David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s HENRY V: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 7

— 4.7 —

As the Boy had said, the French soldiers were able to easily raid the English camp because only boys were guarding it. However, the French soldiers had done more than loot the belongings of the English soldiers; they had killed the boys who were supposed to be guarding it. The Boy was now dead.

Captain Fluellen said to Captain Gower, “Kill the poys [boys] and the luggage! It is expressly against the law of arms . It is as arrant [complete] a piece of knavery, mark you now, as can be offered. In your conscience, now, don’t you agree?”

Captain Gower replied, “It is certain there’s not a boy left alive, and the cowardly rascals who ran from the battle have done this slaughter; in addition, they have burned and carried away all that was in the King’s tent. For this reason, the King, most deservedly, has caused every soldier to cut his prisoner’s throat. Henry V is a gallant King!”

Captain Gower was wrong about Henry V’s reason for cutting the French prisoners’ throats.

Captain Fluellen said, “Ay, Henry V was porn [born] at Monmouth, Captain Gower. What call you the town’s name where Alexander the Pig [Big] was born!”

You mean Alexander the Great,” Captain Gower replied.

“Why, let me ask you, is not pig [big] the same thing as great?” Fluellen said, “The pig [big], or the great, or the mighty, or the huge, or the magnanimous, are all one reckonings [all the same thing], except the phrase is a little variations [except the wording is a little different].”

Captain Gower said, “I think Alexander the Great was born in the country of Macedon; his father was called Philip of Macedon, as I remember it.”

Fluellen agreed: “I think it is in Macedon where Alexander is porn [born]. I tell you, Captain, if you look in the maps of the world, I warrant you shall find, in the comparisons between Macedon and Monmouth, that the situations, look you, is both alike. There is a river in Macedon, and there is also moreover a river at Monmouth: It is called Wye at Monmouth; but it is out of my prains [brains; it is out of my brains = I can’t remember] what is the name of the other river; but it is all one — the two rivers are as alike as my fingers are to my fingers, and there is salmon in both rivers.

“If you look at Alexander’s life well, Harry of Monmouth’s life follows it very closely; for there are comparisons and parallels in all things.

“Alexander, God knows, and you know, in his rages, and his furies, and his wraths, and his cholers, and his moods, and his displeasures, and his indignations, and also being a little intoxicated in his prains [brains], did, in his ales and his angers [while intoxicated and angry], look you, kill his best friend, Cleitus.”

“Our King is not like him in that,” Captain Gower said. “He never killed any of his friends.”

Bardolph was dead, hung after disobeying one of Henry V’s orders, but Captain Gower did not regard Bardolph as the King’s friend.

Fluellen replied, “It is not well done, look you, now to take the tale out of my mouth before it is made and finished. I speak only about the figures and comparisons of it: Just as Alexander killed his friend Cleitus, being in his ales and his cups; so also Harry Monmouth, being in his right wits and his good judgments, turned away the fat Knight with the great belly-doublet — his belly stuffed his jacket. His fat friend was full of jests, and gipes [gibes], and knaveries, and mocks; I have forgotten his name.”

“Sir John Falstaff,” Captain Gower said.

“That is he,” Captain Fluellen said. “I’ll tell you there is good men porn [born] at Monmouth.”

“Here comes his majesty,” Captain Gower said.

King Henry V and several soldiers arrived, along with Warwick, Gloucester, Exeter, and others.

Henry V, who had just heard about the boys at the English camp being murdered, said, “I was not angry since I came to France until I became angry at this instant. Take a trumpet, herald, and ride to the French horsemen on yonder hill. If they are willing to fight with us, tell them to come down from the hill and fight. If they are not willing to fight, tell them to leave the battlefield because they offend our sight.

“If they’ll neither fight nor leave, we will come to them, and make them scurry away as swiftly as the stones forcibly thrown from the ancient Assyrians’ slings. In addition, we will cut the throats of these new prisoners we have taken, and not a man of them whom we shall defeat shall taste our mercy. Go and tell them so.”

An English herald exited.

Montjoy, the main French herald, entered.

Exeter said, “Here comes the herald of the French, my liege.”

Gloucester observed, “His eyes are humbler than they used to be.”

“Well!” Henry V said. “What do you want, herald? You already know that I named as my ransom these bones of mine. Have you come to me again to ask me to ransom myself?”

“No, great King,” Montjoy said. “I come to you for charitable and Christian permission for we French to wander over this bloody battlefield to look for our dead, and then to bury them. We want to sort our nobles from our common men because many of our Princes — so many! — lie drowned and soaked in the blood of soldiers we paid to fight for us. Our common soldiers drench their peasant limbs with the blood of Princes; and their wounded steeds fret fetlock deep in gore and with wild rage kick out their armed heels at their dead masters, killing them twice. Oh, give us leave, great King, to view the field in safety and dispose of our soldiers’ dead bodies!”

Henry V said, “I tell you truly, herald, that I do not know whether we have won the battle or not because many of your horsemen still gallop over the battlefield.”

“The day is yours,” Montjoy said. “You have won the battle.”

“Praised be God, and not our strength, for it!” Henry V said. “What is the name of this castle that stands nearby?”

“They call it Agincourt,” Montjoy replied.

“Then we call this the battlefield of Agincourt,” Henry V said. “We have fought and won the Battle of Agincourt on the feast day of Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian.”

Captain Fluellen said to the King, “Your great-grandfather of famous memory, if it please your majesty, and your great-uncle Edward the Plack [Black] Prince of Wales, as I have read in the chronicles, fought a most prave pattle [brave battle] here in France.”

