It is the early 1400s.
Henry IV has died, and his son--the young King Henry V--has just taken
over the throne. The situation is tense. Several bitter civil wars have
left the people of England restless and dissatisfied. Furthermore, in
order to gain the respect of the English people and the court, Henry must
live down his wild adolescent past.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, worried over
impending legislation that would effectively rob the Church in England
of its power and wealth, convinces Henry V to forego this pursuit in favour
of laying claim to France.
Because Henry has distant roots in the French
royal family, and because the interpretation of ancient land laws varies
from country to country, (Armed with a legal technicality) Henry lays
claim to certain parts of France. The Dauphin's insulting response-sending
an ambassador with a gift of tennis balls-convinces Henry that the French
will only respond to war; thus, he arranges for an army to invade France.
However, rebellion has always seemed to follow when the king's away, and
Henry makes certain that he leaves behind enough troops in England to
quell any potential uprising. That leaves him with a relatively small
Henry's decision trickles down to affect
the "little people" he rules. On the seedy side of London, some
of the king's old friends--whom he rejected when he rose to the throne--prepare
to leave their homes and families. Bardolph, Pistol, and Nym are common
lowlifes and part-time criminals, on the opposite end of society from
their royal former companion. As they get ready, they remark on the death
of Falstaff, an elderly roustabout who was once King Henry's closest friend.
Just before his fleet crossing the Channel,
Lords Cambridge, including a former friend, Scroop., and Grey are discovered
to be conspiring to assassinate Henry (paid for by the French). Henry
makes a very public example of all three, arresting them in person and
seeing to their execution.
The army then lays siege to Harfleur, capturing
it after heavy losses in battle with the city's defenders. . Among the
officers in King Henry's army are men from all parts of Britain, such
as Fluellen, a Welsh captain. As the English advance, Nym and Bardolph
are caught looting and are hanged at the stern king's command.
Henry attempts to take his army out of France
before the onset of winter; however, now the French are certain that they
can teach the young king a humiliating lesson on the field of battle.
Henry is resolute, nonetheless. If the French want a decisive battle,
they will have it.
The final showdown of the war comes at the
famous Battle of Agincourt, at which the English are outnumbered by the
French five to one.
camp, Henry disguises himself as a common soldier in order to mingle with
his troops before the battle. There he talks candidly with his men, and
they with him. The men may be leery of their king, but their willingness
to battle the French army is undaunted. The next day at Agincourt, Henry
makes the stirring St. Crispin's Day speech, knowing his army is outnumbered
five to one. Aided mightily by the longbows of his archers, Henry makes
the day a rout for the French. The French must now sue for peace, which
Henry will grant-completely on his own terms, of course. According to
the terms of the Treaty of Troyes, Henry will marry Princess Katherine
of France and will be named as heir to the French throne. England and
France will thus be united in peace.