Alex Hassell playing the titular role in Henry V wearing crown

Henry V

William Shakespeare

Find out about the story of this play

Synopsis

Henry V is a history play, probably written around 1599. It covers events during the Hundred Years' War, immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt (1415).

Soon after he becomes king, Henry V is considering making a claim to rule France as well as England.

He asks the Archbishop of Canterbury about how strong his claim is, but it's when the dauphin sends Henry an insulting message that he makes up his mind and decides to invade France.

The king's former companions from his days in the Eastcheap tavern hear of the death of Sir John Falstaff from Hostess Quickly. They take their leave of her and set out to join Henry's army.

IN FRANCE

Despite the dauphin's insistence that Henry is an unworthy opponent, the French king receives the English ambassadors but finally rejects Henry's claim to the crown.

Henry's soldiers take the town of Harfleur.

Meanwhile, as her father gets his nobles ready to retaliate, Princess Katherine begins to learn English with the help of her companion, Alice.

The English soldiers are in poor condition - disheartened by sickness and foul weather. They begin to retreat, but Henry rejects the French Herald's offer of ransom and the two armies prepare to fight.

THE BATTLE OF AGINCOURT

The evening before the battle, Henry tours the camp in disguise, finding out what his men think. It leads him to consider the heavy responsibilities of kingship.

In the French camp, by contrast, confidence is high. As battle begins, Henry rallies his troops and places them all in God's hands.

A VICTORY AND A MARRIAGE

An English victory is confirmed, with miraculously small losses. As part of the subsequent treaty, Henry woos and wins Katherine to ensure the linking of the two countries through marriage.