“They did, Fluellen.”

“Your majesty says very truly,” Fluellen said. “If your majesty is remembered of it, the Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their knitted round caps from Monmouth, Wales — leeks, your majesty knows, to this hour are an honorable badge of the service because they are worn by many soldiers, and I do believe your majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon Saint Tavy’s [Davy’s, aka David’s] day.”

Henry V thought, “… did good service in a garden where leeks did grow” sounds like the Welshmen ate a lot in the garden, but Fluellen means that the Welshmen did good military service.

Henry V said, “I wear the leek for a memorable honor because I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.”

“All the water in Wye River cannot wash your majesty’s Welsh plood [blood] out of your pody [body], I can tell you that: God pless [bless] it and preserve it, as long as it pleases His grace, and his majesty, too!”

“Thanks, my good countryman.”

“By Jeshu [Jesus], I am your majesty’s countryman,” Fluellen said. “I care not who knows it; I will confess it to all the world: I need not be ashamed of your majesty, praised be God, as long as your majesty is an honest man.”

“May God keep me honest!” Henry V said.

John Williams walked up to the group. He was one of the common soldiers whom Henry V, while incognito, had talked to before the battle. John Williams had criticized him, and the two had exchanged tokens — gloves. The two men were supposed to attach the gloves to their caps after the battle, if they survived. If either man were to recognize his glove, the two men had pledged to fight each other. John Williams had attached the King’s glove to his cap. But Henry V had not attached John Williams’ glove to his cap.

King Henry V ordered some of his men, “Our heralds will now go with Montjoy. Bring me accurate numbers of the dead of both armies.”

The English heralds and Montjoy departed.

Henry V noticed John Williams, pointed to him, and said, “Call yonder man here.”

Exeter said to John Williams, “Soldier, you must come to the King.”

When John Williams had come closer, Henry asked him, “Soldier, why are you wearing that glove in your cap?”

“If it please your majesty, it is the gage of one whom I will fight, if he is still alive now that the battle has ended. I am wearing his glove, and if he dares to acknowledge that it is his, then he and I will fight.”

“An Englishman?” the King asked.

“If it please your majesty, he is a rascal who swaggered and blustered and quarreled with me last night; and if he is alive and dares to acknowledge that this glove is his, I have sworn to hit him on the ear. Or if I can see my glove in his cap, which he swore, as he was a soldier, he would wear if he were still alive after the battle, I will knock it off.”

“What do you think, Captain Fluellen?” Henry V asked. “Is it fitting that this soldier keep his oath?”

“He is a craven coward and a villain else, if it please your majesty, according to my conscience,” Fluellen replied.

“Perhaps his enemy is a high-ranking gentleman who because of his status cannot fight a common soldier,” Henry V said.

“Though he be as good a gentleman as the Devil is — and the Devil is thought to be in some sense a gentleman — as good a gentleman as Lucifer and Beelzebub himself, it is necessary, look your grace, that he keep his vow and his oath,” Captain Fluellen said. “If he perjures himself, see you now, his reputation is as arrant a villain and a Jack Sauce [saucy Jack, or saucy fellow, aka rascal and saucebox], as ever his black shoe trod upon God’s ground and his earth, in my conscience.”

The King told John Williams, “Then keep your vow, young man, when you meet the man whose glove you are wearing.”

“So I will, my liege,” John Williams said. “I am alive, I survived the battle, and I will keep my promise to fight him.”

“Under whom do you serve?” Henry V asked.

“Under Captain Gower, my liege.”

“Captain Gower is a good Captain, and he has a good knowledge of and is well read in military history,” Captain Fluellen said.

Henry V said to John Williams, “Go to him and tell him to come to me, soldier.”

“I will, my liege.”

He departed.

King Henry V then said, “Here, Fluellen; wear this token — this glove — for me. Attach it to your cap.”

Henry V handed him John Williams’ glove.

He then added, “When the Duke of Alençon and I were fighting, I plucked this glove from his helmet. If any man recognizes this glove and wants to fight you, he is a friend to the Duke of Alençon and he is an enemy to our person. If you encounter any such person, arrest him, if you support me.”

“Your grace does me as great honors as can be desired in the hearts of his subjects,” Fluellen said. “I would like to see any man with two legs who shall think himself aggrieved by this glove — that is all I can say. I would like to see it once, if it please God of His grace that I might see him.”

“Do you know Captain Gower?” Henry V asked.

“He is my dear friend, if it please you,” Fluellen said.

“Please, go and find him, and bring him to my tent,” Henry V said.

“I will fetch him.”

Fluellen departed to find Captain Gower.

Henry V then said, “My Lord of Warwick, and my brother Gloucester, follow Fluellen closely at his heels. The glove that I have just given him may perhaps get him a blow on his ear. This glove belongs to the soldier John Williams. According to the agreement I made with him, I should wear it myself, but I want to play a joke. I have arranged it so that Fluellen and John Williams will meet at my tent.

“Follow Fluellen, good kinsman Warwick. If the soldier John Williams strikes him, as I judge by his blunt bearing he will keep his word to do so, some sudden harm — bloodshed — may arise from it because I know that Fluellen is valiant, and when he is touched by anger the way that a cannon is touched by a match that fires it, then he is as hot as gunpowder, and he will quickly pay back an insult. Follow Fluellen and see that no harm comes to him and the common soldier.”

He then said, “Come with me, uncle of Exeter. Let’s go to my tent and witness the fun.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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