Henry V | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry V | Act 4, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

The French leaders meet on the field, shocked and terrified of the English, who are fighting far better than anticipated. They all express their complete dismay and then leave, determining to keep fighting to the death.

Analysis

Like his boasting, the Dauphin's despair is overly dramatic, as he suggests the French leaders all stab themselves due to the shame of defeat. The Duke of Bourbon, too, suggests death as the remedy for the shame they feel, but he prefers to find this death in battle: "Shame, and eternal shame, nothing but shame!/Let us die. In once more! Back again!"

The Duke of Bourbon uses an extended metaphor to expand upon the shame they will heap on themselves if they do not continue to fight. He says that refusing to fight now is like a father holding the door to his fairest daughter's bedchamber open so a low-born slave can go in and have sex with her: "with his cap in hand/Like a base pander hold the chamber door,/Whilst by a slave, no gentler than my dog,/His fairest daughter is contaminate." This metaphor, in which a woman's body is treated as a commodity in a business transaction, foreshadows the way Katherine, Princess of France, is used as a bargaining chip between Henry and Charles VI later in the play.

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