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Synopsis: Henry V

Short Synopsis
HENRY V has settled onto the throne and has the makings of a fine King. The French AMBASSADOR brings a challenge from the FRENCH DAUPHIN. Inspired by his courtiers, including EXETER and YORK, HENRY swears that he will, with all force, answer this challenge. The Chorus tells of England’s preparations for war and HENRY’s army sails for France. After EXETER’s diplomacy is rebuffed by the FRENCH KING, HENRY lays a heavy siege and captures Harfleur. The French now take HENRY’s claims seriously and challenge the English army to battle at Agincourt.

KING HENRY is played by Tom Hiddleston, FRENCH AMBASSADOR by Jérémie Covillault, EXETER by Anton Lesser, YORK by Paterson Joseph, CHORUS by John Hurt and FRENCH KING by Lambert Wilson.

Tom Hiddleston as Henry V

Tom Hiddleston as Henry V

Long Synopsis
A procession makes its way through Westminster Abbey, led by QUEEN KATHERINE (Mélanie Thierry). ALICE (Geraldine Chaplin), her Lady-in-Waiting, follows holding a baby, with the DUKE OF EXETER (Anton Lesser), SALISBURY (Richard Clothier), WESTMORELAND (James Laurenson), the BISHOP OF ELY (Nigel Cooke) and the French Ambassador, MONTJOY (Jérémie Covillault). The procession moves into the chapel where the ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY (Malcolm Sinclair) stands by a body lying in state, covered by the Royal Standard flag. We hear the voice of THE CHORUS (John Hurt) as the standard is pulled back to reveal the face of KING HENRY V (Tom Hiddleston). The King’s eyes snap open as we go back in time to see the King galloping through the English countryside on horseback…

In the Palace of Westminster, the ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY and the BISHOP OF ELY walk through a cloistered corridor discussing the transformation of KING HENRY V from a shallow, vain Prince into a fair, graceful and righteous King. They join EXETER, YORK (Paterson Joseph), WESTMORELAND and SALISBURY in the Great Hall just as KING HENRY enters the room. With the French Ambassador waiting outside, HENRY asks for the ARCHBISHOP’s advice on going to war with France. The King is well aware that many lives could be lost and wants to be sure he is entirely just in staking his claim to the French throne. The ARCHBISHOP tells the King there is nothing to stand against him and reminds the King of the courage of his ancestors. HENRY calls for MONTJOY, the Ambassador to the French Dauphin. MONTJOY tells the King that his claims upon France are foolish. The Dauphin has sent a chest full of treasure in return for which he asks that KING HENRY drops his claim to the French throne. EXETER opens the chest. EXETER turns the chest upside down and hundreds of tennis balls fall out and roll around the room. HENRY waits until the last ball has stopped and gives his reply: England will go to war with France and with God’s grace he will claim the lands to which he is entitled. As WESTMORELAND escorts MONTJOY out of the room, HENRY tells the court to prepare for battle.

Inside the Boar’s Head Tavern, two recruiting officers, FLUELLEN (Owen Teale) and COURT (Jack Ryder), are signing up recruits for the HENRY’s army. A room full of afternoon drunkards has become a mass of soldiers ready to fight. Preparations in the Palace continue. YORK inspects weapons in the Royal Armoury and EXETER, in the role of envoy to France, bows before HENRY to say farewell.

Outside the Boar’s Head Tavern, BARDOLPH (Tom Georgeson) and NYM (Tom Brooke) discuss the wedding of MISTRESS QUICKLY (Julie Walters) and PISTOL (Paul Ritter). BARDOLPH encourages NYM to make amends with PISTOL, although he acknowledges that MISTRESS QUICKLY was previously engaged to NYM. The newlyweds emerge from the Tavern. After a confrontation with NYM MISTRESS QUICKLY is called back inside to see FALSTAFF who has fallen ill. BARDOLPH persuades PISTOL & NYM to be friends again before they leave for France.

