David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s HENRY V: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene 5

— 3.5 —

In a room of the French palace, the King of France, his son the Dauphin, the Duke of Bourbon, the Constable of France, and other high-ranking officials were meeting to discuss King Henry V’s victory at Harfleur and his tactical withdrawal to Calais.

The King of France said, “It is certain that he has passed the Somme River.”

The Somme River is halfway between Harfleur and Calais.

The Constable said, “If we don’t fight him, my lord, let us not live in France; let us all give up and give our vineyards to a barbarous people.”

The Dauphin said, “Oh, Dieu vivant! [Oh, living God!] These Englishmen area few sprays — offshoots and ejaculations — of us French. They shot up from what our fathers emptied out of their lustful bodies when they — our Norman ancestors — invaded and conquered England in 1066. These Englishmen are our ancestors’ scions — they are sprigs that were grafted onto wild and savage stock. Shall they shoot up so suddenly into the clouds and look down on us, who are descended from the people who grafted them?”

Bourbon said, “They are Normans, they are only the bastards of the Normans who conquered them and then slept with their women, they are Norman bastards! Mort de ma vie! [Death of my life!] If they march along without our engaging them in battle, I will sell my Dukedom and buy a wet and slimy farm in that misshapen isle of Albion, aka England, Scotland, and Wales.”

The Constable said, “Dieu de batailles! [God of battles!] Where has the English army gotten this courage and spirit? Is not their climate foggy, raw, and dull, and does not the Sun, as if in despite, look pale as it looks down on them and kills their fruit with frowns? Can ale, their barley-broth, which is no better than boiled water, and which is a medicinal drink for hard-ridden horses of inferior breed, infuse and warm up their cold blood to such valiant heat? And shall our quick blood, spirited with wine, seem frosty? Hot blood is courageous blood. Oh, for the honor of our land, let us not be like icicles hanging from our houses’ roofs, while a more frosty people are ready to sweat drops of gallant youth in our rich fields of battle! But we should call our fields poor because of the lack of quality in the lords they have bred.”

The Dauphin said, “By my faith and honor,our ladies mock us, and plainly saythat our spirit has been bred out of us and that therefore they will givetheir bodies to the lust of English youth to newly restock France with bastard warriors.”

Bourbon said, “They tell us to go to the English dancing-schools and teach the high jumps in the lavolta dances and the swift running steps in the coranto dances; they say that our grace is only in our heels, and that we are most lofty runaways — they say that we are nobly born men who swiftly run away from battles.”

“Where is Montjoy the herald?” the King of France asked. “Bring him here quickly. Let him greet the King of England with our sharp defiance. Up, Princes, and with your honorable spirit of honor more sharply edged than your swords, hurry to the battlefield! Charles Delabreth, High Constable of France; you Dukes of Orleans, Bourbon, and of Berri, Alençon, Brabant, Bar, and Burgundy; Jaques Chatillon, Rambures, Vaudemont, Beaumont, Grandpré, Roussi, and Fauconberg, Foix, Lestrale, Bouciqualt, and Charolois; high Dukes, great Princes, Barons, lords and Knights, for the sake of your great positions and family-seats, clear yourselves of great shames. Stop Harry England, who sweeps through our land with battle flags and streamers painted with the blood of the French soldiers at Harfleur. Rush against his army just like the melted snow avalanches upon the valleys, whose low vassal seat the Alps spit and empty their phlegm upon. Go against him — you have power enough — defeat and capture him, and bring him as your prisoner in a captive’s military carriage to the city of Rouen.”

The Constable said, “This command is appropriate for your greatness, King of France. I am sorry that the number of Henry V’s soldiers is so few and that his soldiers are sick and famished in their march because I am sure that when Henry V sees our French army, he will drop his heart into his stomach out of fear and offer us a ransom not to attack his army and him.”

The King of France replied, “Therefore, Lord Constable, order Montjoy to quickly go and let him say to Harry England that we send to know what ransom he will willingly give to us.”

He added, “Prince Dauphin, you shall stay with us in Rouen.”

The Dauphin objected, “Please, no, your majesty.”

“Be patient, for you shall remain with us,” the King of France ordered.

He then ordered, “Now go forth, Constable and all you Princes, and quickly bring us word that Henry V’s pride has fallen without a battle or that his army has fallen in battle.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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