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Henry V

(1944 c 136')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Laurence Olivier directed this version of Shakespeare's play about a young king who conquers territory he claims in France.

At the Globe Theater in 1600 an actor describes the scene. The Archbishop of Canterbury (Felix Aylmer) says that Henry gave up his indulgent life with Falstaff and asks King Henry V (Laurence Olivier) to claim his lands in France. The French ambassador gives Henry tennis balls from the Dauphin. Insulted Henry says they will fight. At an inn Pistol (Robert Newton), Bardolf (Roy Emerton), and Nym quarrel but will go to France.

Henry embarks at Southampton and pardons a critic. Ill Falstaff (George Robey) recalls Henry's rejection and dies; Mistress Quickly (Freda Jackson) and his friends remember him. Ships cross over to Harfleur. King Charles VI (Harcourt Williams) asks the dukes of Berri, Bourbon, and Orleans (Francis Lister) to fight. The English ambassador says that Henry came for his lands and has contempt for the Dauphin (Max Adrian). On a horse Henry leads his soldiers with a rousing speech. Jamie (John Laurie) and MacMorris (Niall McGinnis) quarrel. Besieged Harfleur submits, and Henry sends in the Duke of Gloucester.

Princess Katharine (Renée Asherson) learns English words from Alice (Ivy St. Helier). Charles VI sends Mountjoy (Ralph Truman) as his herald to the English, but Henry will not pay a ransom. Henry says his men are sick and do not want to fight but will if they must. At night the Dauphin praises his horse but is mocked by the Constable (Leo Genn) and Orleans. In his camp Henry visits incognito some of the men. They discuss the responsibility of the king if the war is not just. Henry says the king will not pay a ransom, but Williams disagrees. Henry alone contemplates the life of a king; he sends for his officers and prays.

In the morning the English get ready and realize they are outnumbered five to one. Henry does not wish for more men and speaks of the glory they will win. Henry again tells Mountjoy he will not pay a ransom. The French knights charge, and the English archers shoot. French knights regroup, and some of them charge again. Henry gets angry and defeats a knight. Mountjoy asks Henry for charity to bury their dead at Agincourt. The French have 10,000 dead and the English 500. Fluellen (Esmond Knight) tells Pistol he must eat a leek.

At court Henry V recognizes the princes of France, and Queen Isabel (Janet Burnell) asks that enmity be changed into love. While she joins the negotiations, Henry talks with Katharine and woos her. He says he loves France and will not part with it. He persuades her to let him kiss her. Charles VI gives Katharine to Henry for the sake of peace, and the play ends at the Globe.

Winston Churchill asked that certain scenes of Henry's cruelty be left out of this patriotic drama meant to rouse the spirits of the English in their current war on the continent.

Copyright © 2005 by Sanderson Beck

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