Act 4 Prologue
The Chorus describes the English camp and the 'The poor condemne`d English' on the night before the battle. We are told that the noble King Henry is visiting his soldiers, who he calls 'brothers, friends and countrymen', to give them courage for the next day’s fight.
- The English are worried they may lose against the French.
- The Chorus tell us that Henry cares about his troops and how they feel.
Act 4 Scene 1
Henry walks through the English camp in disguise and talks to some of his men, who don’t recognise him. He meets Pistol who praises the King as a 'lovely bully' with a 'heart of gold'. Henry overhears Fluellen and Gower talking and praises Fluellen’s 'care and valour'. He then meets three common soldiers, Bates, Court and Williams, who are dreading the battle. Henry says they should be proud to fight for the King but Williams argues that ‘few die well that die in a battle’ and the King bears a responsibility for their deaths. Henry and Williams agree to continue their 'quarrel' when they meet again, and exchange gloves as a way of recognising each other. Left alone onstage, Henry tells the audience in a soliloquy that to be King is a 'hard condition'. He has 'The sword, the mace, the crown imperial' but doesn’t have peace of mind like a common man with no responsibilities. Before returning to his tent, Henry prays for his 'soldiers’ hearts', and asks God to forgive his father's crimes.
- Pistol respects Henry but dislikes Fluellen.
- Henry admires Fluellen.
- Not all the soldiers agree with Henry and some are dreading the battle.
- Henry recognises how difficult it is to be a good King.
Act 4 Scene 2
We move to the enemy camp where the French are also preparing for the coming battle. The French are confident and Constable says they have ‘A very little little’ to do before ‘all is done’. The Earl of Grandpre ́reports that the English Army is in a bad way 'Big Mars seems bankrupt in their beggared host. The Dauphin jokes that maybe they should feed and clothe the English before fighting with them and they set off.
- The French think they will win the battle.
- The English Army is weak.
Act 4 Scene 3
In the English camp, the noblemen talk about the strength of the French Army 'they have full threescore thousand of 'fresh' soldiers'. Westmorland wishes they had more men. Henry hears this and gives another rousing speech, saying that one day, they will be proud to have fought 'on Crispin's Day and that those that remain 'abed' in England will be sorry they were not part of the 'band of brothers' that shared the glory. Salisbury enters with news that the French are ready to charge, and Westmorland is now eager to fight, showing how powerful Henry’s speech has been. Before they leave, Montjoy returns with another request from the Constable for Henry to name his ransom. Henry refuses and leads his men into battle.
- The English soldiers are seriously outnumbered and tired.
- Henry can inspire his soldiers, even in dark times.
- Henry is not prepared to give in to the French.
Act 4 Scene 4
Pistol captures a French soldier. He can’t speak French so he gets the Boy to translate his insults. Mistaking Pistol for a nobleman, the Frenchman offers him 'two hundred crowns', which Pistol accepts. Alone, the Boy says Pistol has 'empty' heart and that both Bardolph and Nym had 'more valour, although we learn that Nym has also been hanged. The Boy returns to the camp which has been left unguarded except for servants and page boys.
- Pistol is more interested in making money than fighting for England.
- The Boy thinks Pistol is a worse man than Bardolph and Nym.
- Nym has also been hanged for stealing.
- The English camp is being guarded by boys as all the men are fighting.
Act 4 Scene 5
Against all odds, the English are winning. The French nobles are alarmed and ashamed, with the Dauphin saying 'O, perdurable shame! Let’s stab ourselves.' Orleans and Bourbon are prepared to fight back 'I’ll to the throng; Let life be short, else shame will be too long.'
- Despite being outnumbered and tired, the English are winning. Historically, this unexpected advantage was due to the long bows the English carried that enabled them to pierce the French armour as well as poor battle conditions.
- The French have not expected this result and thought they would win confidently.
- In war, shame can be considered worse than death.
Act 4 Scene 6
Henry and Exeter discuss the fighting. They are both moved by the bravery and nobility of the English. An alarm warns them that the French are returning to the battle so Henry gives the order that all prisoners are to be killed 'The French have reinforced their scattered men. / Then every soldier kill his prisoners.'
- The English are described as fighting with bravery and nobility.
- Henry is ruthless in war.
Act 4 Scene 7
The French have attacked the English camp and killed all the page boys. Fluellen and Gower are devastated that the French have broken the 'the law of arms'. Henry is furious and promises there will be no mercy for the French. Montjoy arrives to ask if the French can collect their dead from the battlefield. Henry asks if this means that the English have won. Montjoy says that it does and Henry praises God. Then Henry sees Williams wearing the glove he gave him as a challenge while in disguise. Williams tells Henry that the glove belongs to 'a rascal' he’s going to fight. Henry plays a practical joke on Williams. He sends him off on an errand, then gives Williams' glove to Fluellen and asks him to wear it in his cap. Henry says the glove belonged to a Frenchman and if anyone approaches Fluellen about it, it means that they're a traitor.
- Henry is angry that the French have killed all of the servants and page boys.
- The English have won.
- Henry can find humour, even in dark moments.
Act 4 Scene 8
Williams sees the glove in Fluellen’s cap and challenges him. Remembering what King Henry said, Fluellen accuses Williams of treachery. As they argue, Warwick and Gloucester arrive, followed by the king. Henry reveals that he was the man in disguise who Williams 'promise`d’st to strike'. Williams defends himself, saying if he’d known it was the King, he wouldn’t have spoken out. Henry fills Williams’ glove with money and asks him and Fluellen to be friends. The Herald brings news of those killed in battle. The French have lost 'Full fifteen hundred, besides common men'. The English have lost only twenty-nine. Henry sees this as God’s work and leads his men in a procession through the village before returning to England.
- The French have lost many noblemen and knights.
- The English have fought unbelievably well.
- Henry believes God helped him to win.
Things to Notice in Act 4
Notice how Henry and Williams talk to each other when King Henry disguises himself and visits his troops before the battle of Agincourt. Williams thinks the King is responsible for everyone who dies. How does Henry react to this and does he agree or disagree? Does this change throughout Act 4 and how do all Henry’s interactions with the soldiers affect him? He later makes a speech to rouse the men, when they learn how outnumbered they are. How is this different from his previous speeches to the troops?
Note how the Boy is used in Act 4, first in his scene with Pistol and then in his return to camp with the other page boys and servants, who are all killed by the French. How does Shakespeare use the scene with Pistol, and previous scenes, to create sympathy for the Boy? How do you react when he is killed? This scene comes immediately after Henry has ordered the murder of all French prisoners. Why do you think Shakespeare does this and what is the impact of it?
Notice the way in which the commanders and leaders on both sides react to the defeat of the French. Henry and Exeter discuss their losses and Exeter admits crying over several important figures who died, while the French are terrified and forced to surrender. We also see Williams mistaking Fluellen for the King in disguise and challenging him. Why do you think Act 4 ends with this acknowledgement and what does Henry’s response to Williams show you about his attitude towards the man and his soldiers? How has it changed?
Act 4 shows preparations for the battle at Agincourt and the English Army’s unexpected victory –. Historically, the English troops were incredibly weak and suffering from starvation and dysentery while on campaign but how much of this can you see in the text? The battle scenes in Act 3 are broken up by more comic scenes, including an introduction to Princess Katherine. Why do you think Shakespeare does this?