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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT III, SCENE 5
The French King and his nobility express their displeasure over the English army's advances into France without much opposition. They bemoan Normandy, an area of France that Henry has defeated, and the Dauphin comments that the women of the court are commenting on the effeteness of the French army and their willingness to have sex with the English soldiers in order to bear warriors. Talk turns to castigating the English army and of taking Henry prisoner. He thinks that when Henry sees the French army, he will surrender. The King orders that the whole French army be sent to fight the English except for the Dauphin whom he wants with him.
Overconfidence and hollow threats seem to be the besetting the French nobles as they discuss what to do about the English army's advances into French territory. The King himself would have favored more cautious dealing with King Henry, but he is not eager to forget the previous war. His thinking is ruled more by vengeance than reason. The Dauphin continues to be supercilious about the abilities of Henry as a serious military leader despite the French losses. Their miscalculation of the determination of Henry and the fighting power of his army, however limited in number, is obvious although they continue to deride Henry's army and predict their downfall due to illness and disease.
To a Renaissance audience, the irony of these comments is not lost, as they already knew the outcome despite the hardships that the English arm confronted. Lack of seriousness and united counsel in the French court may be contrasted with the settled policy and determination of Henry.
ACT III, SCENE 6
Fluellen has been in action under the Duke of Exeter, fighting to take over a bridge, where Pistol has also been present. Back at the English camp, Fluellen meets Gower and extols the Duke as being an excellent leader and also reveals that Pistol is a gallant fighter. Pistol enters the scene and asks Fluellen to intercede with Exeter on behalf of Bardolph, who has been sentenced to death for robbing a holy plate that holds the host from a church. Fluellen refuses and Pistol takes offense and leaves. Gower explains to Fluellen what kind of man Pistol is. Fluellen reports to the King on the situation at the bridge but the King does not pardon Bardolph and says that the English must act in accordance to what the local law dictates and must not transgress civility, therefore he condones the execution of Bardolph. Meanwhile, the French herald Montjoy brings a message demanding Henry's surrender and ransom.
In reply, Henry admits that his army is small and weakened by sickness, but refuses to surrender, saying that his army will continue its march, and will fight to the finish. The English army marches on towards the bridge.
Further progress of the campaign in France is reported and more victories are shown belonging to the English, such as the bridge captured by the Duke of Exeter from the French. Much extolling of soldiers is displayed in this scene although it is offset by the offense of Bardoloph. Having stolen a holy object from a church, he is now being sentenced to death as local law demands. Despite Pistol's pleading his case to Fluellen and then King Henry, Bardolph is executed as a lesson to the English army not to disobey orders of the King as well as a civil code of conduct during war. Having known Bardolph, King Henry does not seem bothered in the least to condemn his former drinking buddy to death. Pistol is enraged by this act yet Henry sets a precedent: that all offenders must be cut off, thereby reinforcing his judicious abilities as a ruler.
This scene is similar to an earlier one when the King discovered traitors among his courtiers and managed to avoid being responsible for their deaths by invoking a nobler cause for the death: the safety of the nation. Here he invokes the need for civility amongst a rather barbaric atmosphere of war, which to some may seem hypocritical, as war is often brutal and uncivil. Here Bardolph has gone against French law and must suffer the consequences.
When the King receives the message from the French King, his own modest but spirited reply re-affirms his determination to conquer France even though he realizes that his army is not up for it and will suffer casualties. This self-effacement and remorse is in striking contrast to the arrogant demands made by the French King and his son.