David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s HENRY V: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 4-6

— 4.4 —

On the battlefield, Pistol was ferociously taking a frightened French soldier prisoner. The Boy was with them.

Pistol shouted, “Surrender, you dog!”

The French soldier replied, “Je pense que vous etes gentilhomme de bonne qualite. [I think you are a gentleman of good quality and high rank.]”

Pistol replied, “Qualtitie calmie custure me!”

Pistol, who was poor in French, wanted to know the French soldier’s quality, aka social class. If the French soldier were highborn, then Pistol would be able to get a high ransom for him. Pistol had meant to say, “Quel titre comme accoster me!” This is French, more or less, for, “What title as accost me?” It asks, more or less, what Pistol was most interested in learning the answer to; of course, Pistol being Pistol, he mispronounced the words, of which he had little understanding.

He added in English, “Are you a gentleman? What is your name? Discuss.”

Seigneur Dieu! [Lord God!]” the French soldier replied.

Thinking that the French soldiers had stated his name, Pistol said, “Signieur Dew must be a gentleman. Perpend my words, Signieur Dew, and note them: Signieur Dew, you will die at the end of my sword, unless, Signieur, you give to me egregious ransom.”

As usual, Pistol was using extravagant language.

Prenez misericorde! Ayez pitie de moi! [Have mercy! Take pity on me!]” the French soldier said.

Hearingmoiand thinking that it was perhaps a French coin or a French version of the word “moiety,” which means a lesser share, or sometimes half, Pistol said, “Moyshall not serve. I will have forty moys, or I will reach down your throat, grab your insides, and pull them out through your throat along with drops of crimson blood.”

Est-il impossible d’echapper la force de ton bras? [Is it impossible to escape the force of your arm?]” the French soldier said.

Hearingbras, French for arm, and thinking that it meant a brass coin, Pistol said, “Brass, you dog! You damned and overly sexed mountain goat, are you offering to give me brass coins as a ransom?”

Pardonnez moi! [Forgive me!]”

“What are you saying?” Pistol asked. “A tun [barrel] of moys?”

He then said to the Boy, “Come here, Boy. Ask this slave in French what his name is.”

The Boy said, “Ecoutez: comment etes-vous appele? [Listen to me: What is your name?].”

Monsieur le Fer.”

Feris French for “iron.”

The Boy said, “He says his name is Master Fer.”

“Master Fer!” Pistol said. “I’ll fer him, and firk [beat] him, and ferret [torment] him. Discuss the same in French to him.”

“I do not know the French for ‘fer,’ and ‘ferret,’ and ‘firk.’”

Pistol replied, “Tell him to prepare to die because I will cut his throat.”

The French soldier asked the Boy, “Que dit-il, monsieur? [What is he saying, Master?”]

The Boy replied, “Il me commande de vous dire que vous faites vous pret; car ce soldat ici est dispose tout a cette heure de couper votre gorge.[He is ordering me to tell you to prepare to die because he intends to cut your throat right now.]”

Pistol said, “Owy, cuppele gorge, permafoy.”

Owyis Pistol’s bad French for oui, or “yes.” Cuppele gorgeis Pistol’s bad French for couper la gorge, or “cut the throat.” Permafoyis Pistol’s French for per ma foi, or “on my faith.”

Pistol added, “Peasant, unless you give me crowns, brave crowns, I will mangle you with my sword.”

The French soldier said, “Je vous supplie, pour l’amour de Dieu, me pardonner! Je suis gentilhomme de bonne maison: gardez ma vie, et je vous donnerai deux cents ecus. [I beg you, for the love of God, pardon me! I am a gentleman of good family: Save my life, and I will give you two hundred crowns.]”

Pistol asked the Boy, “What are his words?”

“He begs you to save his life. He says that he is a gentleman of a good house, and for his ransom he will give you two hundred crowns.”

“Tell him my fury shall abate, and I his crowns will take.”

Petit monsieur, que dit-il? [Little man, what did he say?]” the French soldier asked.

The Boy replied, “Encore qu’il est contre son jurement de pardoner aucun prisonnier, neanmoins, pour les ecus que vous l’avez promis, il est content de vous donner la liberte, le franchisement. [Although it is against his oath not to pardon any prisoners, he is nevertheless willing to accept the crowns you have offered him and to give you your liberty, your freedom.]”

The French soldier said, “Sur mes genoux je vous donne mille remercimens; et je m’estime heureux que je suis tombe entre les mains d’un chevalier, je pense, le plus brave, vaillant, et tres distingue seigneur d’Angleterre. [On my knees, I thank you a thousand times, and I consider myself fortunate to have been captured by a gentleman whom I believe is the bravest, most valiant, and most distinguished nobleman of England.]”

“Expound what he said to me, boy,” Pistol ordered.

“He gives you, upon his knees, a thousand thanks,” the Boy said, “and he esteems himself happy that he has fallen into the hands of a man who he thinks is the bravest, most valorous, and worthiest Signieur of England.”

“As I suck blood, I will show some mercy to him,” Pistol said.

