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Scene 1

Agincourt. The English camp.

(King Henry the Fifth; Bedford; Gloucester; Erpingham; Pistol; Fluellen; Gower; Soldiers; John Bates; Alexander Court; Michael Williams)


King Henry discusses the danger the English are in with his brothers, and bids them call a council of war. Wishing to know what the common soldiers are saying, he borrows Sir Thomas Erpingham’s cloak. Left alone, he encounters Pistol, who challenges him. Not recognizing Henry, Pistol admits that he is still loyal to the King, despite what happened to Falstaff and Bardolph. Believing Henry to be Welsh, Pistol promises that he will take the leek that Fluellen will wear as a symbol of Welsh pride on St. Davy’s Day and hit him around the head with it. When Henry claims to be Fluellen’s kinsman, Pistol insults him and walks out. Gower and Fluellen enter, with the latter insisting on great silence even though the enemy knows very well where the English are and are making a great deal of noise themselves. As the two captains leave, three common soldiers enter. Much less optimistic that the commanders, they would much rather be back home. Henry, still unrecognized, defends the King, arguing that his cause is just, but the soldiers point out that they have no way of knowing that. They suggest that, since they are only obeying orders, if the cause is unjust the King who brought them there will bear all of their deaths on his conscience. Henry insists that this is not so. When Williams suggests that the King has only sworn not to be taken prisoner to make the men fight better, Henry is offended, and the two exchange gloves, promising to meet and fight on the cause if they both survive the battle. Left alone, Henry considers how the commoners can never know what it is to be a king, nor how many things a monarch must think of that they never consider. Erpingham calls him to the conference. Henry prays to God for help, begging that his father’s sin of usurpation not be visited on him today. (191 lines)

Enter the King, Bedford, and Gloucester.


Gloucester, ’tis true that we are in great danger,

The greater therefore should our courage be.

Good morrow, brother Bedford. God Almighty!

There is some soul of goodness in things evil,

Would men observingly distill it out;

For our bad neighbor makes us early stirrers,

Which is both healthful and good husbandry.

Besides, they are our outward consciences

And preachers to us all, admonishing

That we should dress us fairly for our end.

Thus may we gather honey from the weed,

And make a moral of the devil himself.

Enter Erpingham.

Good morrow, old Sir Thomas Erpingham.

A good soft pillow for that good white head

Were better than a churlish turf of France.


Not so, my liege, this lodging likes me better,

Since I may say, “Now lie I like a king.”


’Tis good for men to love their present pains

Upon example; so the spirit is eased;

And when the mind is quick’ned, out of doubt,

The organs, though defunct and dead before,

Break up their drowsy grave, and newly move

With casted slough and fresh legerity.

Lend me thy cloak, Sir Thomas. Brothers both,

Commend me to the princes in our camp;

Do my good morrow to them, and anon

Desire them all to my pavilion.


We shall, my liege.


Shall I attend your Grace?


No, my good knight;

Go with my brothers to my lords of England.

I and my bosom must debate a while,

And then I would no other company.


The Lord in heaven bless thee, noble Harry!

Exeunt all but the King.


God-a-mercy, old heart, thou speak’st cheerfully.

Enter Pistol.


Qui vous là?


A friend.


Discuss unto me, art thou officer,

Or art thou base, common, and popular?


I am a gentleman of a company.


Trail’st thou the puissant pike?


Even so. What are you?


As good a gentleman as the Emperor.


Then you are a better than the King.


The King’s a bawcock, and a heart of gold,

A lad of life, an imp of fame,

Of parents good, of fist most valiant.

I kiss his dirty shoe, and from heart-string

I love the lovely bully. What is thy name?


Harry le Roy.


Le Roy? A Cornish name. Art thou of Cornish crew?


No, I am a Welshman.


Know’st thou Fluellen?




Tell him I’ll knock his leek about his pate

Upon Saint Davy’s day.


Do not you wear your dagger in your cap that day, lest he knock that about yours.


Art thou his friend?


And his kinsman too.


The figo for thee then!


I thank you. God be with you!


My name is Pistol call’d.



It sorts well with your fierceness.

Manet King to one side.

Enter Fluellen and Gower.


Captain Fluellen!


