David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s HENRY V: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 8

— 4.8 —

Captain Gower and John Williams were speaking in front of the tent of the King.

John Williams said to Captain Gower, “I think that the King wants to see you in order to make you a Knight.”

In search of Captain Gower, Captain Fluellen, who also believed that the King was going to Knight Captain Gower, arrived and said to him, “By God’s will and His pleasure, Captain, I ask younow to come quickly to the King; there is more good coming to you perhaps than is in your knowledge to dream of.”

John Williams saw the glove displayed on Captain Fluellen’s hat and recognized that it was his glove. He understandably assumed that Captain Fluellen was the man with whom he had quarreled the previous night. He held up the glove that the King had given to him the previous night and said to Captain Fluellen, “Sir, do you recognize this glove?”

“Recognize the glove!” Fluellen said. “I recognize that the glove is a glove.”

“I recognize the glove that you are wearing in your cap,” John Williams said. “I accept your challenge to fight.”

He then hit the glove, which was over Fluellen’s ear. In doing so, he also hit Fluellen.

“By God’s blood!” Fluellen cursed. “You are as arrant a traitor as any traitor in theuniversal world, or in France, or in England!”

Captain Gower was shocked that one of the soldiers serving under him would hit a Captain. He said to John Williams, “What are you doing? Sir, you are a villain!”

John Williams said to Captain Fluellen, “Did you think that I would break my oath to fight you if I saw you with my glove?”

Fluellen said, “Stand back, Captain Gower; I will give this traitor his deserved payment in plows [blows], I promise you.”

John Williams replied, “I am no traitor.”

“That’s a lie in your throat,” Captain Fluellen said. He told the soldiers who had gathered around, “I charge you in his majesty’s name, apprehend him: He’s a friend of the French Duke Alençon’s.”

Warwick and Gloucester now entered the scene.

“What is going on?” Warwick said. “What’s the matter?”

Captain Fluellen replied, “My Lord of Warwick, here is — praised be God for it! — a most contagious and pestilential treason come to light, look you, as you shall desire to see in a summer’s day.”

He looked up and saw King Henry V approaching and added, “Here is his majesty.”

Henry V and Exeter approached the group of men.

Henry V asked, “What’s the matter?”

Captain Fluellen replied, “My liege, here is a villain and a traitor, that, look your grace, has struck the glove that your majesty took off of the helmet of the Duke of Alençon.”

John Williams said, “My liege, this is my glove; here is the other one; and he to whom I gave it in exchange for a glove of his promised to wear it on his cap, and I promised to strike him, if he did. I just now met this man with my glove on his cap, and I have been as good as my word.”

“Your majesty hear now, saving your majesty’s manhood, what an arrant, rascally, beggarly, lousy knave this man is,” Captain Fluellen said. “I hope your majesty will appear on my behalf and give testimony and witness, and will give avouchment, that this is the glove of Alençon, that your majesty is give me, in your conscience, now.”

“Give me your glove, the one you are wearing on your cap, soldier,” Henry V said to John Williams. “Look, here is the fellow of it. These are my gloves. It was I, indeed, whom you promised to strike, and you criticized me with the most bitter terms.”

Captain Fluellen said, “If it please your majesty, let his neck answer for it — hang him — if there is any martial law in the world.”

John Williams was surprised and dismayed. The King could easily give the order to have him hanged, and if the King did give the order, that order would be quickly obeyed. Striking the King — or threatening to strike the King — was definitely cause enough for hanging.

The King asked him, “How can you make things right with me?”

“All offences, my lord, come from the heart,” John Williams said. “Never has anything come from my heart that might offend your majesty.”

“It was ourself you did abuse with language,” the King said.

“Your majesty came not like yourself,” John Williams, now kneeling, said. “You did not look like the King. You appeared to me only as a common man such as myself. Remember that it was night, and that you wore a worn cloak, and you appeared to be a lowly, common soldier. Whatever words your highness suffered while you were in disguise, I beg you take it for your own fault and not mine because if you had been the common soldier whom I took you for, I would have committed no offence; therefore, I beg your highness to pardon me.”

The King gave a glove to Exeter and said, “Here, uncle Exeter, fill this glove with gold coins, and give it to this man.”

