David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s HENRY V: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene 4

— 3.4 —

The French had suffered a major defeat when Harfleur fell.

Katherine had been offered as a bride to Henry V, along with some Dukedoms, earlier, but the English King had rejected the offer and had invaded France. Now it looked as if Katherine might still marry Henry V and that he might become the King of France. Katherine decided to start learning English in a room of the French palace with the help of Alice, a gentlewoman who was somewhat older than she.

Katherine said, “Alice, tu as ete en Angleterre, et tu parles bien le langage.”

[Katherine said, “Alice, you have been in England, and you know the language well.”]

Alice replied, “Un peu, madame.”

[Alice replied, “A little, madame.”]

Katherine said, “Je te prie, m’enseignez: il faut que j’apprenne a parler. Comment appelez-vous la main en Anglois?”

[Katherine said, “Please, teach me the language. I need to learn it. What is the English for la main?]

Alice replied, “La main? Elle est appeleede hand.”

[Alice replied, “La main? It is called de hand.”]

Katherine said, “De hand. Et les doigts?”

[Katherine said, “De hand. And the fingers?”]

Alice replied, “Les doigts? Ma foi, j’oublie les doigts; mais je me souviendrai. Les doigts? Je pense qu’ils sont appeles de fingres; oui, del.”

[Alice replied, “Les doigts? By my faith, I have forgotten the English for les doigts, but I will remember. I think that they are called de fingres; yes, de fingres.”]

Katherine said, “La main, de hand; les doigts,de fingres. Je pense que je suis le bon ecolier; j’ai gagne deux mots d’Anglois vitement. Comment appelez-vous les ongles?

[Katherine said, “La main isde hand; les doigts isde fingres.I think that I am a good scholar; I have learned already two words of English. What do you call les ongles?”]

Alice replied, “Les ongles? Nous les appelonsde nails.”

[Alice replied, “Les ongles?We call them de nails.”]

Katherine said, “De nails. Ecoutez; dites-moi, si je parle bien: dehand, de fingres,etde nails.”

[Katherine said, “De nails. Listen, and tell me if I am speaking correctly: dehand, de fingres, and de nails.”]

Alice replied, “C’est bien dit, madame; il est fort bon Anglois.”

[Alice replied, “It is well said, madame; it is very good English.”]

Katherine said, “Dites-moi l’Anglois pour le bras.”

[Katherine said, “Tell me what is the English for le bras.”]

Alice replied, “De arm, madame.”

Katherine asked, “Et[And] le coude?”

Alice replied, “De elbow.”

Katherine said, “De elbow. Je m’en fais la repetition de tous lesmots que vous m’avez appris des a present.”

[Katherine said, “De elbow. I will now repeat all the words you have taught me up until the present.”]

Alice replied, “Il est trop difficile, madame, comme je pense.”

[Alice replied, “That is too difficult, madame, I think.”]

Katherine replied, “Excusez-moi, Alice; ecoutez: de hand, de fingres,de nails, de arma, de bilbow.”

[Katherine replied, “Excuse me, Alice, but you are wrong. Listen: de hand, de fingres,de nails, de arma, de bilbow.”]

Alice said, “De elbow, madame.”

Katherine said, “O, Seigneur Dieu, je m’en oublie! De elbow. Commentappelez-vous le col?”

[Katherine said, “Oh, Lord God, I forgot! De elbow. What do you call le col?]

Alice replied, “De neck, madame.”

Katherine said, “De nick. Et le menton?”

Alice replied, “De chin.”

Katherine said, “De sin. Le colis de nick; dementonis de sin.”

Alice replied, “Oui. Sauf votre honneur, en verite, vous prononcezles mots aussi droit que les natifs d’Angleterre.”

[Alice replied, “Yes. Saving your reverence, truly you pronounce the words as straight as do the natives of England.”]

Katherine said, “Je ne doute point d’apprendre, par la grace de Dieu,et en peu de temps.”

[Katherine said, “I have no doubt that I shall learn English, by the grace of God, and in only a short time.”]

Alice asked, “N’avez vous pas deja oublie ce que je vous ai enseigne?”

[Alice asked, “Haven’t you already forgotten what I taught you?”]

Katherine replied, “Non, je reciterai a vous promptement: de hand, defingres, de mails —”

[Katherine replied, “No, I shall repeat it for you right now: de hand, defingres, de mails —”]

Alice said, “De nails, madame.”

Katherine said, “De nails, de arm, de ilbow.”

Alice said, “Sauf votre honneur, de elbow.”

[Alice said, “If it please your honor, de elbow.”]

Katherine said, “Ainsi dis-je: de elbow, de nick, etde sin. Commentappelez-vous le pied et la robe?”

[Katherine said, “That’s what I said: de elbow, de nick, and de sin. What do you call le pied andla robe?”]

Alice replied, “De foot, madame; et[and] de coun.”

This shocked Katherine. The English word “foot” sounds similar to the French word “foutre,” which means “f**k.” Alice’s word “coun,” by which she meant the English word “gown,” sounds similar to the French word “con,” which means “c*nt.”

Katherine said, “De foot etde coun! O Seigneur Dieu! ce sont mots de son mauvais, corruptible, gros, et impudique, et non pour les dames d’honneur d’user: je ne voudrais prononcer ces mots devant les seigneurs de France pour tout le monde. Foh!Le foot etle coun! Neanmoins, je reciterai une autre fois ma lecon ensemble: de hand, de fingres, de nails, de arm, de elbow, de nick, de sin, de foot, de coun.”

[Katherine said, “De foot and de coun! Oh, Lord God! These words are evil, corrupting, gross, and shameless, and not for an honorable lady to use! I would not say these words in front of French gentlemen for the entire world. Oh! Le foot and le coun! Nevertheless, I will recite all of my lesson again: de hand, de fingres, de nails, de arm, de elbow, de nick, de sin, de foot, de coun.”

Alice said, “Excellent, madame!”

Katherine replied, “C’est assez pour une fois. Allons-nous a diner.”

[Katherine replied, “That is enough for one lesson. Let’s go to dinner.”]


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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