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Henry V Scenes

Scene 3

France. Before the Harfleur Gates.

(Citizens; King Henry the Fifth; Governor of Harfleur; Exeter)

King Henry gives the townspeople of Harfleur one last chance to surrender before he has them all slaughtered. Having heard that the Dolphin will not be able to rescue them as promised, the citizens choose to hand over the town. (58 lines)

Enter some Citizens on the walls. Enter the King and all his Train before the gates.


How yet resolves the governor of the town?

This is the latest parle we will admit;

Therefore to our best mercy give yourselves,

Or like to men proud of destruction,

Defy us to our worst; for as I am a soldier,

A name that in my thoughts becomes me best,

If I begin the batt’ry once again,

I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur

Till in her ashes she lies buried.

The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,

And the flesh’d soldier, rough and hard of heart,

In liberty of bloody hand, shall range,

With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass

Your fresh fair virgins and your flow’ring infants.

What is it then to me, if impious War,

Arrayed in flames like to the prince of fiends,

Do with his smirch’d complexion all fell feats

Enlink’d to waste and desolation?

What is’t to me, when you yourselves are cause,

If your pure maidens fall into the hand

Of hot and forcing violation?

What rein can hold licentious wickedness

When down the hill he holds his fierce career?

We may as bootless spend our vain command

Upon th’ enraged soldiers in their spoil,

As send precepts to the leviathan

To come ashore. 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 headly murder, spoil, and villainy.

If not—why, in a moment look to see

The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand

Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;

Your fathers taken by the silver beards,

And their most reverend heads dash’d to the walls;

Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,

Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confus’d

Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry

At Herod’s bloody-hunting slaughter-men.

What say you? Will you yield, and this avoid?

Or guilty in defense, be thus destroy’d?

Enter Governor to the Citizens.


Our expectation hath this day an end.

The Dauphin, whom of succors we entreated,

Returns us that his powers are yet not ready

To raise so great a siege. Therefore, great King,

We yield our town and lives to thy soft mercy.

Enter our gates, dispose of us and ours,

For we no longer are defensible.


Open your gates. Come, uncle Exeter,

Go you and enter Harfleur; there remain,

And fortify it strongly ’gainst the French.

Use mercy to them all for us, dear uncle.

The winter coming on, and sickness growing

Upon our soldiers, we will retire to Callice.

Tonight in Harfleur will we be your guest;

Tomorrow for the march are we address’d.

Flourish, and enter the town.


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