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Free Study Guide-Henry V by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes Online
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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES

ACT I, CHORUS

Summary

The Chorus invokes the 'Muse' to be present on the stage that depicts the heroic deeds of princes and to uphold King Henry's image as that of Mars, the Roman god of war. However, the audience should forgive the efforts to depict on the unworthy stage such great deeds since it can never recapture the magnificence of such deeds. The limitations of the stage will not permit the portrayal of the fields of France or the war at Agincourt. The Chorus, therefore, begs the audience to employ their imagination to see and hear the prancing horses, the sea and the forces of the two countries on the stage.

The audience should also make the connections between the long intervals of time and the shifting of setting from France to England during the reign of King Henry, that the play has compressed into one hour. The Chorus supplies the information so that the audience can bridge the gaps in time and judge the play kindly.


Notes

The "Chorus" were originally created for ancient Greek plays, and were meant to represent ordinary citizen who comment on the action of the plays and interpret the moral issues involved and provide Background Information. In Shakespeare's day, however, it usually consisted of one actor only who wore a long, black, velvet cloak, spoke directly to the audience and took no part in the action of the play.

In this play the Chorus is deployed for a different purpose. This Chorus has a speech to deliver before every Act and an Epilogue at the end of the play. He seems to do four different jobs.

First of all, he stimulates the audience to imaginative collaboration. This enables them to visualize mentally the great castles and the battlefields and the majestic armies of England and France.

Secondly he is supposed to arouse patriotic feelings about England in general and King Henry in particular.

Thirdly, he is expected to create an exciting atmosphere. Finally, he bridges big jumps of time and distance by preparing the audience for the scenes that follow and by narrating events that have happened in between.

In the Chorus preceding Act I the focus is on the first of the four functions. Here, the Chorus longs for "A kingdom for a stage, Princes to act," and apologizes for the inadequate substitutes to be presented. Because this play to King Henry is so involved and epic, the Chorus requests the audience to help out by using their imagination and to realize that the enormity of the events have been compressed and thereby somewhat diminished.

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