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Henry V

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Henry V

Shakespeare. Henry V. London, 1600

Publicity photograph of Laurence Olivier in Henry V, 1945, courtesy of Carlton International.

James Stephanoff. King Henry V, act II, scene III. Watercolor, 1853

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead!

Act 3, scene 1, lines 1–2

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers
Act 4, scene 3, line 62

Henry V is Shakespeare's most famous "war play"; it includes the storied English victory over the French at Agincourt. Some of it glorifies war, especially the choruses and Henry's speeches urging his troops into battle. But we also hear bishops conniving for war to postpone a bill that would tax the church, and soldiers expecting to reap profits from the conflict. Even in the speeches of Henry and his nobles, there are many chilling references to the human cost of war.

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.

Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1995 Folger Shakespeare Library


Further reading
Diana E. Henderson. Collaborations With the Past: Reshaping Shakespeare Across Time and Media. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006.

Graham Holderness. Shakespeare: The Histories. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

John Julius Norwich. Shakespeare’s Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages, 1337-1485. New York: Scribner, 1999.

Jean E. Howard and Phyllis Rackin. Engendering a Nation: A Feminist Account of Shakespeare’s English Histories. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Pauline Kiernan. Staging Shakespeare at the New Globe. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Malcolm Mercer. Henry V: The Rebirth of Chivalry. Kew, UK: National Archives, 2004.

Peter Saccio. Shakespeare's English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama. 2nd edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

The Hollow Crown: Henry V (2012, Neal Street Productions, NBC Universal Television, WNET Thirteen, and BBC). Directed by Thea Sharrock. Cast includes Tom Hiddleston and John Hurt.

Henry V (1989, Renaissance Films, BBC, and Curzon Film Distributors). Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Cast includes Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Simon Shepherd, and Brian Blessed.

Henry V (1944, Two Cities Films). Directed by Laurence Olivier. Cast includes Laurence Olivier, Robert Newton, and Leslie Banks.

Related Movies
My Own Private Idaho (1991, New Line Cinema). Directed by Gus Van Sant. Cast includes River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves.

Chimes at Midnight (1965, Alpine Films and Internacional Films). Directed by Orson Welles. Cast includes Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford, John Gielguid, and Ralph Richardson.

Shakespeare Goes to War

Laurence Olivier in Henry V

Inside the Collection

Henry V: Folios and Quartos from the Collection


Michael Kahn on His 1969 Henry V

Read the Play

Folger Digital Texts:
Henry V

Teacher Resources

Lesson Plan: "We happy few": Motivational Speech

Lesson Plan: War and Remembrance

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