Title page of "The Chronicle History of Henry Fift" (1600)

Title page of The Chronicle History of Henry Fift (1600)

In the small hours of the morning, the three soldiers have fallen asleep in the gutter. PISTOL wakes and rouses the others. They try to enter the Tavern but find it locked. The bolts on the door are drawn back and we hear the sound of sobbing. MISTRESS QUICKLY walks out into the street crying and tells her husband and friends that FALSTAFF has died. NYM and BARDOLPH ask affectionately if he cried out for wine or women before he passed away. In the distance, the sound of drums can be heard as BARDOLPH looks down the street to where soldiers are gathering. The three men say their goodbyes to MISTRESS QUICKLY before leaving to join the troops. The BOY pulls an armband from his pocket and runs off down the street after them.

EXETER has travelled to meet the KING OF FRANCE (Lambert Wilson) and is escorted through the Palace by MONTJOY. In the French Court we see the King and his son, LOUIS THE DAUPHIN (Edward Arkrout), with the DUKE OF ORLEANS (Stanley Webber) and the CONSTABLE OF FRANCE (Maxime Lefrançois). The King tells ORLEANS and THE DAUPHIN to prepare their towns for war but THE DAUPHIN replies that there is nothing to worry about. He believes this new King to be young, vain and shallow. The CONSTABLE tells THE DAUPHIN that he is much mistaken. According to MONTJOY’s report from England, KING HENRY is modest yet constant in his resolution to fight France. The KING OF FRANCE finishes his instructions by reinforcing the CONSTABLE’s warning – they must think of KING HENRY as a strong force and be armed ready to match him. He reminds them of their previous defeat against Edward, the Black Prince. MONTJOY steps towards and the King calls for EXETER. EXETER bows before the King and delivers a message from HENRY. In God’s name the KING OF FRANCE must return “borrowed glories” and give up the throne or otherwise France and it’s people will face great danger. The KING OF FRANCE will consider and give his response the next day. EXETER then delivers a separate message to THE DAUPHIN. KING HENRY has not forgotten his mocking gift of tennis balls. HENRY will make THE DAUPHIN pay the price if the KING OF FRANCE does not comply with the demands.

THE CHORUS sets the scene as we see the English fleet on its approach to France. We are told that the KING OF FRANCE offered his daughter, KATHERINE, to HENRY together with some small Dukedoms. HENRY refuses the offer and prepares to besiege the walled town of Harfleur.

Soldiers, led by FLUELLEN, make their way along a moat. Amidst cannon fire and smoke, KING HENRY appears amongst the troops. In a rallying patriotic cry to fight for their country, HENRY tells his soldiers to summon their courage.

BARDOLPH, PISTOL and NYM are hiding behind a wall trying to avoid the fighting. With them is FALSTAFF’s BOY who has traveled to France as a stowaway on the ship. They are spotted by FLUELLEN who drags the three men towards the battle. The BOY draws his sword and Fluellen allows him to join the fight. YORK orders troops through a breach in the defensive wall. BARDOLPH appears from a church holding booty and a golden cross but is grabbed by YORK before he can escape with his loot.

The following day YORK brings the GOVERNOR OF HARFLEUR (Philippe De Brugada) forward to meet KING HENRY by the town gates. The King tells him in no uncertain terms to hand over the town otherwise he will destroy both it and its people. The GOVERNOR admits that THE DAUPHIN has failed to send reinforcements in time and agrees to yield the town.

The English soldiers guard groups of French men, women and children. FLUELLEN offers PISTOL and NYM a drink from his flask, prompting PISTOL to ask the Captain if he’ll speak to YORK in order to save BARDOLPH from being hung for theft. FLUELLEN tells PISTOL that YORK is right to enforce strict discipline.

Inside the French palace PRINCESS KATHERINE and ALICE, her Lady-in-Waiting, talk about the Princess learning English. There is a humorous exchange as KATHERINE tries to learn the English names for various parts of the body.

The English army marches on through the French countryside. HENRY rides at the front, with YORK beside him and EXETER and WESTMORELAND behind. FLUELLEN rides up to the King. Henry asks his Captain how many men were lost at Harfleur. FLUELLEN replies that none were lost in battle, but one man has been executed for robbing a church, a man named BARDOLPH. We flash back to happier times in the Boar’s Head Tavern, where a young HAL has his arm around BARDOLPH.
FLUELLEN gestures towards a tree field from which BARDOLPH hangs. PISTOL and NYM sit below. HENRY tells FLUELLEN that all offenders should be treated as such. There should be nothing but respect paid to the villages and their residents while the army travels through the countryside.

