As well as looking at how we’ve staged Henry V, which you can do in the Productions section, it’s important to think about what you would do if you were staging the play. And, if you can, to perform parts of it yourself.

We encourage you to look at the play, or scenes in the play, and think through the decisions a director makes with their actors:

  • Where is the play set?
  • How are the characters connected?
  • What do the characters want?

Here you can find some key things to think about before staging the play yourself. Even if you’re working towards an exam or preparing for an assignment, it’s important to think about different ways of reading lines or words and taking a look at the key decisions a director needs to make could really help your essay responses.

  • Key decisions to make

    There are certain things that every director and creative team have to consider when staging Henry V. The way you answer the questions can create incredibly different interpretations of the play.

    War and Battles

    • Even the prologue from the Chorus tells the audience it will be impossible to create the size and scale of war on the stage and asks them to use their imagination. How will you create the illusion of great battlefields and huge armies on your stage?
    • Productions are sometimes very minimal, using motifs, costume and weaponry alone to create the sense of the war that is being waged, while others will have large numbers of actors or supernumeraries who help to create the illusion of large armies. What choices will you make that remind your audience where they are?
    • Shakespeare contrasts the war camps, where Henry V disguises himself and talks to his men, with the fighting sequences and stirring speeches delivered on the battlefield. How are the soldiers and the King different in these places and how can you show the change in pace? How will you help your audience sense the difference?

    Status and Belonging

    • There are lots of different people, from different social positions, shown in Henry V. Shakespeare includes the ‘commoners’ from Eastcheap as well as commanders in the Army, he includes regular soldiers like the experienced Williams and inexperienced Boy, and even the young King Henry himself. How will you show the different backgrounds of these people through costume and movement?
    • How do the different characters react to one another when they do interact? Look at the moments where different social groups of levels of authority meet, like Henry when he visits the soldiers in the camp or when he condemns Bardolph. What do these moments look like and how do your characters change?
    • How might characters of a similar status interact? Like Jamy, Fluellen and MacMorris, for example. How do they feel about having to work together and how can you share this?
    • During the play Henry learns a lot about the struggles of his people and his soldiers. How will you share this journey with your audience and will it have an impact on your version of Henry?

    The courts

    • The contrasting courts of France and England are important to differentiate for your audience. How will you show the differences between the French and the English? What ways will you use to do this visually, through costume and set, and to do this through characters?
    • The direct comparison between the dauphin and Henry V is often emphasised in productions as they are one another’s counterparts. How will they dress differently and respond to their troops? What can you draw out in their attitudes to responsibility and leadership that might help to show the audience their qualities and failings as leaders?
    • How do your choices impact on the scenes with Katherine? How does she feel about becoming the English Queen?

    Within each of these choices, there are lots of key moments and scenes to explore.

    Going back through the Investigate section and looking at the different performances we’ve had at the RSC, think about these two areas:

    • Can you see how each director has shown the different classes and each character's status? Why do you think they have made those choices?
    • How are the two courts different and what distinguishes Henry and the dauphin?

    Take a look at our production timeline on Henry V to explore the play's staging history at the RSC and look in more detail at some of our past productions, including the 1984 and 1964 productions.

Teacher Notes

This page looks at some of the key decisions a director makes.

Challenge your students to think about how they would want to tell the story of Henry V. How would they respond to the questions here?