Henry V begins at the English court, where the young king is persuaded that he has a claim to the throne of France. When the French dauphin, or heir apparent, insults him by sending him tennis balls, Henry launches his military expedition to France.
Before departing, Henry learns that three of his nobles have betrayed him, and he orders their execution. Meanwhile, his old tavern companions grieve over Sir John Falstaff’s death, and then leave for France.
Henry and his army lay siege to the French town of Harfleur, which surrenders. The Princess of France, Katherine, starts to learn English, but the French nobles are sure of success against Henry. Instead, Henry's forces win a great victory at Agincourt.
After a brief return to England, Henry comes back to France to claim his rights and to set up his marriage to Princess Katherine. The play’s epilogue points out that Henry will die young and that England will as a result lose most of his French territories.
Early printed texts
Henry V was first published as a quarto in 1600 with the title The Chronicle History of Henry the fift (Q1). This version of the play differs substantially from the play we know today: it is much shorter; it is missing entire scenes, including all of the chorus; some scenes are in a different order; and the Duke of Bourbon appears in the Agincourt scenes, rather than the Dauphin. Q1 was reprinted with no substantial changes in 1602 (Q2). It was reprinted again in 1619 (Q3) with some modifications that anticipate the later Folio text, although the source of those changes is unclear (this is one of the “Pavier Quartos” that were printed in 1619 with a false imprint date of 1608). The play was included in the 1623 First Folio (F1) as The Life of Henry the Fift, and this is the version on which most modern editions, including the Folger edition, are based.
Picturing Henry V
As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to Henry V is shown below, with links to our digital image collection.
More images of Henry V can be seen in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)