In the English camp above Agincourt disease has spread. PISTOL and NYM are digging graves for the bodies. MONTJOY rides through the camp and is met outside the King’s tent by HENRY, EXETER and YORK. MONTJOY announces that they have been merely waiting to pick the right moment to fight. The KING OF FRANCE is now ready to make England repent unless HENRY is ransomed in return for the loss suffered. KING HENRY tells MONTJOY that they will not refuse an invitation to fight, even though due to sickness they do not wish it.

In contrast to the desolate state of affairs in the English camp, The DAUPHIN, ORLEANS and the CONSTABLE are in a buoyant mood in the French camp. Inside THE DAUPHIN’s tent, ORLEANS is bragging. THE DAUPHIN is eager for the night to be over so that they can make their attack on the English. We see the French troops outside eating, drinking and playing games. Horses are groomed and swords are sharpened. The view changes back to the English camp where the mood is quiet and somber as soldiers try to sleep. THE CHORUS draws attention to the difference between the “confident and over-lusty French” and the “poor condemned English.” We see two figures move amongst the fires in the English camp: KING HENRY and YORK. They stop and talk to the soldiers, persuading them to take courage in the situation. HENRY asks one of his Knights, SIR THOMAS ERPINGHAM (Paul Freeman) to lend him a cloak. The King heads towards the soldiers sat by the fires. He moves towards PISTOL who, fails to recognize HENRY. Pistol talks of his love for the King. HENRY pretends to be one of FLUELLEN’s men whereupon PISTOL takes offence and walks away. HENRY continues through the camp unrecognized and meets two men, BATES (John Dagleish) and WILLIAMS (Gwilym Lee). They discuss the King’s responsibility in bringing them all to the war. BATES is pessimistic about their chances of surviving the impending battle whilst WILLIAMS notes that if the cause of this war is not just then the King will have a heavy reckoning to justify their deaths. Still unrecognized HENRY argues back that the King’s cause is just and honourable and says that he would be angry with them should the circumstances be different. WILLIAMS challenges him to a fight and the pair exchange gloves as an agreement to suspend their challenge until another day. The KING moves away and in a soliloquy discusses the responsibility he holds and how, despite his wealth and privileges, he is unable to rest peacefully. ERPINGHAM comes in search of the King. Handing back the cloak, HENRY asks him to gather the nobles in his tent. Turning towards the horizon, the King quietly says a prayer for his soldiers and asks God not to choose this moment to take revenge for his father’s involvement in over-throwing RICHARD II.

After sunrise The DAUPHIN and ORLEANS feel confident about the day ahead. They ride to the front of their troops ready to lead them into battle. In the English camp, HENRY and YORK walk amongst their troops who look run down in comparison. The King turns to face his enemy.

Outside the King’s tent, EXETER, ERPINGHAM, WESTMORELAND and SALISBURY are discussing their chances of surviving the battle. ERPINGHAM comments that HENRY has ridden towards the French camp to view their numbers for himself. As the King and YORK return, HENRY overhears WESTMORELAND wishing they had more men with them. KING HENRY remarks that they should not wish for one man more. Should they die, being few in number, the loss will have less impact on the country, but if they win they will have a greater share of honour. Anyone who sheds blood alongside the King today will remain his brother whilst the men who remain at home will only be sorry that they weren’t here themselves. SALISBURY steps forward to announce that the French are ready to fight. WESTMORELAND, inspired by the King’s rousing words, tells HENRY that he wishes they alone could fight this battle.

HENRY gives YORK the signal to move forward. MONTJOY rides up to HENRY and asks once more for the King to name his ransom before the French almost certainly defeat them. The King watches as his army advances towards the French. HENRY refuses MONTJOY again and heads off towards the battlefield to join his troops. He rides up to EXETER to give orders for the archers to advance. EXETER then gives the signal to the archers to pick up their stakes move forwards. KING HENRY rides through the battle, killing French infantry with his sword. The King’s horse rears and HENRY is thrown to the ground, losing his sword. As the French close in, YORK appears. He throws the King a sword. The battle continues.

