After Viewing Activities
Language | Character Development | War
Shakespeare's language is like an onion. If you peel off one layer, there is another beneath it. This depth and richness of language accounts in part for the universality and timelessness of Shakespeare's work. Here are some points about language you may wish to discuss with your students:
There are many different levels of meaning in the film that are expressed through the language. Reading and discussing portions of some speeches will help you both clarify and explore how Shakespeare used language to suggest different ideas. Read these speeches and answer the questions on a separate piece of paper.
Chorus: For forth he goes and visits all his host, Bids them good morrow with a modest smile, And calls them brothers, friends, and countrymen.
A largess universal, like the sun, His liberal eye doth give to every one, Thawing cold fear, that mean and gentle all Behold, as may unworthiness define, A little touch of Harry in the night.
(IV.Prologue.3Z 35, 43 - 47)
Katherine: Is it possible dat I could love de ennemi of France?
Henry: No, it is not possible you should love the enemy of France, Kate; but in loving me you should love the friend of France, for I love France so well that I will not part with a village of it-I will have it all mine: and Kate, when France is mine, and I am yours, then yours is France, and you are mine.
Katherine: I cannot tell.
Henry: Can any of your neighbours tell, Kate?
Understanding the character of Henry is critical to understanding the film. The truest portrait of this complex young king is a composite of the various aspects of his personality and the world in which he lives.
He is a man of contradictions. Henry warns Canterbury not to lead him into an unjustified war that will spill innocent blood. Then he describes in dreadful detail how he will spill French blood because the Dauphin sent him tennis balls-wholesale destruction to get even with a bad joke. He boasts of what he will accomplish in battle, and yet when victorious, he gives all the credit to God.
He lives in a world of contradictions. The Archbishop of the English Church, while representing honesty and peace, leads Henry into international robbery and war. His best friend Scroop abandons him to France just as he has abandoned his friend Falstaff. And his own father Henry IV advises him to make war abroad in order to keep the peace at home.
As a king, he is an honorable as well as a brutal warrior. He promises the Governor of Harfleur he will dash the heads of elder townsmen against the walls and impale innocent infants on pikes. Yet he orders his soldiers to treat the vanquished with mercy and executes his old friend Bardolph for stealing from the enemy.
As a man, he must be a king. He is painfully aware of the tremendous responsibilities he carries for his subjects and soldiers. He feels isolation and criticism, "subject to the breath/Of every fool..." And he feels the emotions his subjects feel: terrible anger after the boys are murdered at Agincourt; exhaustion after battle; embarrassment when courting a lovely young woman.
To understand this film, you must understand Henry, and to understand Henry, you must think about both what he says and what he does. For example, think of the scene in which Henry is given a gift of tennis bails by the Dauphin. What does this speech show us about Henry's character?
Henry: We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us
His present, and your pains, we thank you for
When we have matched our rackets to these balls,
We will in France, by God's grace, play a set
Shall strike his father's crown into the hazard
And we understand him well,
How he comes o'er us with our wilder days,
Not measuring what use we made of them
But tell the Dauphin I will keep my state,
Be like a king, and show my sail of greatness,
When I do rouse me in my throne of France
And tell the pleasant Prince this mock of his
Hath turned his balls to gun-stones, and his soul
Shall stand sore charged for the wasteful vengeance
That shall fly with them for many a thousand widows
Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands;
Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down,
And some are yet ungotten and unborn
That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin's scorn
So get you hence in peace; and tell the Dauphin
His jest will savour but of shallow wit
When thousands weep more than did laugh at it
rackets = (1) tennis rackets; (2) noises of gunfire
crown = (1) coin staked in a game; (2) symbol of majesty
hazard = (1) in tennis at that time, an opening in the wall; hitting the ball into it scored a point; (2) jeopardy
keep my state = fulfill the role of king
gun-stones = cannonballs (originally of stone)
sore charged = sorely burdened with responsibility
wasteful = destructive
Answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper.
If Henry is the controlling figure in this film, then war is the driving force. War makes up the substance of the plot: its causes, the rituals of diplomacy, the mobilizing of an army, strategizing, discipline, heroism, courage, and horror. Over the years, the face of war has been portrayed differently in productions of Henry V. In this film, stress has been placed on the misery and suffering of war as well as on the moments of compassion and courage. The film may not clearly explain for your students how the English overcame immeasurable odds to win the battle of Agincourt. They were vastly outnumbered; the English soldiers were exhausted and sick while the French were fresh. So how did they do it? England's first line of defense was a row of pointed stakes, behind which stood English yeomen armed with longbows. The French knights on horseback could not get past the stakes. Then the English archers shot hundreds of arrows at them. Struck by the arrows, the French knights were thrown to the ground where they were captive in their own armor -- too heavy to get back on their horses or in some instances just to get up. Many were trampled to death or drowned. The English yeoman and the French armor won the day for Harry.
Do we see human kind at its best or at its worst during wars? Are there moments of glory and moments of despair? Can war be justified? These are questions that: Shakespeare grappled with and that we still grapple with. Read the two speeches below. The first follows the attack on Harfleur the second precedes the battle of Agincourt What do they say about the different sides of war?
Henry: Therefore, you men of Harfleur,
Take pity of your town and of your people
Whiles yet my soldiers are in my command,
Whiles yet the cool and temperate wind of grace
O'erblows the filthy and contagious clouds
Of heady murder, spoil, and villainy.
If not, why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
Defile de locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dashed to the walls;
You naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds.
What say you?
Will you yield and this avold;
Or, guilty in defence, be thus destroyed?
(IIl.3-27 - 44)
Henry: This day is called the Feast of Crispian:
He that shall see this day, and live old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, "Tomorrow is Saint Crispian."
Then will he strip his sleeve, and show his scars,
And say, "These wounds I had on Crispin's Day."
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered --
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother, be he never so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now abed
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.
Answer these questions on a separate piece of paper.
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