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.
Mark J. Schenker has been at Yale College since 1990. He is currently a senior associate dean of the College and dean of academic affairs. A former lecturer in the English Department, he received his Ph.D. from Columbia University with a concentration in 19th-century and early 20th-century English literature. Dean Schenker has for over 25 years lectured on literature and film and has led book discussion series in more than 100 venues in Connecticut, including public libraries, museums, and cultural centers. For the past decade, he has given programs on Shakespeare’s plays in conjunction with Shakespeare on the Sound. He also conducts monthly sessions for a number of private reading groups in Connecticut. In 2001, he received the Wilbur Cross Award for Outstanding Humanities Scholar, presented by the Connecticut Humanities Council.