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Henry V :: Scenes :: Henry V: Act IV Prologue

Prologue

(Chorus)

The Chorus asks the audience to imagine the fearful night before the battle, as the two armies, so close together they can almost see each other’s faces, ready themselves to fight the next morning. He tells of how King Henry wanders through the camp giving his men heart — and apologizes once again for how little a stage show can truly reproduce so great an event. ( line)

Enter Chorus.

CHORUS.

Now entertain conjecture of a time

When creeping murmur and the poring dark

Fills the wide vessel of the universe.

From camp to camp, through the foul womb of night,

The hum of either army stilly sounds,

That the fix’d sentinels almost receive

The secret whispers of each other’s watch.

Fire answers fire, and through their paly flames

Each battle sees the other’s umber’d face.

Steed threatens steed, in high and boastful neighs

Piercing the night’s dull ear; and from the tents

The armorers, accomplishing the knights,

With busy hammers closing rivets up,

Give dreadful note of preparation.

The country cocks do crow, the clocks do toll,

And the third hour of drowsy morning name.

Proud of their numbers and secure in soul,

The confident and overlusty French

Do the low-rated English play at dice;

And chide the cripple tardy-gaited night,

Who like a foul and ugly witch doth limp

So tediously away. The poor condemned English,

Like sacrifices, by their watchful fires

Sit patiently and inly ruminate

The morning’s danger; and their gesture sad,

Investing lank-lean cheeks and war-worn coats,

Presented them unto the gazing moon

So many horrid ghosts. O now, who will behold

The royal captain of this ruin’d band

Walking from watch to watch, from tent to tent,

Let him cry, “Praise and glory on his head!”

For forth he goes, and visits all his host,

Bids them good morrow with a modest smile,

And calls them brothers, friends, and countrymen.

Upon his royal face there is no note

How dread an army hath enrounded him;

Nor doth he dedicate one jot of color

Unto the weary and all-watched night;

But freshly looks, and overbears attaint

With cheerful semblance and sweet majesty;

That every wretch, pining and pale before,

Beholding him, plucks comfort from his looks.

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.

And so our scene must to the battle fly;

Where—O for pity!—we shall much disgrace

With four or five most vile and ragged foils

(Right ill dispos’d, in brawl ridiculous)

The name of Agincourt. Yet sit and see,

Minding true things by what their mock’ries be.

Exit.

 
 
 
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