On the battlefield, EXETER and the archers prepare to loose arrows as the French cavalry slowly begins to advance. The cavalry draw closer and closer. EXETER holds his nerve until the time is right to give the signal. Arrows begin to rain down on the French. Men and horses fall to the ground and the cavalry charge ends in chaos.

FLUELLEN leads a charge of men from out of the woods to ambush the French. PISTOL holds back. As FLUELLEN and NYM join the battle. PISTOL hides amongst the trees, with his head in his hands. FLUELLEN wounds ORLEANS in single combat. The DAUPHIN and the CONSTABLE are with ORLEANS as he dies.

We see the BOY amongst the trees and a hand is placed on his shoulder. He looks up to see YORK who suddenly cries out and falls. The CONSTABLE has stabbed him from behind. Before reaching the BOY, the CONSTABLE is felled by an arrow from an English bowman. The BOY tries to stem YORK’s bleeding with a cloth and cradles the Duke as he dies.

HENRY surveys the field, littered with bodies, horses and injured men. EXETER and the BOY, still holding the bloody cloth, approach HENRY with the news that YORK is dead. Over EXETER’s shoulder, HENRY sees three French horsemen in the distance. Livid with anger that the French have reinforced their army, he gives the order to kill all the French prisoners.

MONTJOY is brought in front of the King by EXETER. MONTJOY asks for HENRY’s permission to recover the bodies of their men from the battlefield in safety. KING HENRY asks if the French have accepted defeat. MONTJOY acknowledges that they have. HENRY asks EXETER to go with MONTJOY and report back with numbers of dead. KING HENRY returns to camp and sees WILLIAMS. And asks WESTMORELAND to call him over. HENRY asks WILLIAMS about the glove he wears in his cap. Failing to recognize the King, WILLIAMS explains that the glove is proof of a challenge from the previous night. HENRY produces the other glove from his belt, much to the horror of WILLIAMS. FLUELLEN suggests that WILLIAMS should be hung but the King accepts a profuse apology. He tells FLUELLEN to fill the glove with coins for WILLIAMS.

EXETER returns with news from the battlefield. HENRY reads out the list of casualties. Ten thousand are dead on the French side but the English have survived with fewer than thirty men killed. The King declares it must be the work of God and gives the order to process through the village and then on to Calais for the return home.

In the French palace, we see HENRY, EXETER and WESTMORELAND at the negotiating table. The KING OF FRANCE, THE DAUPHIN and several advisors sit at the other end. In the middle, the DUKE OF BURGANDY (Richard Griffiths) oversees the peace talks, watched by PRINCESS KATHERINE and ALICE.

Whilst the KING OF FRANCE asks that their quarrel be turned into love, the DUKE suggests that peace can be used to return France to her former glory. HENRY’s view is clear. The peace they talk of must be bought about by agreeing to all just demands. HENRY tells EXETER and WESTMORELAND to go with the KING OF FRANCE to discuss their claims and asks that KATHERINE remain. The Princess is his capital demand. With the help of ALICE as translator, HENRY tells KATHERINE that he loves her and asks her marry him. KATHERINE takes some persuading but replies that if it pleases her father, then she will agree. The KING OF FRANCE, DUKE OF BURGANDY, EXETER and WESTMORELAND return. The KING OF FRANCE announces that all demands are agreed, including the giving of his daughter in marriage to HENRY. Peace is achieved between the two countries.

In Westminster Abbey, we return to KING HENRY’s funeral. KATHERINE, only a little older than when we last saw, holds the infant Henry VI in her arms. THE CHORUS tells us that soon France would be lost with the state in the hands of so many advisors. All are leaving the funeral except for the BOY who looks down at the blood stained cloth held in his hands. The camera tilts up from the cloth and we see our boy in later years as CHORUS.

Standing by the throne in the Hall of Westminster The CHORUS asks us to accept this story on behalf of those who gave their lives in battle.



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