About the Book

With his family’s claim to the throne uncertain, Henry seeks to secure his position by turning the country’s attention abroad. But when his outnumbered army is trapped at Agincourt, disaster seems inevitable. Shakespeare probes notions of leadership and power in this iconic depiction of England’s charismatic warrior king.

Under the editorial supervision of Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, two of today’s most accomplished Shakespearean scholars, this Modern Library series incorporates definitive texts and authoritative notes from William Shakespeare: Complete Works. Each play includes an Introduction as well as an overview of Shakespeare’s theatrical career; commentary on past and current productions based on interviews with leading directors, actors, and designers; scene-by-scene analysis; key facts about the work; a chronology of Shakespeare’s life and times; and black-and-white illustrations.

Ideal for students, theater professionals, and general readers, these modern and accessible editions from the Royal Shakespeare Company set a new standard in Shakespearean literature for the twenty-first century.
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Henry V

Act 1 Scene 1 running scene 1

Enter the two Bishops of Canterbury and Ely

CANTERBURY My lord, I'll tell you: that self bill is urged,

Which in th'eleventh year of the last king's reign

Was like, and had indeed against us passed,

But that the scambling and unquiet time

Did push it out of further question.

ELY But how, my lord, shall we resist it now?

CANTERBURY It must be thought on: if it pass against us,

We lose the better half of our possession.

For all the temporal lands which men devout

By testament have given to the Church

Would they strip from us; being valued thus:

As much as would maintain, to the king's honour,

Full fifteen earls and fifteen hundred knights,

Six thousand and two hundred good esquires,

And, to relief of lazars and weak age

Of indigent faint souls past corporal toil,

A hundred almshouses right well supplied,

And to the coffers of the king beside,

A thousand pounds by th'year. Thus runs the bill.

ELY This would drink deep.

CANTERBURY 'Twould drink the cup and all.

ELY But what prevention?

CANTERBURY The king is full of grace and fair regard.

ELY And a true lover of the holy church.

CANTERBURY The courses of his youth promised it not.

The breath no sooner left his father's body,

But that his wildness, mortified in him,

Seemed to die too. Yea, at that very moment

Consideration like an angel came

And whipped th'offending Adam out of him,

Leaving his body as a paradise,

T'envelop and contain celestial spirits.

Never was such a sudden scholar made,

Never came reformation in a flood,

With such a heady currance, scouring faults,

Nor never Hydra-headed wilfulness

So soon did lose his seat, and all at once,

As in this king.

ELY We are blessèd in the change.

CANTERBURY Hear him but reason in divinity,

And, all-admiring, with an inward wish

You would desire the king were made a prelate.

Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs,

You would say it hath been all in all his study.

List his discourse of war, and you shall hear

A fearful battle rendered you in music.

Turn him to any cause of policy,

The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,

Familiar as his garter, that, when he speaks,

The air, a chartered libertine, is still,

And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears

To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences,

So that the art and practic part of life

Must be the mistress to this theoric:

Which is a wonder how his grace should glean it,

Since his addiction was to courses vain,

His companies unlettered, rude and shallow,

His hours filled up with riots, banquets, sports,

And never noted in him any study,

Any retirement, any sequestration

From open haunts and popularity.

ELY The strawberry grows underneath the nettle

And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best

Neighboured by fruit of baser quality.

And so the prince obscured his contemplation

Under the veil of wildness, which, no doubt,

Grew like the summer grass, fastest by night,

Unseen, yet crescive in his faculty.

CANTERBURY It must be so, for miracles are ceased.

And therefore we must needs admit the means

How things are perfected.

ELY But, my good lord,

How now for mitigation of this bill

Urged by the commons? Doth his majesty

Incline to it, or no?

CANTERBURY He seems indifferent,

Or rather swaying more upon our part

Than cherishing th'exhibitors against us,

For I have made an offer to his majesty,

Upon our spiritual convocation

And in regard of causes now in hand,

Which I have opened to his grace at large,

As touching France, to give a greater sum

Than ever at one time the clergy yet

Did to his predecessors part withal.

ELY How did this offer seem received, my lord?

CANTERBURY With good acceptance of his majesty,

Save that there was not time enough to hear,

As I perceived his grace would fain have done,

The severals and unhidden passages

Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms

And generally to the crown and seat of France,

Derived from Edward, his great-grandfather.

ELY What was th'impediment that broke this off?

CANTERBURY The French ambassador upon that instant

Craved audience; and the hour I think is come

To give him hearing. Is it four o'clock?

ELY It is.

CANTERBURY Then go we in to know his embassy,

Which I could with a ready guess declare,

Before the Frenchman speak a word of it.

ELY I'll wait upon you and I long to hear it. Exeunt

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About the Author

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was a poet, playwright, and actor who is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers in the history of the English language. Often referred to as the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare's vast body of work includes comedic, tragic, and historical plays; poems; and 154 sonnets. His dramatic works have been translated into every major language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. More by William Shakespeare
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About the Author

Jonathan Bate
SIR JONATHAN BATE is an academic, broadcaster, critic, novelist, and prize-winning author of biographies of Wordsworth, Keats, and John Clare. He is the Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University, as well as a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he holds the title of Professor of English Literature. Until September 2019 he was Provost of Worcester College, Oxford. He was knighted in 2015 for services to literary scholarship and higher education. More by Jonathan Bate
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Eric Rasmussen
Eric Rasmussen, a professor of English at the University of Nevada, is one of today's leading textual experts on Shakespeare. More by Eric Rasmussen
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