Literature Study GuidesHenry VAct 3 Scene 1 Summary

Henry V | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry V | Act 3, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

In the midst of battle before Harfleur, Henry rallies the men and orders them to charge the wall of the town again. He asks them to become men of action and war, not peace, calling upon their patriotism and honor as Englishmen as he refers to the "noble lustre" in each man's eyes, be he of low or high breeding.

Analysis

In this famous speech Henry uses language as a means to action by manipulating the emotions of his men. He addresses them as "dear friends," then goes on to use animal imagery in the form of similes to inspire his soldiers to the violent deeds of war, telling them to act like tigers and strain "upon the start" like "greyhounds in the slips."

Henry also asks his men to "imitate" and "disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage," or to take on the appearance of fierceness and rage even if their true nature is more peace-loving. In doing so he asks them to mimic his own characteristics; in another nod to Machiavelli, he is a master at changing his look and behavior to fit the situation in order to achieve his goals. He also asks them to "let us swear/That you are worth your breeding, which I doubt not." Again, this is a nod to Henry himself who is invading France in part to show that he is "worth [his] breeding," or worthy as a king and as a descendant of his ancestral line.

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