Like most of Shakespeare’s plays, Henry V exists in two different early printed versions: the Folio version of 1623 and an earlier Quarto version. There are many differences between the two versions, the most important of which involve the assignment of the speeches of Westmorland, Warwick, the Dauphin, and Bourbon. Additionally, the character called Clarence in the Quarto is called Bedford in the Folio.
The young, recently crowned king of England. Henry is brilliant, focused, fearless, and committed to the responsibilities of kingship. These responsibilities often force him to place his personal feelings second to the needs of the crown. Henry is a brilliant orator who uses his skill to justify his claims and to motivate his troops. Once Henry has resolved to conquer France, he pursues his goal relentlessly to the end.
A single character who introduces each of the play’s five acts. Like the group of singers who comprised the chorus in Greek drama, the Chorus in Henry V functions as a narrator offering commentary on the play’s plot and themes.
Trusted advisors to King Henry and the leaders of his military. The Duke of Exeter, who is also Henry’s uncle, is entrusted with carrying important messages to the French king.
Clarence, Bedford, and Gloucester are noblemen and fighters.
Wealthy and powerful English clergymen. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely do not go to fight in the war, but their urging and fund-raising are important factors in Henry’s initial decision to invade France.
Cambridge, Scrope, and Grey are bribed by French agents to kill Henry before he sets sail for France. Scrope’s betrayal of his king is particularly surprising, as Scrope and Henry are good friends.
Two noble cousins who die together at the Battle of Agincourt.
A capable leader, Charles does not underestimate King Henry, as his son, the Dauphin, does.
The queen of France, married to Charles VI. Isabel does not appear until the final scene (V.ii), in which her daughter, Catherine, is betrothed to King Henry.
The son of the king of France and heir to the throne (until Henry takes this privilege from him). The Dauphin is a headstrong and overconfident young man, more inclined to mock the English than to make preparations to fight them. He also mocks Henry, making frequent mention of the king’s irresponsible youth.
The daughter of the king of France. Catherine is eventually married off to King Henry in order to cement the peace between England and France. She speaks little English.
Read an in-depth analysis of Catherine.
The Constable of France, the Duke of Orléans, the Duke of Britain, the Duke of Bourbon, the Earl of Grandpré, Lord Rambures, the Duke of Burgundy, and the Governor of Harfleur are French noblemen and military leaders. Most of them are killed or captured by the English at the Battle of Agincourt, though the Duke of Burgundy survives to help with the peace negotiations between France and England. Like the Dauphin, most of these leaders are more interested in making jokes about the English than in taking them seriously as a fighting force, a tendency that leads to the eventual French defeat at Agincourt.
A wise, aged veteran of many wars who serves with Henry’s campaign.
An army captain and a capable fighter who serves with Henry’s campaign.
The captains of King Henry’s troops from Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, respectively, all of whom have heavy accents reflecting their countries of origin. Fluellen, a close friend of Captain Gower, is the most prominent of the three. His wordiness provides comic relief, but he is also very likable and is an intelligent leader and strategist.
A commoner from London who serves in the war with Henry, and a friend of Nim and Bardolph. Pistol speaks with a blustery and melodramatic poetic diction; he is married to the hostess of the Boar’s Head Tavern in London.
A commoner from London who serves in the war with Henry, and a friend of Pistol and Nim. Bardolph is a former friend of King Henry from his wild youth. A thief and a coward, Bardolph is hanged in France for looting from the conquered towns in violation of the king’s order.
A commoner from London who serves in the war with Henry, and a friend of Pistol and Bardolph. Like Bardolph, Nim is hanged in France for looting from the conquered towns.
Formerly in the service of Falstaff, the nameless boy leaves London after his master’s death and goes with Pistol, Nim, and Bardolph to the war in France. The boy is somewhat touchy and embarrassed that his companions are cowardly thieves.
Common soldiers with whom King Henry, disguised, argues the night before the Battle of Agincourt. Though he argues heatedly with Williams, Henry is generally impressed with these men’s intelligence and courage.
The keeper of the Boar’s Head Tavern in London. Mistress Quickly, as she is also known, is married to Pistol. We hear news of her death from venereal disease in Act V, scene i.
The closest friend and mentor of the young Henry, back in his wild days. Falstaff doesn’t actually appear in Henry V, but he is a major figure in the Henry IV plays. He is a jovial and frequently drunken old knight, but his heart is broken when Henry breaks his ties with him after becoming king. We hear news of Falstaff’s offstage death in Act II, scenes i and iii.
The maid of the French princess Catherine. Alice has spent time in England and teaches Catherine some English, though not very well.
The French herald, or messenger.
A French soldier and gentleman who is captured by Pistol at the Battle of Agincourt.