The Life of Henry the Fifth, William Shakespeare
The Life of Henry the Fifth
William Shakespeare
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Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written near 1599. It tells the story of King Henry V of England, focusing on events immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt (1415) during the Hundred Years' War. In the First Quarto text, it was titled The Cronicle History of Henry the fift, which became The Life of Henry the Fifth in the First Folio text.

Henry the Fifth

William Shakespeare

Enter Prologue.

O! For a Muse of Fire, that would ascend
The brightest Heaven of Invention;
A Kingdome for a Stage, Princes to Act,
And Monarchs to behold the swelling Scene.
Then should the Warlike Harry, like himselfe,
Assume the Port of Mars; and at his heeles
(Leasht in, like Hounds) should Famine, Sword, and Fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, Gentles all:
The flat unraysed Spirits, that hath dar’d,
On this unworthy Scaffold, to bring forth
So great an Object: Can this Cock-Pit hold
The vastie fields of France? Or may we cramme
Within this Woodden O, the very Caskes
That did affright the Ayre at Agincourt?
O pardon! since a crooked Figure may
Attest in little place a Million;
And let us, Cyphers to this great Accompt,
On your imaginarie Forces worke.
Suppose within the Girdle of these Walls
Are now confin’d two mightie Monarchies,
Whose high, up-reared, and abutting Fronts,
The perillous narrow Ocean parts asunder:
Peece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide one Man,
And make imaginarie Puissance;
Thinke when we talke of Horses, that you see them
Printing their prowd Hoofes i’th’ receiving Earth;
For ‘tis your thoughts that now must deck our Kings,
Carry them here and there: Jumping o’re Times;
Turning th’ accomplishment of many yeeres
Into an Howre-glasse: for the which supplie,
Admit me Chorus to this Historie;
Who Prologue-like, your humble patience pray,
Gently to heare, kindly to judge our Play.

                                       Actus Primus. Scoena Prima.     

SCENE I. - London. An Antechamber in the King's Palace.

Enter the Archbishop of CANTERBURY and the Bishop of ELY

Bish.Cant. My Lord, Ile tell you; that selfe Bill is urged,
Which in th’ eleventh yere of y last Kings reign
Was like, and had indeed against us past,
But that the scambling and unquiet time
Did push it out of farther question

Bish.Ely. But how my Lord shall we resist it now?

Bish.Cant. It must be thought on: if it passe against us,
We loose the better halfe of our Possession;
For all the Temporall Lands, which men devout
By Testament have given to the Church,
Would they strip from us; being valu’d thus,
As much as would maintaine, to the Kings honor,
Full fifteene Earles, and fifteene hundred Knights,
Six thousand and two hundred good Esquires:
And to reliefe of Lazars, and weake age
Of indigent faint Soules, past corporall toyle,
A hundred Almes-houses, right well supply’d:
And to the Coffers of the King beside,
A thousand pounds by th’ yeere. Thus runs the Bill

Bish.Ely. This would drinke deepe

Bish.Cant. ‘Twould drinke the Cup and all

Bish.Ely. But what prevention?
Bish.Cant. The King is full of grace, and faire regard

Bish. Ely. And a true lover of the holy Church

Bish.Cant. The courses of his youth promis’d it not.
The breath no sooner left his Fathers body,
But that his wildnesse, mortify’d in him,
Seem’d to dye too: yea, at that very moment,
Consideration like an Angell came,
And whipt th’ offending Adam out of him;
Leaving his body as a Paradise,
T’ invelop and containe Celestiall Spirits.
Never was such a sodaine Scholler made;
Never came Reformation in a Flood,
With such a heady currance scowring faults:
Nor never Hidra-headed Wilfulnesse
So soone did loose his Seat; and all at once;
As in this King.

Bish.Ely. We are blessed in the Change

Bish.Cant. Heare him but reason in Divinitie;
And all-admiring, with an inward wish
You would desire the King were made a Prelate:
Heare him debate of Common-wealth Affaires,
You would say, it hath been all in all his study:
List his discourse of Warre; and you shall heare
A fearefull Battaile rendred you in Musique:
Turne him to any Cause of Pollicy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his Garter: that when he speakes,
The Ayre, a Charter’d Libertine, is still,
And the mute Wonder lurketh in mens eares,
To steale his sweet and honyed Sentences;
So that the Art and Practique part of Life,
Must be the Mistresse to this Theorique:
Which is a wonder how his Grace should gleane it,
Since his addiction was to Courses vaine;
His Companies unletter’d, rude, and shallow;
His Houres fill’d up with Ryots, Banquets, Sports;
And never noted in him any studie,
Any retyrement, any sequestration,
From open Haunts and Popularitie.

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