So! In the name of Jesu Christ, speak fewer. It is the greatest admiration in the universal world, when the true and aunchient prerogatifes and laws of the wars is not kept. If you would take the pains but to examine the wars of Pompey the Great, you shall find, I warrant you, that there is no tiddle taddle nor pibble babble in Pompey’s camp. I warrant you, you shall find the ceremonies of the wars, and the cares of it, and the forms of it, and the sobriety of it, and the modesty of it, to be otherwise.


Why, the enemy is loud, you hear him all night.


If the enemy is an ass and a fool, and a prating coxcomb, is it meet, think you, that we should also, look you, be an ass and a fool, and a prating coxcomb, in your own conscience now?


I will speak lower.


I pray you, and beseech you, that you will.

Exit with Gower.


Though it appear a little out of fashion,

There is much care and valor in this Welshman.

Enter three soldiers, John Bates, Alexander Court, and Michael Williams.


Brother John Bates, is not that the morning which breaks yonder?


I think it be; but we have no great cause to desire the approach of day.


We see yonder the beginning of the day, but I think we shall never see the end of it. Who goes there?


A friend.


Under what captain serve you?


Under Sir Thomas Erpingham.


A good old commander and a most kind gentleman. I pray you, what thinks he of our estate?


Even as men wrack’d upon a sand, that look to be wash’d off the next tide.


He hath not told his thought to the King?


No; nor it is not meet he should. For though I speak it to you, I think the King is but a man, as I am. The violet smells to him as it doth to me; the element shows to him as it doth to me; all his senses have but human conditions. His ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man; and though his affections are higher mounted than ours, yet when they stoop, they stoop with the like wing. Therefore, when he sees reason of fears, as we do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish as ours are; yet in reason, no man should possess him with any appearance of fear, lest he, by showing it, should dishearten his army.


He may show what outward courage he will; but I believe, as cold a night as ’tis, he could wish himself in Thames up to the neck; and so I would he were, and I by him, at all adventures, so we were quit here.


By my troth, I will speak my conscience of the King: I think he would not wish himself any where but where he is.


Then I would he were here alone; so should he be sure to be ransom’d, and a many poor men’s lives sav’d.


I dare say you love him not so ill to wish him here alone, howsoever you speak this to feel other men’s minds. Methinks I could not die any where so contented as in the King’s company, his cause being just and his quarrel honorable.


That’s more than we know.


Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough, if we know we are the King’s subjects. If his cause be wrong, our obedience to the King wipes the crime of it out of us.


But if the cause be not good, the King himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs, and arms, and heads, chopp’d off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all, “We died at such a place”—some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the King that led them to it; who to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.


So, if a son that is by his father sent about merchandise do sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the imputation of his wickedness, by your rule, should be impos’d upon his father that sent him; or if a servant, under his master’s command transporting a sum of money, be assail’d by robbers and die in many irreconcil’d iniquities, you may call the business of the master the author of the servant’s damnation. But this is not so. The King is not bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers, the father of his son, nor the master of his servant; for they purpose not their death when they purpose their services. Besides, there is no king, be his cause never so spotless, if it come to the arbitrement of swords, can try it out with all unspotted soldiers. Some, peradventure, have on them the guilt of premeditated and contriv’d murder; some, of beguiling virgins with the broken seals of perjury; some, making the wars their bulwark, that have before gor’d the gentle bosom of peace with pillage and robbery. Now, if these men have defeated the law and outrun native punishment, though they can outstrip men, they have no wings to fly from God. War is his beadle, war is his vengeance; so that here men are punish’d for before-breach of the King’s laws in now the King’s quarrel. Where they fear’d the death, they have borne life away; and where they would be safe, they perish. Then if they die unprovided, no more is the King guilty of their damnation than he was before guilty of those impieties for the which they are now visited. Every subject’s duty is the King’s, but every subject’s soul is his own. Therefore should every soldier in the wars do as every sick man in his bed, wash every mote out of his conscience; and dying so, death is to him advantage; or not dying, the time was blessedly lost wherein such preparation was gain’d; and in him that escapes, it were not sin to think that making God so free an offer, He let him outlive that day to see His greatness and to teach others how they should prepare.


’Tis certain, every man that dies ill, the ill upon his own head, the King is not to answer it.


I do not desire he should answer for me, and yet I determine to fight lustily for him.


I myself heard the King say he would not be ransom’d.


Ay, he said so, to make us fight cheerfully; but when our throats are cut, he may be ransom’d, and we ne’er the wiser.


