Henry V

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 2

page Act 1 Scene 2 Page 6

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CANTERBURY

She hath been then more feared than harmed, my liege,
For hear her but exampled by herself:
180When all her chivalry hath been in France
And she a mourning widow of her nobles,
She hath herself not only well defended
But taken and impounded as a stray
The king of Scots, whom she did send to France
185To fill King Edward’s fame with prisoner kings
And make her chronicle as rich with praise
As is the ooze and bottom of the sea
With sunken wrack and sumless treasuries.

CANTERBURY

But the country was more frightened than hurt, my liege. Take this example: when all its knights have been in France and all its noblemen absent, England has not only defended itself well, but actually seized the Scottish king and penned him up like a stray dog. Then he was sent off to France. He enhanced King Edward’s fame, adding royalty to his captives and thus making England’s own history as rich with glory as the muddy floor of the sea is rich with sunken ships and innumerable treasures.

ELY

But there’s a saying very old and true:
190“If that you will France win,
Then with Scotland first begin.”
For once the eagle England being in prey,
To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot
Comes sneaking and so sucks her princely eggs,
195Playing the mouse in absence of the cat,
To ’tame and havoc more than she can eat.

ELY

But here’s an old, true saying: “If you want to win France, start with Scotland.” For when the eagle England leaves her nest to seek prey, the weasel Scot always comes sneaking around to suck dry her princely eggs and, like the mouse when the cat’s away, destroy more than she can actually eat.

EXETER

It follows, then, the cat must stay at home.
Yet that is but a crushed necessity,
Since we have locks to safeguard necessaries
200And pretty traps to catch the petty thieves.
While that the armèd hand doth fight abroad,
Th' advisèd head defends itself at home.
For government, though high and low and lower,
Put into parts, doth keep in one consent,
205Congreeing in a full and natural close,
Like music.

EXETER

It would follow from this that the cat should stay home. But that is a false conclusion, since we have locks to keep our valuables safe and clever traps to catch little thieves. While the armed hand fights in foreign lands, the wise head defends itself at home. For though the state is divided into different levels and functions, it all works in agreement for a unified purpose, a natural and perfect end such as we find in music.