Henry V | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry V | Act 3, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

Princess Katherine of France and her gentlewoman Alice are talking together in the French palace. Katherine asks Alice to teach her English words for various body parts and makes fun of the sounds of the words as she memorizes them.

Analysis

This scene, performed in French, clearly speaks to the theme of language. In the previous scene the English captains spoke with different accents and idioms, highlighting the way that sharing a common language still allows personal and regional differences to manifest. In this scene the focus is on how differences in language, in this case English versus French, separate people from one another. Can Henry V really unite the two countries under one ruler?

The scene also offers a brief respite from the violence of the battlefield, although what happens in it is not completely irrelevant to the plot. Presumably, Katherine is brushing up on her English due to her role as a potential bargaining chip in negotiations with Henry. After all, her father already offered her as a bribe to Henry V, to head off the war. This introduction of Katherine also shows her to be sensitive to language and witty, characteristics that serve to provide comedy later in the play as Henry awkwardly woos her.

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