Who was Henry V?

        One of the four important historical plays of Shakespeare, Henry V deals with Britain’s war with France and the ensuing political events. The tetralogy of Shakespeare’s histories includes Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2 and Henry V. Some scholars think that the play is a commentary on war as Shakespeare presents the war between England and France in all its complexities.

       King Henry V, the ruler of England, was also the rightful heir to the French throne through ancestry. When he declared his claim, it was greeted with insult from the ruler of France. Following this, Henry and his troops crossed the English Channel in order to attack a port of France, Alarmed, the French King offered him his daughter and other gifts, which did not satisfy Henry.

       In the battle, the English defeated the French and took the harbor; however, the English King lost so many of his men that the French surrounded him with more than 10,000 men. In the night before the battle, Henry spoke to the soldiers, encouraging them and asking them to do the greatest sacrifice they could offer. The next day, the English army of fewer than 30 soldiers confronted the large French army successfully. Henry famously declared that ‘O God, thy arm was here’. Years later, after successful political agreements between the countries, Henry and the French Prince met as the former tried to woo the latter. The conversation between them was hilarious as both had little knowledge of each other’s language. Henry V was finally adopted as the heir to the French throne.

      The play, believed to have been written in 1599, briefly deals with John Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s greatest characters, as he dies heart-broken because Henry had rejected him.

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