Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Summart Act 1


The Chorus delivers the play’s prologue, urging the audience to use their imagination to fill the stage with all the elements of Harry’s kingdom at war. It apologizes on behalf of the production team for assuming that such an awesome task can be achieved. It reminds the audience that it’s incumbent upon them to do what the production team by itself cannot do, i.e. people the stage with thousands, condense years into hours, and travel great distances at a word.


The Archbishop of Canterbury confers with the Bishop of Ely as to a bill regarding England’s claim to lands in France that has been deferred until now due to England’s civil war. Canterbury argues that if the bill isn’t passed, England will forfeit a substantial wealth that is rightfully hers. Moreover, citing King Henry’s remarkable change from a prodigal son to a royal, dignified king, Canterbury argues that King Henry is just the man to confront and compel the French to relinquish their counterclaim at the point of the sword. Ely agrees. However, both aren’t sure just how the king himself is inclined with regards the bill. Noting the arrival of the French ambassador who will address that very issue from the French perspective, the archbishop and the bishop go to attend to the king.


The French ambassador has arrived, but before receiving their guest King Henry, in the interest of resolving England’s collective mind, has the Archbishop of Canterbury clear up some legal matters. The archbishop proceeds, but not before being strongly urged by King Henry to speak carefully lest a careless word become the basis upon which England wages war against France. Presently, Canterbury argues that the law France has invoked to bar England from her claim is irrelevant on account of the law in question being applicable to French occupied Germany and not France proper. Indeed, the archbishop assures the king that he has every right to claim the lands his ancestors had wrested from the French, and that the English clergy will back King Henry’s claim 100 percent should he undertake to secure it by force. Satisfied with the legal side of the issue, King Henry addresses the problematic Scots who will undoubtedly raid England in the absence of her finest soldiers. Canterbury assures the king, however, that the soldiers left behind will be more than a match for the Scots, and that if they aren’t then England isn’t half of what she thought she was. Upon the archbishop’s assurances, Exeter and Westmorland urge King Henry to take up the sword against France; King Henry agrees to take up the sword. Consequently, the ambassador of France, who has a message from France’s heir apparent the Dauphin, is admitted. The message is a gift of tennis balls which are meant to amuse King Henry. Not amused, King Henry assures the French ambassador that the French will pay dearly for the Dauphin’s jest, and that though the jest may have been warranted on account of King Henry’s former days of waste and idleness that those days are long gone and France will know firsthand the extent to which King Henry is a new man. With the French ambassador dismissed, King Henry urges his nobles to make due preparations for their dread exploits to come. 

William Shakespeare