Henry V

by: William Shakespeare

Important Quotations Explained

1
And tell the pleasant Prince this mock of his
Hath turned his balls to gunstones, and his soul
Shall stand sore chargèd for the wasteful vengeance
That shall fly from them—for many a thousand widows
Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands,
Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down;
. . .
But this lies all within the will of God,
To whom I do appeal, and in whose name
Tell you the Dauphin I am coming on
To venge me as I may, and to put forth
My rightful hand in a well-hallowed cause.
          (I.ii.281293)

This passage is part of Henry’s response to the messenger who delivers the crate of tennis balls that the Dauphin offers as a mocking reminder of Henry’s irresponsible and wayward youth. With an icy, menacing wrath, Henry turns the Dauphin’s jest on its head, threatening the messenger with a promise to treat the fields of France like a tennis court and play a game for the Dauphin’s father’s crown.

In his repeated insistence that the Dauphin’s jest will be responsible for the terrible carnage that he will bring to France (the Dauphin will “[m]ock mothers from their sons”), Henry indulges in an early instance of casting responsibility for his actions away from himself and onto his enemies. By claiming to come to France in the name of God and by telling the Dauphin that he, the Dauphin, is responsible for the consequences, Henry presents himself as an unappeasable, unstoppable force his enemies must submit to rather than struggle against. Henry may seem arrogant, but he makes himself appear humble by appealing to God rather than to his own power. This speech thus becomes an early blueprint for almost all of Henry’s future self-characterizations: he claims that his enemies’ wickedness is to blame for the violence brought by his own army, then depicts himself as an instrument of God whose desire to further God’s will leaves him no choice as to how to behave.