If I live to see it, I will never trust his word after.


You pay him then. That’s a perilous shot out of an elder-gun, that a poor and a private displeasure can do against a monarch! You may as well go about to turn the sun to ice with fanning in his face with a peacock’s feather. You’ll never trust his word after! Come, ’tis a foolish saying.


Your reproof is something too round, I should be angry with you, if the time were convenient.


Let it be a quarrel between us, if you live.


I embrace it.


How shall I know thee again?


Give me any gage of thine, and I will wear it in my bonnet; then if ever thou dar’st acknowledge it, I will make it my quarrel.


Here’s my glove; give me another of thine.




This will I also wear in my cap. If ever thou come to me and say, after tomorrow, “This is my glove,” by this hand I will take thee a box on the ear.


If ever I live to see it, I will challenge it.


Thou dar’st as well be hang’d.


Well, I will do it, though I take thee in the King’s company.


Keep thy word; fare thee well.


Be friends, you English fools, be friends, we have French quarrels now, if you could tell how to reckon.


Indeed the French may lay twenty French crowns to one they will beat us, for they bear them on their shoulders; but it is no English treason to cut French crowns, and tomorrow the King himself will be a clipper.

Exeunt Soldiers.

Upon the King! Let us our lives, our souls,

Our debts, our careful wives,

Our children, and our sins lay on the King!

We must bear all. O hard condition,

Twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath

Of every fool whose sense no more can feel

But his own wringing! What infinite heart’s ease

Must kings neglect, that private men enjoy!

And what have kings, that privates have not too,

Save ceremony, save general ceremony?

And what art thou, thou idol Ceremony?

What kind of god art thou, that suffer’st more

Of mortal griefs than do thy worshippers?

What are thy rents? What are thy comings-in?

O Ceremony, show me but thy worth!

What is thy soul of adoration?

Art thou aught else but place, degree, and form,

Creating awe and fear in other men?

Wherein thou art less happy, being fear’d,

Than they in fearing.

What drink’st thou oft, in stead of homage sweet,

But poison’d flattery? O, be sick, great greatness,

And bid thy ceremony give thee cure!

Thinks thou the fiery fever will go out

With titles blown from adulation?

Will it give place to flexure and low bending?

Canst thou, when thou command’st the beggar’s knee,

Command the health of it? No, thou proud dream,

That play’st so subtilly with a king’s repose.

I am a king that find thee; and I know

’Tis not the balm, the sceptre, and the ball,

The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,

The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,

The farced title running ’fore the king,

The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp

That beats upon the high shore of this world—

No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,

Not all these, laid in bed majestical,

Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave;

Who, with a body fill’d and vacant mind,

Gets him to rest, cramm’d with distressful bread,

Never sees horrid night, the child of hell;

But like a lackey, from the rise to set,

Sweats in the eye of Phoebus, and all night

Sleeps in Elysium; next day after dawn,

Doth rise and help Hyperion to his horse,

And follows so the ever-running year

With profitable labor to his grave:

And, but for ceremony, such a wretch,

Winding up days with toil, and nights with sleep,

Had the forehand and vantage of a king.

The slave, a member of the country’s peace,

Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wots

What watch the King keeps to maintain the peace,

Whose hours the peasant best advantages.

Enter Erpingham.


My lord, your nobles, jealous of your absence,

Seek through your camp to find you.


Good old knight,

Collect them all together at my tent.

I’ll be before thee.


I shall do’t, my lord.



O God of battles, steel my soldiers’ hearts,

Possess them not with fear! Take from them now

The sense of reck’ning, if th’ opposed numbers

Pluck their hearts from them. Not today, O Lord,

O, not today, think not upon the fault

My father made in compassing the crown!

I Richard’s body have interred new,

And on it have bestowed more contrite tears,

Than from it issued forced drops of blood.

Five hundred poor I have in yearly pay,

Who twice a day their wither’d hands hold up

Toward heaven, to pardon blood; and I have built

Two chauntries, where the sad and solemn priests

Sing still for Richard’s soul. More will I do;

Though all that I can do is nothing worth,

Since that my penitence comes after all,

Imploring pardon.

Enter Gloucester.


My liege!


My brother Gloucester’s voice? Ay;

I know thy errand, I will go with thee.

The day, my friends, and all things stay for me.



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