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Henry V October 8, 2015 12:00 AM | Tagged as Battle of Agincourt, Henry V, Kenneth Branagh, Shakespeare Play charms, Silver Charms

Henry V

Henry V is my favorite history play that Shakespeare wrote.  And it is in the top 5 of my favorite play, period.  Every time I see this play I am inspired to work harder, be a better person, and treat others better.  The quotes from this play are also some of the most inspiring quotes too.  Many of you have heard snippets of Henry’s Agincourt speech, not knowing it is even from a Shakespeare play.  For example; “band of brothers”, made famous by the cable series of the same name. 

As much as I love this play, and the historical figure of Henry V, I have a very hard time admitting to myself that he was a Lancaster, when my first allegiance is to the York’s, and Richard III.  But I rationalize this because my two favorite Kings weren’t around at the same time, Henry V lived 1387-1422, and Richard III, 1452-1485. 

But the reason I wanted to spotlight Henry V this month is because October 25th will be the 600th anniversary of the most famous battle of Henry’s life, the battle of Agincourt. 

When the play opens, Henry is being manipulated by men who wanted power and income for the church, to go to war against France, in order to win back land that technically belonged to England but that France had taken over. 

As the play progresses and the English “band of Brothers” are preparing to leave for England for France, the two worlds of my favorite king’s overlap, when a plot by three of Henry V’s noblemen is uncovered.  Richard, Earl of Cambridge, Lord Scrope, and Sir Thomas Grey, all plotted with the French to depose Henry V.  The plot was discovered, these 3 men were beheaded on August 5, 1415, and the English army left for France 6 days later. 

Richard, Earl of Cambridge was Richard III’s grandfather.  Because of this betrayal, it took years of work for Richard III’s father Richard, who was only 4 at the time this happened, to get back on the “good” side of the royals.  Since the father’s title was forfeited due to the treason, the son Richard, inherited another title of 3rd Duke of York from his childless uncle, Edward, 2nd Duke of York, who was slain in the Battle of Agincourt fighting alongside of Henry V.   

The speech Henry V gives when the conspirators’ are unmasked is just one of his great speeches in this play.  It ends with this sentence of death: 

God quit you in his mercy! Hear your sentence.
You have conspired against our royal person,
Join'd with an enemy proclaim'd and from his coffers
Received the golden earnest of our death;
Wherein you would have sold your king to slaughter,
His princes and his peers to servitude,
His subjects to oppression and contempt
And his whole kingdom into desolation.
Touching our person seek we no revenge;
But we our kingdom's safety must so tender,
Whose ruin you have sought, that to her laws
We do deliver you. Get you therefore hence,
Poor miserable wretches, to your death: (Act 1, scene 2)

 

And that’s just the beginning of the play!  I haven’t even talked about the most famous part of the play which is the battle speech Henry gives before the Battle of Agincourt, known as the St. Crispin speech as the battle was on St Crispin’s day.  It is still used today by military leaders, coaches, and any type of leader around the world to inspire those they lead. 

There is also the wonderful character of Katherine of France, who is a bit of a pawn in the game of war in this play.  She is one of the demands Henry has asked for in his victory.  The end scene between Henry V trying to woo and win Katherine as his bride is amazingly romantic! 

Although I have seen this play many, many times, and hope to see it many more times, my favorite so far is Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 movie version.  It is perfect!  I HIGHLY recommend you watch it for an uplifting experience.  


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