He then said to John Williams, who stood up, “Keep this glove, soldier; and wear it in your cap to show others that you have challenged the King himself.”

He joked, “Wear this glove on your cap until I answer the challenge.”

He said to Exeter, “Give him the crowns.”

Finally, he said to Captain Fluellen, “Captain, you must become friends with this soldier.”

Captain Fluellen said, “By this day and this light, the fellow has mettle and courage enough in his belly. Wait, here is twelve pence more for you; and I pray you to serve Got [God], and keep yourself out of prawls [brawls], and prabbles [brabbles, aka petty arguments] and quarrels, and dissensions, and, I warrant you, it is the better for you.”

“I want none of your money,” John Williams said.

“I give it to you with a good will,” Captain Fluellen said. “I can tell you, it will serve you to mend your shoes. Come, take the money. Why should you be so pashful [bashful]? Your shoes is not so good: it is a good silling [shilling], I warrant you, or I will exchange it for one that is good.”

John Williams took the money.

An English herald arrived.

Henry V asked him, “Now, herald, have the dead been counted?”

“Here is the number of the slaughtered French,” the herald said, handing the King a piece of paper.

Looking at the paper, the King asked Exeter, “What prisoners of noble birth have we taken, uncle?”

Exeter replied, “Charles Duke of Orleans, nephew to the King; John Duke of Bourbon, and Lord Bouciqualt. Of other lords and Barons, Knights and squires, in total fifteen hundred, besides common men.”

Henry V said, “This paper tells me that ten thousand French soldiers lie slain in the field. Of this number, Princes and nobles bearing banners with a coat of arms, there lie dead one hundred and twenty-six. In addition, the number of Knights, esquires, and gallant gentlemen who lie dead are eight thousand and four hundred — five hundred of these men were only yesterday dubbed Knights. In these ten thousand men they have lost, there are only sixteen hundred paid soldiers; the rest are Princes, Barons, lords, Knights, squires, and gentlemen of good birth and breeding.

“Here are the names of their nobles who lie dead: Charles Delabreth, High Constable of France; Jaques of Chatillon, admiral of France; the master of the cross-bows, Lord Rambures; the Great Master of France, the brave Sir Guichard Dolphin, John Duke of Alençon; Anthony Duke of Brabant, the brother of the Duke of Burgundy; and Edward Duke of Bar.

“Here are the names of their powerful Earls who lie dead: Grandpré and Roussi, Fauconberg and Foix, Beaumont and Marle, Vaudemont and Lestrale.

“Here was a royal fellowship of death!

“Where is the number of our English dead?”

The herald gave him another paper.

Henry V read, “The Duke of York, the Earl of Suffolk, Sir Richard Ketly, and Davy Gam, esquire — no one else of high rank, and the other casualties number only twenty-five.”

Before the battle, Henry V had sent Davy Gam to scout the number of enemy soldiers. Davy Gam had reported, “May it please you, my liege, there are enough to be killed, enough to be taken prisoners, and enough to run away.”

Henry V said, “Oh, God, Your arm was here; and not to us, but to Your arm alone, we owe this victory!

“When, without stratagem, but in straight attack, army against army, and with fair play in battle, was ever known so great loss on one part and so little loss on the other? Take all the credit for this victory, God, because it belongs to You!”

King Henry V was modest here. The English longbows had proved to be superior weapons in the battle, and the King had devised stratagems to make very effective use of his archers.

“This victory is wonderful!” Exeter said.

“Come, let’s make a procession to the village near the castle of Agincourt. I now order — on pain of death — all of our soldiers to not boast about this victory. The credit for this victory belongs to God, and only to God, and I will not have any soldier take the praise that belongs only to God.”

Captain Fluellen asked, “Isn’t it lawful and permitted, if it please your majesty, to tell how many soldiers have been killed?”

“Yes, it is, Captain Fluellen,” Henry V said, “but only with this acknowledgement: God fought for us.”

“Yes, by my conscience, He did us great good,” Captain Fluellen said.

Henry V said, “Let us perform all the religious rites. Let the psalms ‘Non Nobis’ and ‘Te Deum’ be sung. We will enclose the dead in clay — bury them — with Christian charity, and then we will go to Calais and then to England. Never from France have happier men come to England.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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