Scene 1 – France. Before Harfleur.
King Henry in line one addresses his army as friends. He does this to enforce a feeling of oneness, comrades in arms. These early lines give a feeling that the King does not want to give a sense of distance between himself and his subjects, either by his feelings or protocol of Royal superiority. Consequently he addresses his listeners in such a fashion so as to generate a feeling of everyone being a bosom of family friends.
King Henrys words serve to reinforce the men with the feeling that they are all acting as one, all fighting for the same thing and each running the same risks of potential maiming or death from the warring foe.
In line two, King Henry suggests that if they, the living, cannot defend the breach, then the bodies of their slaughtered could be physically packed into this area and so protect a weak spot. Whilst this conjures up macabre images, I believe he is showing them, that not only in life, but even after death, their soldiers could still be called upon to contribute towards their cause. Their glory, value and worth would prolong even after death.
King Henry speaks evocatively to the men as he describes in lines five, six and seven, that when the
Blast of war blows in their ears.
The men must imitate the action of the tiger (simile). He tells them to
Stiffen their sinews, and conjure up the blood.
Each will hold a mental picture of a hungry tiger stealthily tightening its muscles in preparation for an instantaneous response by every muscle fibre in its body, when they are called upon to be a bastion of strength and endurance in its attack on its prey.
In line eight, Henry V asks them to hide their normal quiet nature and to adopt a rage. I believe that he is drawing attention to the fact that he believes that the English are peace loving people, but whom, when asked to protect their country and life, can fight as strong and even stronger than any warring foe.
Henry goes on to give them instructions and enticement to be forceful, focused and purposeful in their attack.
Lines fifteen and sixteen, he tells them to
Set the teeth and stretch the nostrils wide,
he wants them to look wild and fearful and to bring every emotional and physical strength to power.
In line seventeen, he addresses the men as
Henry means they are distinguished, by their deeds, character, rank and birth. They are a class holding special rank. Their strength and character has been born into them by their English fore fathers, where only the strong and valiant survived. They have inherited their fore fathers mettle. He likens their fore fathers to Alexander the Great, an English King whom was a conqueror of other nations, fetes which were accomplished by strength and intelligence. He is attempting to make the men feel proud of them selves and from whom they were born. He is injecting them with not only personal pride and belief, but also belief and pride in their ability to win, individually and together. They will fell proud of their fore fathers achievements and will want to maintain their English freedom and rule as they know it and their fathers before them.
Henry reinforces the importance of their need to respect their for fathers memories and achievements and not to let themselves down. In line twenty two, he says,
In other words they must not act cowardly, they must not be afraid and fight with pride and honour. They must bear witness to their parents lest they be disgraced.
Henry wants them to leave their normal fair nature and in line twenty four, he asks them to mimic the foe, men whom he calls of grosser breed. He knows they are good yeomen of good English stock, whom have the strength, courage and ability to conquer the enemy those of a lesser breed.
In lines thirty one and two, simili is brought into effect again. The men are likened to greyhounds in slips, straining upon the start. You are able to visualise the dogs having the scent of the hare, straining to be let loose to give chase. When finally the gates of the slips are lifted the dogs will rush forward to commence their game of war on the hare. So too, the soldiers are just waiting with eager anticipation for the command to attack to be given, when they, like the dogs, will be set free to commence their game of war on their enemy.