But, my good lord,
    How now for mitigation of this bill 110
    Urged by the commons? Doth his majesty
    Incline to it, or no?
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. He seems indifferent,
    Or rather swaying more upon our part
    Than cherishing the exhibiters against us; 115
    For I have made an offer to his majesty,
    Upon our spiritual convocation
    And in regard of causes now in hand,
    Which I have open'd to his grace at large,
    As touching France, to give a greater sum 120
    Than ever at one time the clergy yet
    Did to his predecessors part withal.
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. With good acceptance of his majesty;
    Save that there was not time enough to hear, 125
    As I perceived his grace would fain have done,
    The severals and unhidden passages
    Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms
    And generally to the crown and seat of France
    Derived from Edward, his great-grandfather. 130
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. The French ambassador upon that instant
    Craved audience; and the hour, I think, is come
    To give him hearing: is it four o'clock?
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. Then go we in, to know his embassy;
    Which I could with a ready guess declare,
    Before the Frenchman speak a word of it.


. previous scene      

Act I, Scene 2

The same. The Presence chamber.



  • Henry V. Where is my gracious Lord of Canterbury?
  • Henry V. Send for him, good uncle. 145
  • Henry V. Not yet, my cousin: we would be resolved,
    Before we hear him, of some things of weight
    That task our thoughts, concerning us and France.


