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The Chorus relates that King Henry has returned to the port city of Calais in France and, from there, has sailed back to England. The women and children of England are overjoyed to have their men returned to them, and everyone is also glad to see King Henry. When Henry returns to London, the people flock to see him and to celebrate. But Henry is humble and forbids a triumphal procession to celebrate his victory.
Henry returns to France again, and the Chorus orders the audience to return its imagination to France, with the understanding that some time has passed.
Fluellen and Gower converse at an English army base in France. Gower is curious about why Fluellen still wears a leek in his hat, since St. Davy’s Day was the previous day. (St. Davy is the patron saint of Wales, and on St. Davy’s Day, March 1, Welsh people traditionally wear a leek in their hats as a show of patriotism.)
Fluellen explains that, the day before, the obnoxious soldier Pistol insulted him by sending him bread and salt and suggesting that Fluellen eat his leek. So, when Pistol appears, Fluellen starts to beat him with his cudgel until Pistol agrees to the condition that will satisfy Fluellen’s pride: Pistol himself must eat the leek that Fluellen has been carrying in his hat. Pistol eats the leek, and Fluellen gives him some money to ease the pain of his cudgel wounds. After Fluellen leaves, Pistol vows revenge for having been force-fed the leek, but Gower says it was Pistol’s own fault for making fun of Fluellen—and for underestimating him simply because he speaks with a funny (Welsh) accent.
When he is left alone, Pistol turns serious; we learn that his wife, the hostess, has died of venereal disease (presumably syphilis) and that Pistol no longer has a home. He decides to become a pimp and a thief back in England.
At the palace of the king of France, King Henry has come to meet with Charles VI and his queen, Isabel. The goal of the meeting is to negotiate a lasting peace between France and England. Despite his military victory, King Henry will allow Charles to retain his throne. However, Henry has a list of demands, the first of which is that he get to marry his distant cousin, Princess Catherine of France. That way, Henry and his heirs will inherit France as well as England.
I just finished Henry V, the 19th Shakespeare play, in my quest to read all the Bard by his 450th birthday next year. If you're interested, visit my blog to find out what I thought of it and more on what I thought of Henry:
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