Henry the Fifth

William Shakespeare

Henry the Fifth feels less like one continuous play and more like a string of peered-in-upon vignettes. A generous three fourths of these vignettes progress the plot. The remaining parts of the play, like the French Dauphin’s horse bragging scene and Princess Katherine’s completely-in-French English lesson scene, read like afterthoughts spliced into the play as some sort of inside joke.

Even among the plot advancing scenes the audience gets strange, probably unnecessary details that crowd out the action like the ethnically charged banter of the various military captains. Henry himself certainly provides some direction, but with Falstaff dead Henry is no longer lovable Hal. He’s a boring, detached king, like his father before him and Richard before his father. The play ends with a roughly thrown together love interest and an epilogue that admits future insecurities. Maybe the ethnic humor and the unnecessary horse play were Shakespeare’s attempt to make this play entertaining; I’m not sure the play deserves such an adjective.