  • Henry V. Sure, we thank you.
    My learned lord, we pray you to proceed
    And justly and religiously unfold 155
    Why the law Salique that they have in France
    Or should, or should not, bar us in our claim:
    And God forbid, my dear and faithful lord,
    That you should fashion, wrest, or bow your reading,
    Or nicely charge your understanding soul 160
    With opening titles miscreate, whose right
    Suits not in native colours with the truth;
    For God doth know how many now in health
    Shall drop their blood in approbation
    Of what your reverence shall incite us to. 165
    Therefore take heed how you impawn our person,
    How you awake our sleeping sword of war:
    We charge you, in the name of God, take heed;
    For never two such kingdoms did contend
    Without much fall of blood; whose guiltless drops 170
    Are every one a woe, a sore complaint
    'Gainst him whose wrong gives edge unto the swords
    That make such waste in brief mortality.
    Under this conjuration, speak, my lord;
    For we will hear, note and believe in heart 175
    That what you speak is in your conscience wash'd
    As pure as sin with baptism.
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. Then hear me, gracious sovereign, and you peers,
    That owe yourselves, your lives and services
    To this imperial throne. There is no bar 180
    To make against your highness' claim to France
    But this, which they produce from Pharamond,
    'In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant:'
    'No woman shall succeed in Salique land:'
    Which Salique land the French unjustly gloze 185
    To be the realm of France, and Pharamond
    The founder of this law and female bar.
    Yet their own authors faithfully affirm
    That the land Salique is in Germany,
    Between the floods of Sala and of Elbe; 190
    Where Charles the Great, having subdued the Saxons,
    There left behind and settled certain French;
    Who, holding in disdain the German women
    For some dishonest manners of their life,
    Establish'd then this law; to wit, no female 195
    Should be inheritrix in Salique land:
    Which Salique, as I said, 'twixt Elbe and Sala,
    Is at this day in Germany call'd Meisen.
    Then doth it well appear that Salique law
    Was not devised for the realm of France: 200
    Nor did the French possess the Salique land
    Until four hundred one and twenty years
    After defunction of King Pharamond,
    Idly supposed the founder of this law;
    Who died within the year of our redemption 205
    Four hundred twenty-six; and Charles the Great
    Subdued the Saxons, and did seat the French
    Beyond the river Sala, in the year
    Eight hundred five. Besides, their writers say,
    King Pepin, which deposed Childeric, 210
    Did, as heir general, being descended
    Of Blithild, which was daughter to King Clothair,
    Make claim and title to the crown of France.
    Hugh Capet also, who usurped the crown
    Of Charles the duke of Lorraine, sole heir male 215
    Of the true line and stock of Charles the Great,
    To find his title with some shows of truth,
    'Through, in pure truth, it was corrupt and naught,
    Convey'd himself as heir to the Lady Lingare,
    Daughter to Charlemain, who was the son 220
    To Lewis the emperor, and Lewis the son
    Of Charles the Great. Also King Lewis the Tenth,
    Who was sole heir to the usurper Capet,
    Could not keep quiet in his conscience,
    Wearing the crown of France, till satisfied 225
    That fair Queen Isabel, his grandmother,
    Was lineal of the Lady Ermengare,
    Daughter to Charles the foresaid duke of Lorraine:
    By the which marriage the line of Charles the Great
    Was re-united to the crown of France. 230
    So that, as clear as is the summer's sun.
    King Pepin's title and Hugh Capet's claim,
    King Lewis his satisfaction, all appear
    To hold in right and title of the female:
    So do the kings of France unto this day; 235
    Howbeit they would hold up this Salique law
    To bar your highness claiming from the female,
    And rather choose to hide them in a net
    Than amply to imbar their crooked titles
    Usurp'd from you and your progenitors. 240
  • Henry V. May I with right and conscience make this claim?
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. The sin upon my head, dread sovereign!
    For in the book of Numbers is it writ,
    When the man dies, let the inheritance
    Descend unto the daughter. Gracious lord, 245
    Stand for your own; unwind your bloody flag;
    Look back into your mighty ancestors:
    Go, my dread lord, to your great-grandsire's tomb,
    From whom you claim; invoke his warlike spirit,
    And your great-uncle's, Edward the Black Prince, 250
    Who on the French ground play'd a tragedy,
    Making defeat on the full power of France,
    Whiles his most mighty father on a hill
    Stood smiling to behold his lion's whelp
    Forage in blood of French nobility. 255
    O noble English. that could entertain
    With half their forces the full Pride of France
    And let another half stand laughing by,
    All out of work and cold for action!
  • Bishop of Ely. Awake remembrance of these valiant dead 260
    And with your puissant arm renew their feats:
    You are their heir; you sit upon their throne;
    The blood and courage that renowned them
    Runs in your veins; and my thrice-puissant liege
    Is in the very May-morn of his youth, 265
    Ripe for exploits and mighty enterprises.
  • Duke of Exeter. Your brother kings and monarchs of the earth
    Do all expect that you should rouse yourself,
    As did the former lions of your blood.
  • Earl of Westmoreland. They know your grace hath cause and means and might; 270
    So hath your highness; never king of England
    Had nobles richer and more loyal subjects,
    Whose hearts have left their bodies here in England
    And lie pavilion'd in the fields of France.
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. O, let their bodies follow, my dear liege, 275
    With blood and sword and fire to win your right;
    In aid whereof we of the spiritualty
    Will raise your highness such a mighty sum
    As never did the clergy at one time
    Bring in to any of your ancestors. 280
  • Henry V. We must not only arm to invade the French,
    But lay down our proportions to defend
    Against the Scot, who will make road upon us
    With all advantages.
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. They of those marches, gracious sovereign, 285
    Shall be a wall sufficient to defend
    Our inland from the pilfering borderers.
  • Henry V. We do not mean the coursing snatchers only,
    But fear the main intendment of the Scot,
    Who hath been still a giddy neighbour to us; 290
    For you shall read that my great-grandfather
    Never went with his forces into France
    But that the Scot on his unfurnish'd kingdom
    Came pouring, like the tide into a breach,
    With ample and brim fulness of his force, 295
    Galling the gleaned land with hot assays,
    Girding with grievous siege castles and towns;
    That England, being empty of defence,
    Hath shook and trembled at the ill neighbourhood.
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. She hath been then more fear'd than harm'd, my liege; 300
    For hear her but exampled by herself:
    When all her chivalry hath been in France
    And she a mourning widow of her nobles,
