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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors
used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
The Dauphin knows that Henry was an idler before becoming
king, and he sends Henry a tun, or chest, of tennis balls to remind
Henry of his reputation for being a careless pleasure-seeker. This
gift symbolizes the Dauphin’s scorn for Henry. The tennis balls
enrage Henry, however, and he uses the Dauphin’s scorn to motivate
himself. The tennis balls thus come to symbolize Henry’s burning
desire to conquer France. As he tells the French ambassador, the
Dauphin’s jests have initiated a deadly match, and these tennis
balls are now cannonballs.
As the Chorus tells the audience, it is impossible for
a stage to hold the vast numbers of soldiers that actually participated
in Henry V’s war with France. As a result, many of the characters
represent large groups or cultures: Fluellen represents the Welsh,
Pistol represents the underclass, Jamy represents the Scottish,
and MacMorris represents the Irish. These characters are often given
the stereotypical traits thought to characterize each group in Shakespeare’s
day—MacMorris, for instance, has a fiery temper, a trait thought
to be common to the Irish.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Henry V!