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Henry V: Novel Summary: Act 5, Scene 2

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Total Votes: 1947


The English and French courts meet in France to make peace. Burgundy, who has worked hard to make the negotiations possible, speaks at length, about the devastating effects of the war on all aspects of French life.  He compares France to a garden that has not been cared for. Why can there not be peace between their  nations? Henry replies that the French must buy peace by acceding to the English demands. King Charles says that he will study the documents further and give his decision. Henry sends his nobles away to assist with the negotiations.
Henry is left alone with Catherine and Alice. He begins to woo the princess, protesting that he is a plain man who can only speak bluntly. He is a man of action, not words, so he claims to be at a loss for what to say to persuade her to accept him. He says he is not handsome but has a good heart. Katherine, who speaks little English, is dubious. How can she love an enemy  of France? Henry replies that he is not an enemy of France, since he loves it so much he will not part with a single village of it. He tries to talk to her in French, but he has no grasp of the language. He promises that they will produce children who will make great soldiers, who will recapture Constantinople from the Turks. Catherine remains unconvinced. She finally consents when she acknowledges that by marrying him she will please her father, the king. He kisses her on the lips, and is not discouraged even when she and Alice inform him that it is not the custom in France for ladies to kiss before they are married.
King Charles and the other French and English nobles return. Henry and Burgundy engage in a conversation about how best to woo a woman, after which King Charles consents to the marriage of his daughter. He also says that France has agreed to the English demands.  King Charles hopes that the marriage of Henry and Catherine will put an end to the enmity between the two countries. This is echoed by Queen Isabel.
The Chorus then speaks the epilogue. He praises Henry, but then explains that he reigned only for a short time. He passed his throne on to Henry VI, who lost France and created harsh times for England.
Commentators usually see Act 5 as an anti-climax, after the stirring  English victory in battle. Burgundy's speech, like the scene with Pistol before, undermines the romantic idea of war. He paints the real picture of how devastating the war with England has been for France.
Henry comes across as a sincere, if rather clumsy suitor. In the way that he arranges the terms of peace to maximize his own advantage, he shows that he is still a master of political maneuvering. 


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