Henry V Study Guide

Henry V Study Guide

Some background on Henry V can be found here

Background information on Harfleur and Agincourt can be found here

Exxon Mobile Masterpiece Theatre provides the literary context for the play here

  • The events in this film really happened. It takes place from 1413 to 1415 in England and France (although Shakespeare wrote the play in 1599). At that time, the English and the French had been enemies for years, and Henry's attack on France is part of the Hundred Years' War between the two countries (1337-1453). Henry V, who ascended the throne at 26, was one of the best-loved English kings and a military hero.

  • Henry V had no true claim to the French throne. Also, since his father Henry IV had overthrown Richard II to become king, even his claims to the English throne were tenuous.

  • Henry had been a wild and reckless prince, but he claims that he learned about the common man during his "riotous youth." His youthful irresponsibility and his newfound resolve are often referred to throughout the film. He is determined to be a good king. His belief in God and desire to do the right thing are very important to him.

  • Flashbacks in the film (golden, smoky scenes in a tavern) show Henry as young Prince Hal (these scenes are taken from Henry IV). The large man in the first flashback is Sir John Falstaff, Hal's best friend. Henry rejects Falstaff when he becomes king.

Henry V Viewing Guide


Name: _____________________________ Date: _________________

1. The man in black at the opening of the film is called the CHORUS. He acts like a narrator through the play and the movie, helping the audience to follow the action. What does the Chorus ask the audience to do as they watch this enactment?

In the first scene, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely plot to convince King Henry to go to war with France. They have interpreted the Galic law-an ancient law that dictates who can and cannot inherit the throne-to justify Henry's claim to the French crown and to rouse a war that will benefit the Church and themselves financially.


2. What are the two reasons Harry goes to war with France? One is long-term and deals with power (see above) and the other is more immediate and deals with the “gift” from the French prince Dauphin.


3. What does the Dauphin of France mean to “say” when he sends Harry the tennis balls?

NOTE: The fools of this play are Bardolph, Pistol, and Nym, with help from the Boy and Mistress Quickly (Nell). They provide comedic relief. They also appear in flashback form with Falstaff, the true comedic character of Shakespeare’s plays.


4. Why are Pistol and Nym fighting?


5. Who stops Pistol and Nym from fighting?


6. According to Mistress Nell Quickly (the Hostess), why is Falstaff dying?


7. Who says, “I know thee not, old man”?


8. Who are the three traitors? (Their names are mentioned several times)


9. What have the three traitors agreed to do?


10. Who is paying the traitors?


11 How does the Hostess discover that Falstaff is dead?.


12. When the Dauphin speaks, how do the others in the room (especially the Constable) react to him? What do they think of him?


13. Note how the messenger/ambassador from England (Duke of Exeter) is dressed. What is his style of dress supposed to suggest to the French?


14.      What message does Exeter bring specifically for the Dauphin?


15.     In the midst of the attack on Harfleur, Harry stops short of destroying the town and gives the governor a chance to surrender. If the governor does not surrender, what will Harry’s men do? Name two specific things that Henry mentions would happen to the town and it’s people


16.     Now that Harfleur is Henry’s, where is he going to go for the winter months?


17.      Why is Katharine learning to speak English?


18.    Name three English words Katharine is learning.


19.   What English word makes her giggle uncontrollably?


20.  What does Pistol ask Captain Fluellen to do after the rainy, muddy march comes to an end?


21.  Why is Bardolph going to be hanged?


22.  Harry and Bardolph have been friends for years, but he goes ahead and orders the execution of Bardolph with great emotional pain. Why does he go ahead and authorize the execution?


23. The night before the Agincourt Battle, the Dauphin is here with the Constable and other French. How do they regard him as they think about the upcoming battle?


24. In the English camp, Harry goes out to visit the troops, and he does it under disguise. What does he use to hide his true identity?


25. Who does Harry visit first?


26. How does Pistol feel about the King?


27. How does Pistol feel about Captain Fluellen?


28. What is the name of this historical day?


29. What will the surviving soldiers of this battle be able to do every year on St. Crispin’s day?



We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.


NOTE: This battle was important for many reasons, one of which was tactics. It’s the first time in recorded battles that anyone had ever used arrows in a “swarming” style. In effect, it’s one of the first “air wars” in history.


NOTE: The French were not alone in their battle. The crown hired several thousand mercenaries( soldiers for hire) from neighboring countries to fight in the battle. The French didn’t suspect that Harry would be so successful, and thus did not commit their own forces to a battle they figured was all theirs to begin with.


30.  How is “good corporal Nym” killed? What is he doing when he is killed?

NOTE: The film’s director, Branagh, has used his filming of these battle sequences to make a kind of statement against the brutality and futility of war. Consider again WHY this war even came about, it’s a matter of kingdoms competing for power between each other, and within their own borders between nobles and the rich and powerful clergy. It is, to some extent, a pointless and silly war, brought about by old laws and the rules about succession through female family members. In a way, Harry was “forced” into this battle by circumstance that he had to “save face” and go to war.


31. Who do the French attack that later enrages both the Welsh caption Fluellen (“ 'O 'tis expressly against the law of arms!”) and Henry?


32. When the herald Montjoy shows up again, what does he want from Henry?


33. What nationality is Henry?


34. How many dead on each side?

__________ dead French

________ dead English


35. The battle is a colossal success for Henry and his “band of brothers.” But who deserves the real credit for this victory, according to Henry?


36. The scene of Henry crossing the battlefield with the Boy slung over his shoulder is one of the most moving scenes in all Shakespearean movies today. WATCH CLOSELY     What happens on the field as Henry is crossing that adds the most emotional weight to the scene?


37. What is Henry’s “capital demand” of the French as they enter negotiations?


38. What does the following quote (and indeed Henry’s whole discussion with Katherine) say about his character? In your own words, what kind of a guy is he?


If I could win a lady at

leap-frog, or by vaulting into my saddle with my

armour on my back,

I should quickly leap into a wife.


39. Why does Kate first refuse to kiss Henry?


40. What does Henry say that finally gets Kate to agree to a kiss?


41.  Henry and Katharine are married, and they have a child, as the Chorus explains. This was to finally unite the lands of England and France. The Chorus explains what happens next, however. What happens to Henry VI? Why did he lose this dual kingdom?

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