Pistol spoke truly. He had come to France to suck blood like a leech. He had come to France to make money, not to gain honor.

Pistol said to his prisoner, “Follow me!”

The Boy said to the prisoner, “Suivez-vous le grand capitaine. [Follow the great Captain.]”

Pistol and his prisoner departed, leaving the Boy alone, who said to himself, “I have never known so loud a voice to come from so empty a heart — Pistol is a coward. But this saying is true: ‘The empty vessel makes the greatest sound.’ Bardolph and Nym had ten times more courage than Pistol, who is like the roaring Devil in the old morality plays. The Devil roars, and yet in the plays everyone is able to cut his fingernails with a wooden dagger. Although Bardolph and Nym had ten times more courage than Pistol, they are both hanged. Pistol would also be hanged if he dared to steal anything with any kind of spirit at all — he is the pettiest of petty thieves.

“I must stay with the other servants with the baggage in our camp. The French soldiers would have an easy time attacking the camp if they were to do it because there is no one to guard the camp except us boys.”

— 4.5 —

In another part of the battlefield, the Constable, Orleans, Bourbon, the Dauphin, and Rambures were shocked by how well the English army was fighting. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the English army was routing the French army.

The Constable said, “Oh, Diable! [Oh, Hell!]”

Orleans said, “Oh,Seigneur! Le jour est perdu, tout est perdu! [Oh, Lord God! The day is lost — everything is lost!]”

The Dauphin said, “Mort de ma vie! [Death of my life!] All is confounded, all!Reproach and everlasting shame sit mocking in the plumes of our helmets! Oh, merchante fortune! [Oh, evil fortune!]”

He added, “Do not run away.”

The Constable said, “Why, all our ranks are broken.”

“Oh, everlasting shame,” the Dauphin said. “Let’s stab and kill ourselves.Can these be the wretches that we used as stakes when we gambled with dice?”

“Is this the King we sent a herald to, to ask about his ransom?” Orleans said.

“Shame and eternal shame, nothing but shame!” Bourbon said.“Let us die with honor. Let us go back to fight once more. And anyone who will not follow Bourbon and fight now, let him go from here, and with his cap in his hand,like a base panderer, let him stand by the bedroom door while his most beautiful daughter is raped by a slave who has no better ancestors than my dog!”

“Disorder, which has ruined us, be our friend now!” the Constable said. “We were disorganized and so we lost the battle. Now let us go into the disorder of the battle among the heaps of dead and lose our own lives.”

“We have enough soldiers yet living in the battlefield that we could smother and defeat the English soldiers with our throngs of men,” Orleans said, “if we could bring any order to our troops.”

“The Devil take order now!” Bourbon said. “I’ll go to the throng of men, fight, and die. Let my life be short, or else shame will live too long.”

They returned to the battle.

— 4.6 —

In another part of the battlefield, King Henry V, Exeter, some English soldiers, and others were meeting. They knew that the battle was going well, but they did not know how well. Exeter had news to give to the King.

Henry V said, “We have fought well, most valiant countrymen, but we are not yet done fighting. The French army is still on the battlefield.”

Exeter said, “The Duke of York commends him to your majesty.”

“Is he still alive, good uncle?” Henry V asked. “Three times within this hourI saw him down; three times I saw him rise up again and fight, although he was bloody from his helmet to his spurs.”

Exeter replied, “And in such bloody garb just as you described him, that brave soldier lies and enriches the ground with his blood, and by his bloody side, with similar wounds that give him honor, the noble Earl of Suffolk also lies. Suffolk died first, and York, hacked all over, went to him, where he lay soaked in blood and lifted his head and kissed the bloody gashes that opened wide in his face, and cried aloud, ‘Wait, dear kinsman Suffolk! My soul shall keep your soul company as we journey to Heaven. Wait, sweet soul, for my soul, and then we can fly to Heaven side by side just as in this glorious and well-fought battle we kept together as brother-Knights!’

“Hearing these words, I went to him and comforted him. He smiled at me, reached his hand out to me, and, with a feeble grip, said, ‘My dear lord, commend my service to my sovereign.’

“He then turned and over Suffolk’s neck he threw his wounded arm and kissed Suffolk’s lips, and knowing that he was married to death, with his red blood he sealed a final testament of noble-ending love. His final act as he died a noble death was to confirm the love he had for Suffolk.

“The noble and sweet manner of his final act forced those waters from me that I would have stopped — I cried. I had not so much of man and stoical masculinity in me as would have stopped those tears. Instead, all the emotions I inherited from my mother welled up in my eyes and tears trickled down my cheeks.”

“I don’t blame you for crying,” Henry V said, “because, hearing your story, I am forced to wipe my eyes, or tears will also trickle down my cheeks.”

War trumpets sounded.

Hearing them, King Henry V said, “What new call to arms is this? The French have reinforced and organized their scattered men. I now give the order for every English soldier to kill his French prisoners. Communicate this order to my soldiers.”

King Henry V was afraid that he did not have enough soldiers both to fight the French army and to guard the French prisoners. He believed that it was necessary to kill the French prisoners so that more English soldiers would be available to fight the French army.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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