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Henry V

William Shakespeare

Summary and Analysis Act III: Scene 5

Summary

In another room of the Rouen palace, the King of France is worried about the presence of King Henry and his soldiers in France. The Dauphin is upset by the ladies of the court, who are, in turn, disgusted with the lack of manliness exhibited by the French officers of the army. According to the Dauphin, their wives think that

Our mettle is bred out and they will give
Their bodies to the lust of English youth
To new-store France with bastard warriors. (28-30)

The Duke of Bourbon and the Constable speak with disdain about England and her forces, and they note that Henry's army must be stopped quickly. The king calls on all of the French nobility to fight at once against Henry but commands the Dauphin to stay with him. The Constable remarks that such a battle between Henry's sick and hungry forces and all of the French nobility will be uneven enough to convince Henry to surrender.

The king then sends all of the French nobility to battle against Henry — with the exception of the Dauphin, whom he orders to remain with him.

Analysis

Since the English audience of Shakespeare's day would have known that the English were indeed victorious in their encounter with the French forces, this scene is therefore filled with dramatic ironies. The French are so certain of victory that they are arrogant and overconfident. Rather than being apprehensive about Henry's forces, they hold his army in contempt: "His soldiers sick and famish'd in their march . . . when he [Henry] shall see our army, / He'll drop his heart into the sink of fear." Dramatically, the audience will take pleasure in seeing the insufferable pride of the French brought low by Henry's yeomen.

Dramatically, the Dauphin is presented as a worthy opponent of Henry, even though his father, Charles VI, is still in charge. (Historically, Charles was actually insane at this time, and the Dauphin was in charge of the royal council; this is only one of many examples of the way in which Shakespeare alters history for dramatic purposes.) The Dauphin, even though he is ashamed of the French army's fighting record, is still shown here as being contemptuous of the English army; yet still, apparently, he does not take Henry seriously.