David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s HENRY V: Retelling in Prose — Cast of Characters, and Prologue


On the Side of the English


DUKE OF GLOUCESTER, Brother to the King.

DUKE OF BEDFORD, Brother to the King.

DUKE OF EXETER, Uncle to the King.

DUKE OF YORK, Cousin to the King.


EARL OF WESTMORELAND, Cousin by marriage to the King, and Brother-in-Law to the Duke of Exeter.




RICHARD, EARL OF CAMBRIDGE, conspirator against King Henry V.

HENRY, LORD SCROOP OF MASHAM, conspirator against King Henry V.

SIR THOMAS GREY OF NORTHUMBERLAND, conspirator against King Henry V.

SIR THOMAS ERPINGHAM, loyal to King Henry V.

GOWER, an English Captain.

FLUELLEN, a Welsh Captain.

MACMORRIS, an Irish Captain.

JAMY, a Scottish Captain.

JOHN BATES, Soldier in KingHenry V’s army.

ALEXANDER COURT, Soldier in KingHenry V’s army.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS, Soldier in KingHenry V’s army.

PISTOL, NYM, BARDOLPH, Soldiers in KingHenry V’s army, and former friends of Prince Hal.


A Herald.

On the Side of the French

CHARLES THE SIXTH, King of France.

ISABEL, Queen of France.

LEWIS, the Dauphin.

KATHERINE, Daughter to Charles and Isabel.

ALICE, Lady attending on the Princess Katherine.


The CONSTABLE OF FRANCE, the chief military officer of France.

RAMBURES and GRANDPRÉ, French Lords.

MONTJOY, a French Herald.

Governor of Harfleur.

Ambassadors to the King of England.

Other Characters

Hostess of the Boar’s Head Tavern, formerly Mistress Nell Quickly, and now married to Pistol.

Chorus, consisting of one male.

Lords, Ladies, Officers, French and English Soldiers, Citizens, Messengers, and Attendants.

Nota Bene

Scene: England and France.

Time: 1414-1420.

Religion: Catholic. The Protestant Reformation does not start until 1517, when Martin Luther’s “95 Theses” become public. In 1534 the Church of England separated from the Roman Catholic Church because of a dispute over the annulment of the marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon. Pope Clement VII excommunicated King Henry VIII.

It is a good idea to remember this quotation by L.P. Hartley: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”


Imagine that the year is 1599, and a single male character takes the stage in a round theater in England. This character is known as the Chorus, and he will introduce the play the way a single male character known as the Prologue would, and he will also appear at the beginnings of Acts 2-5 to comment on the action of the play and the way that he hopes the audience will react to it; he will also appear as the Epilogue at the end of the play.

The Chorus strides onto the stage and says, “I wish that I could be inspired by a Muse of fire. Of the four elements — fire, water, air, and earth — that people of my time think make up all that exists, fire is the element that rises highest. Anyone who wishes to tell the story that is told in this play must be mightily inspired and capable of the best poetic creation.

“I also wish that this small stage were an entire Kingdom, and I wish that the actors were Princes, and the members of the audience were Kings who would watch this majestic scene!

“If my wishes would become reality, then the warlike Harry — King Henry V of England — would be like himself. He would be like the real Harry as Harry really existed and he would take on himself the bearing of Mars, the Roman god of war. At Harry’s heels would appear famine, swords, and fire — the instruments of war — that would be tied to a single leash held in Harry’s hand. These three instruments of war would crouch like hounds waiting for Harry’s command to go into action.

“But forgive us, all you gentlemen and gentlewomen. We on stage here are not spirits of the great and mighty dead who have been raised out of their graves. We have not been raised from the graves; we are dull and uninspired actors — and a playwright — who have dared to portray great men and great events on this platform that is called a stage. Can this small stage hold the vast battlefields of France? Can we cram within this wooden O — this round theater made out of wood — the actual helmets that frightened the air at Agincourt, where in 1415 King Henry V defeated the French although he and his soldiers were vastly outnumbered?

“Please pardon us for our presumption! A zero is a curved figure of arithmetic. A zero is naught, but if you add it to the weakest position of a number — the far right — it can turn the number 100,000 into the number 1,000,000! We actors are also naught, but while we are on stage acting as great people doing great acts, let us affect your imaginations so that you visualize the scene as it ought to be seen.

“Imagine that within the surroundings of the walls of this theater are now confined two mighty Monarchies — the English and the French Kingdoms — who challenge each other. They have high, soaring, and close-to-each-other fronts that the perilous narrow ocean — the English Channel — keeps apart: The English cliffs of Dover and the French cliffs of Calais challenge each other.

“Use your imaginations to improve on and mend our imperfections. Thousands of soldiers fought in the war; a few actors will ‘fight’ on this stage. Use your imagination to take one ‘fighting’ actor and turn that single actor into a thousand fighting soldiers who fight a huge and dangerous battle in front of you.

“When we actors talk about horses, imagine that you see them stamping on the soil and leaving their hoofprints behind them.

“We need your imaginations to properly equip our Kings, to move them from country to country and battlefield to battlefield, and place to place, and to jump over years so that the events of 1414-1420 can take place on this stage in only a couple of hours that can easily be measured by a two-hour hourglass.

“I, the Chorus, will help you to leap over the years — I will, occasionally, let you know when years have passed.

“But now, let me, like a Prologue, ask you humbly for your humble patience. Please listen to this play with gentle courtesy, for hearing and seeing are both important, and please judge this play with kindness.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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