Henry V: Novel Summary: Act 2, Scene 4

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In France, King Charles meets with his nobles and rallies them to action. He fears the English and remembers past French defeats on French soil.
The Dauphin urges them all to show no fear. He disparages the English King as shallow, young and capricious. The Constable refutes him, telling him he is mistaken about Henry. He cites the reports of the French ambassadors, who informed him that Henry has experienced advisers, and is himself a determined man who has left the follies of his youth behind.  The Dauphin is not convinced, but says that anyway, it is a good thing to overestimate the enemy's strength. King Charles gives his verdict: Henry is strong, and they must mount a strong force to oppose him. The English king comes from the same breed that defeated the French at Crecy, under Edward, the Black Prince. He must be feared.
Exeter is admitted to the French court as an ambassador from England. The message Exeter brings is that Charles should renounce the crown to which he has no right. Exeter emphasizes the rightness of Henry's claim, since he is descended from Edward III.
After Charles asks what the consequences will be if he refuses, Exeter explains that he will be compelled to yield up the throne by force. Henry's message is that if Charles refuses, it is he, not Henry, who will be responsible for all the deaths that ensue.
Charles says he will convey his decision the next day.
The Dauphin asks what message Henry has sent for him. Exeter says  that Henry holds him in contempt and scorn. If King Charles does not accept Henry's demands, the Dauphin will pay dearly for the mocking gift of tennis balls that he sent to the King. Angered, the Dauphin replies that he desires a quarrel with England, and that was why he sent the tennis balls. Exeter replies that he will find the English king very different now than he was in his youth, as his own subjects have also discovered.
Analysis
Although old King Charles is fully aware of the peril that France is in, his less experienced son, the Dauphin,  remains recklessly overconfident. He as yet has no understanding of the man he is dealing with. Henry is a more formidable leader than the Dauphin imagines. In this scene he shows his political skill when he declares that if France dares to resist the invasion, it will be France, not England, that is responsible for the war.
Maneuvering to place blame on the other side is a familiar tactic when war is about to break out between nations. The reader must judge for himself or herself how sound Henry's argument is.

 

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