    She hath herself not only well defended
    But taken and impounded as a stray 305
    The King of Scots; whom she did send to France,
    To fill King Edward's fame with prisoner kings
    And make her chronicle as rich with praise
    As is the ooze and bottom of the sea
    With sunken wreck and sunless treasuries. 310
  • Earl of Westmoreland. But there's a saying very old and true,
    'If that you will France win,
    Then with Scotland first begin:'
    For once the eagle England being in prey,
    To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot 315
    Comes sneaking and so sucks her princely eggs,
    Playing the mouse in absence of the cat,
    To tear and havoc more than she can eat.
  • Duke of Exeter. It follows then the cat must stay at home:
    Yet that is but a crush'd necessity, 320
    Since we have locks to safeguard necessaries,
    And pretty traps to catch the petty thieves.
    While that the armed hand doth fight abroad,
    The advised head defends itself at home;
    For government, though high and low and lower, 325
    Put into parts, doth keep in one consent,
    Congreeing in a full and natural close,
    Like music.
  • Archbishop of Canterbury. Therefore doth heaven divide
    The state of man in divers functions, 330
    Setting endeavour in continual motion;
    To which is fixed, as an aim or butt,
    Obedience: for so work the honey-bees,
    Creatures that by a rule in nature teach
    The act of order to a peopled kingdom. 335
    They have a king and officers of sorts;
    Where some, like magistrates, correct at home,
    Others, like merchants, venture trade abroad,
    Others, like soldiers, armed in their stings,
    Make boot upon the summer's velvet buds, 340
    Which pillage they with merry march bring home
    To the tent-royal of their emperor;
    Who, busied in his majesty, surveys
    The singing masons building roofs of gold,
    The civil citizens kneading up the honey, 345
    The poor mechanic porters crowding in
    Their heavy burdens at his narrow gate,
    The sad-eyed justice, with his surly hum,
    Delivering o'er to executors pale
    The lazy yawning drone. I this infer, 350
    That many things, having full reference
    To one consent, may work contrariously:
    As many arrows, loosed several ways,
    Come to one mark; as many ways meet in one town;
    As many fresh streams meet in one salt sea; 355
    As many lines close in the dial's centre;
    So may a thousand actions, once afoot.
    End in one purpose, and be all well borne
    Without defeat. Therefore to France, my liege.
    Divide your happy England into four; 360
    Whereof take you one quarter into France,
    And you withal shall make all Gallia shake.
    If we, with thrice such powers left at home,
    Cannot defend our own doors from the dog,
    Let us be worried and our nation lose 365
    The name of hardiness and policy.
  • Henry V. Call in the messengers sent from the Dauphin.
    [Exeunt some Attendants]
    Now are we well resolved; and, by God's help,
    And yours, the noble sinews of our power, 370
    France being ours, we'll bend it to our awe,
    Or break it all to pieces: or there we'll sit,
    Ruling in large and ample empery
    O'er France and all her almost kingly dukedoms,
    Or lay these bones in an unworthy urn, 375
    Tombless, with no remembrance over them:
    Either our history shall with full mouth
    Speak freely of our acts, or else our grave,
    Like Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless mouth,
    Not worshipp'd with a waxen epitaph. 380
    [Enter Ambassadors of France]
    Now are we well prepared to know the pleasure
    Of our fair cousin Dauphin; for we hear
    Your greeting is from him, not from the king.
  • First Ambassador. May't please your majesty to give us leave 385
    Freely to render what we have in charge;
    Or shall we sparingly show you far off
    The Dauphin's meaning and our embassy?
  • Henry V. We are no tyrant, but a Christian king;
    Unto whose grace our passion is as subject 390
    As are our wretches fetter'd in our prisons:
    Therefore with frank and with uncurbed plainness
    Tell us the Dauphin's mind.
  • First Ambassador. Thus, then, in few.
    Your highness, lately sending into France, 395
    Did claim some certain dukedoms, in the right
    Of your great predecessor, King Edward the Third.
    In answer of which claim, the prince our master
    Says that you savour too much of your youth,
    And bids you be advised there's nought in France 400
    That can be with a nimble galliard won;
    You cannot revel into dukedoms there.
    He therefore sends you, meeter for your spirit,
    This tun of treasure; and, in lieu of this,
    Desires you let the dukedoms that you claim 405
    Hear no more of you. This the Dauphin speaks.
  • Henry V. We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us;
    His present and your pains we thank you for: 410
    When we have march'd our rackets to these balls,
    We will, in France, by God's grace, play a set
    Shall strike his father's crown into the hazard.
    Tell him he hath made a match with such a wrangler
    That all the courts of France will be disturb'd 415
    With chaces. And we understand him well,
    How he comes o'er us with our wilder days,
    Not measuring what use we made of them.
    We never valued this poor seat of England;
    And therefore, living hence, did give ourself 420
    To barbarous licence; as 'tis ever common
    That men are merriest when they are from home.
    But tell the Dauphin I will keep my state,
    Be like a king and show my sail of greatness
    When I do rouse me in my throne of France: 425
    For that I have laid by my majesty
    And plodded like a man for working-days,
    But I will rise there with so full a glory
    That I will dazzle all the eyes of France,
    Yea, strike the Dauphin blind to look on us. 430
    And tell the pleasant prince this mock of his
    Hath turn'd his balls to gun-stones; and his soul
    Shall stand sore charged for the wasteful vengeance
    That shall fly with them: for many a thousand widows
    Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands; 435
    Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down;
    And some are yet ungotten and unborn
    That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin's scorn.
    But this lies all within the will of God,
    To whom I do appeal; and in whose name 440
    Tell you the Dauphin I am coming on,
    To venge me as I may and to put forth
    My rightful hand in a well-hallow'd cause.
    So get you hence in peace; and tell the Dauphin
    His jest will savour but of shallow wit, 445
    When thousands weep more than did laugh at it.
    Convey them with safe conduct. Fare you well.

[Exeunt Ambassadors]

  • Henry V. We hope to make the sender blush at it. 450
    Therefore, my lords, omit no happy hour
    That may give furtherance to our expedition;
    For we have now no thought in us but France,
    Save those to God, that run before our business.
    Therefore let our proportions for these wars 455
    Be soon collected and all things thought upon
    That may with reasonable swiftness add
    More feathers to our wings; for, God before,
    We'll chide this Dauphin at his father's door.
    Therefore let every man now task his thought, 460
    That this fair action may on foot be brought.

[Exeunt. Flourish]