Folger Education offers lesson plans on Shakespeare's frequently taught plays, as well as lessons on introducing Shakespeare. Try the lesson plan below, then, for more lesson plans on Henry V, visit the Lesson Plans Archive.
War and Remembrance: St.Crispin's Day speech from Henry V
Tackle the tough topic of war with your students in this discussion-rich lesson plan exploring the use of language in Act 4 of Henry V. How does the language influence the characters' emotions, and how does that resonate with modern audiences?
The Folger edition of Henry V includes facing-page notes and illustrations throughout the play; background information on the play, Shakespeare's life, theater, and times; notes on unfamiliar language, or words that meant something different in Shakespeare's day; and a scholarly assessment of the plays in light of today's interests and concerns.
This play is now available online as a free Folger Digital Text. Search for keywords or line numbers, or download the code to create your own applications!
Colorful Character Connections offer an at-a-glance map of character relationships, an introduction to the plot, and important quotes to look and listen for.
Shakespeare's speech rhythms may be unfamiliar to students. Click here to watch Folger Education's acting troupe Bill's Buddies explain "Iambic Pentameter."
The Folger Exhibition, Now Thrive the Armorers: Arms and Armor in Shakespeare focused on how real-world military changes influenced many of Shakespeare’s plays, including Henry V. Click here to visit the exhibition online.
For many students today, reading Shakespeare's language can be a challenge. Things to pay attention to in Henry V:
- unfamiliar words or words whose meanings have changed
- unfamiliar word order
- implied stage action
From the opening speech by the Chorus of Henry V, Shakespeare creates a rich tapestry of words to create the worlds of the play. Some are unfamiliar because they are no longer used: casques, ciphers, puissance. Others have meanings that have changed: nicely for "subtly," happy is used where we would say "fortunate."
Some words are strange not because of changes in language over the centuries but because Shakespeare is using them to build a dramatic world that has its own space, time, history, and background mythology. In Henry V, Shakespeare uses one set of words to construct Henry V's court and the stately houses and courtly battleground confrontations, and he uses a second set to create the lavish court of France, and yet another to construct the lower-class world of thieves, vintners, hostesses, hostlers, and setters who frequent the taverns of Eastcheap and inns along "the London road."
In Henry V,Shakespeare often uses sentence structures that separate words that normally appear together. This is often done to create a particular speech rhythm, or emphasize a certain word. For example, the Chorus separates subject and verb when he says “Are now confined two mighty monarchies." The Bishop of Canterbury uses a similarly unfamiliar construction when he says,"The Gordian knot of it he will unloose."
In reading any of Shakespeare's plays, remember that you are reading a performance script, not a dialogue. Some stage directions are implied in the text, but much of the meaning is given by how the text is performed.
About the Play
Scholars believe Shakespeare wrote Henry V in 1599. It was published as a quarto in 1600. Among the sources are Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles and an early play, The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth.
To learn more, explore our Discover Shakespeare online resource, including the sections highlighted at right.