Henry V | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry V | Act 4, Scene 6 | Summary

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Summary

Henry V and some of his men are on the battlefield, having taken prisoners, and Henry exclaims that they are doing well, but it isn't quite over yet. The Duke of Exeter enters and informs Henry that the Dukes of York and Suffolk have died together on the battlefield. Exeter also emotionally reports that, before he died, York asked that Exeter commend him to the king. Henry says that he is grieved, but just then, alarms sound. Assuming the French have rallied their men, he orders that his soldiers kill their French prisoners.

Analysis

This scene reveals a central tension in Henry V's character. First he learns from Exeter that York and Suffolk have died, and Exeter admits that he was overcome with emotion at the sight of York, who, coming upon the wounded Suffolk, kissed Suffolk's bleeding face, saying "Tarry, my cousin Suffolk./My soul shall thine keep company to heaven./Tarry, sweet soul, for mine; then fly abreast." Henry, listening to Exeter's description, says that even he must work hard to hold back tears at this moving scene. Yet this gentler, more human, side of Henry is quickly put aside as the alarm sounds and Henry, knowing the French are rallying for more fighting, ruthlessly orders the French prisoners killed.

Exeter's description also demonstrates the power of language. First his description of the scene compels Henry himself to hold back his tears. It also recalls Henry's own words. The description of York and Suffolk's deaths are an apt representation of the very concepts of brotherhood and honor that Henry emphasized in his St. Crispin's Day speech in Scene 3.

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