The title-page of the first quarto of Henry V states that
the play ‘hath bene sundry times playd by the Right Honorable
the Lord Chamberlaine his seruants’. The first performances
of Henry V, during 1599, may have been at the Curtain.
This was the year that the Lord
Chamberlain’s Men opened their
new theatre the Globe, and the play would also have been performed
there. Henry V was played at court by the King’s
Men on 7 January 1605. The title-role was probably first taken by
Richard Burbage. The role of Fluellen was probably created for Robert
Publication in quarto and folio
Henry V appeared in five editions before 1642.
- First quarto, 1600. A ‘bad’ quarto, which may be a memorial reconstruction from performances of a shortened version of the play. It has been suggested that the actor who played Gower helped to provide the text. The text in the first quarto is only half the length of that in the first folio.
- Second quarto, 1602. Printed from the first quarto. (Copy from
the Folger Shakespeare Library.)
- Third quarto, dated 1608 on the title-page but published in
1619. Printed from the first quarto, apparently with some editorial
- First folio, 1623. It is generally agreed that this was printed from Shakespeare’s foul papers. The text is twice the length of that in the first quarto. It adds a prologue, four speeches (at the beginning of acts 2 to 5), and an epilogue, all spoken by the Chorus. An opening scene is added. Other significant additions include King Henry’s speech before Harfleur (beginning of act 3), and much of the dialogue in the scene of Henry’s wooing of the French Princess (act 5).
- Second folio, 1632. Printed from the first folio.
The first quarto of Henry V appeared in 1600, printed
by Thomas Creede for Thomas Millington and John Busby. It must have
been published before 14 August 1600, when the play was among those
transferred in the Stationers’ Register to Thomas Pavier.
The play is also listed in the Stationers’ Register with others
‘to be staied’. This entry has not been conclusively
explained, one theory being that the Lord Chamberlain’s Men
were laying claim to payment if the play should be printed.
The second quarto was printed by Thomas Creede for Pavier and appeared
in 1602. The third quarto appeared with the imprint ‘printed
for T.P.’ dated 1608. It was, in fact, one of a group of ten
plays printed by William Jaggard for Thomas Pavier in 1619. These
were apparently intended to form a collection of plays attributed
to Shakespeare. The King’s Men may have protested against
Pavier’s intentions, for the Lord Chamberlain subsequently
wrote to the Stationers’ Company demanding that no more plays
belonging to them should be printed except with their consent.
British Library copies of Henry V contains detailed bibliographic descriptions of all the quarto copies of the play.
Two sources were particularly important for the creation of Henry V.
- Raphael Holinshed, The Third Volume of Chronicles (1587). Shakespeare used Holinshed for all of the historical action in Henry V.
The Speech of Henry V before Agincourt.
Raphael Holinshed, The
Third Volume of Chronicles, . British Library,
L.R.400.b.23, p. 553. Larger
- The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth (1598). Despite its publication date, this anonymous play was probably performed from the late 1580s. Shakespeare drew on the second part of the play for several scenes, speeches, and incidents, including the Dauphin’s gift of tennis-balls.
Story of the play
Note: the links below will take you to the page in the
quarto where each act begins, according to standard modern
editions. (The quartos themselves have no act divisions.)
The quarto shown for each play is always the earliest in
the Library's collection - unless it is a 'bad' quarto
in which case it is the earliest 'good' quarto.
Henry V is set in England and France around the time of
the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
(Prologue) The Chorus introduces the play and asks the audience
to imagine that the theatre can truly present the heroic actions
of King Henry V.
(Act 1) King Henry disputes the Salic law and asserts his right
to the French crown. The French ambassador arrives with a gift of
tennis-balls from the French Dauphin, intended to taunt the English
king. Henry declares his intention of invading France to enforce
his claim to the throne.
(Act 2) The Chorus describes the preparations for war in England
and in France. Pistol, a comrade from King Henry’s youth,
joins the army bound for France. King Henry condemns to death three
lords who have conspired against him. The tavern Hostess (Mistress
Quickly, now Pistol’s wife) reports the death of Falstaff.
The English ambassador presents the French with King Henry’s
claim to the French crown and his declaration of war.
(Act 3) The Chorus describes the embarkation of the English army
for France. The English attack Harfleur and take the town. The French
Princess Katherine receives an English lesson from her Gentlewoman.
The French prepare for battle with the English. In the English camp,
Pistol ridicules the Welsh captain Fluellen. King Henry receives
an embassy from the French warning him they will fight. The French
anticipate their forthcoming victory over the invaders.
Lewis Waller as Henry V, 'Once more unto the breach'
V, Act 3, scene 1. British Library Sound Archive, 1911
(Act 4) The Chorus describes the French and English preparations
before the battle of Agincourt. During the night, King Henry walks
unrecognised among his troops. He meets Pistol and Fluellen in turn.
He talks to other soldiers in his army and, alone, voices his doubts
and cares. Before battle is joined, King Henry exhorts his army
to fight to win. They are victorious in the Battle of Agincourt,
inflicting very heavy casualties on the French.
John Gielgud as Henry V, 'What's he that wishes so?'
V, Act 4, scene 3. British Library Sound Archive, 1931
(Act 5) The Chorus describes King Henry’s triumphant return
to London. Fluellen takes his revenge on Pistol by making him eat
a leek. King Henry meets the French King to agree articles of peace.
He woos Princess Katherine, while the French King considers the
peace proposals. The French King agrees to the marriage of Henry
and Katherine and makes Henry his heir.
(Epilogue) The Chorus reminds the audience that Henry V died young
and was succeeded by an infant, King Henry VI, whose reign was marred
by civil war and the loss of France.