Henry V: Novel Summary: Act 1, Scene 1

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The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely are concerned about the possible passage through parliament of a bill that would take from the church much of the  land it possesses. They plan to appeal to the King for help. Canterbury comments on how quickly the new King, who had in his youth been known for his wild living, has been transformed into a responsible leader and friend of the church. The archbishop admires the King's knowledge of theology, and of domestic and foreign affairs, and says that such wisdom and learning could not have been expected from one who in his youth kept low-class company in taverns, enjoyed sports and feasting, and never showed any inclination to study. Ely replies that the prince was merely hiding his serious pursuits behind a veil of wildness. Coming back to a discussion of the bill, Canterbury says that in order to sway the King in their favor, he has offered some of the Church's treasure to Henry if Henry accepts his counsel on policy towards France. The archbishop wants to convince Henry that he has a legitimate claim on the throne of France. He says that he did not have a chance to put his case earlier, as he was interrupted by the arrival of the French ambassador who sought an audience with the King. The time appointed for that audience is now at hand.
Analysis
This scene is usually drastically cut in performance because it can be obscure and difficult to follow. But it does reveal that Henry V, who was before known as the prodigal Prince Hal, the despair of his father Henry IV, has been transformed into a responsible leader on his accession to the throne. This knowledge prepares us for Henry's entrance in the next scene.

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