Literature Study GuidesHenry VAct 4 Scene 7 Summary

Henry V | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry V | Act 4, Scene 7 | Summary

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Summary

Fluellen and Gower enter, describing angrily how the boys guarding the luggage in the English camp have all been killed and the luggage burnt. Fluellen believes that this behavior is against the law of arms.

Gower confirms that Henry V has had all the French prisoners killed, and calls Henry a gallant king for doing so. The two captains discuss Henry. Henry enters with several lords, angry at the turn the battle has taken, but soon Montjoy enters, asking for leave to go and count their dead and dispose of the dead bodies.

To get Montjoy to admit defeat, Henry says he is unsure about the results of the battle, and Montjoy admits that the English have the victory. Fluellen mentions that Henry's grandfather and Henry's great-uncle Edward the Black Prince of Wales fought a great battle in France, and recounts how the Welshmen in that battle were valiant and wore leeks in their caps, and this has become a badge of honor for Welshmen. Henry mentions that he himself is Welsh.

After they speak Henry orders some of his own men to go with Montjoy to count the dead. He has William brought to him, and asks him about the glove in his cap, which Williams says is the gage of a rascal he has vowed to fight. He does not realize that it was Henry himself, in disguise, with whom he traded gages. Henry commands Williams to keep his vow. Sending Williams away, Henry gives Fluellen the gage he took from Williams the night before, saying it came from a French soldier, Alencon. He instructs Fluellen to wear it in his cap and, if anyone challenges him, it means he is a friend of Alencon and an enemy that Fluellen should apprehend. After Fluellen leaves Henry tells Warwick and Gloucester about the trick he just played, so they should go make sure no real harm is done.

Analysis

After finding that the French have killed the luggage boys, Fluellen and Gower are glad that Henry had decided to kill the French prisoners; it almost seems as if Henry anticipated the cruelty of the French attack on the boys. They talk about Henry with admiration, although Fluellen's accent causes some comedy. When Fluellen means to compare Henry V with Alexander the Great, he calls him "Alexander the Big" but his accent, which substitutes P's for B's, causes him to say "Alexander the Pig." When Gower corrects him, Fluellen is confused: "is not 'pig' great? The pig, or the great, or the mighty, or the huge, or the magnanimous, are all one reckonings." The two discuss at length how Henry V is like Alexander the Great, and this comparison, too, is both comedic and poignant. Both were born in towns with a river containing salmon ("There is a river in Macedon, and there is also, moreover, a river at Monmouth ... there is salmons in both."). Both are given to "rages" and "moods" and "indignations." And both were responsible for the death of a friend. In Henry's case this refers to Falstaff. Gower insists that Henry would never do such a thing, but Fluellen confirms it. Although Fluellen's comparison of Henry with Alexander the Great places Henry in the company of great and famous rulers, it is also a reminder of a less noble side of Henry's character.

Speaking of Falstaff, the practical joke Henry plays on Williams and Fluellen is reminiscent of a trick the young Prince Hal might have played in his tavern days. Even as king, and under the stress of battle, this remnant of the old persona remains. With the main danger over, Henry's love for a good joke based on disguise and misidentification can be indulged.

A significant difference in attitude toward class distinctions is displayed in this scene, as the French rush to remove the bodies of those killed in battle so that the bodies of the French commoners will not touch those of the French noblemen. This is in contrast to Henry's assertion in Scene 3 that all those who fight this battle together are his brothers—noblemen and commoners alike.

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