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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT III, SCENE 7
It is the eve of the battle at Agincourt in the French camp and Dauphin and his fellow nobles boast and jest over the next day's battle. They delight in tearing apart the English and making fun of them and their wilful ways. To them victory is assured.
An obvious contrast is made between the seriousness and the determination of the English and the frivolity and bravado that characterize the Dauphin and the French courtiers. They seem to be of the opinion that their brave show, the splendor of their armor, the trappings of their well-bred horses, and the mere number of their fighting men will strike terror into the hearts of the English. Either they are incapable of taking the matter seriously or they seem to be bluffing. Rather than rousing the troops as Henry does, here the Dauphin extolls the equipment of war, its horses and armor, rather than their cause which is to defend their country from invasion, a noble enough reason to battle, yet the significance of what they are doing is lost on the Dauphin. The scathing remarks about the English army take on a deep tone of irony as the Renaissance audience knew what a brutal battle Agincourt was and how excessive were the casualties. Yet here the French treat it as lightly as if they were on a hunt. What fatuous preparation is this to meet the English foe!
ACT IV, CHORUS
The Chorus describes the camps of the two adversaries by night with its firelight, sentries and noises. The French wait impatiently for dawn, playing at dice. The English sit seriously by their fires contemplating their peril. Henry goes around the camp in disguise, encouraging his soldiers. He raises their morale by his own calm and cheerfulness. The Chorus apologizes for the inadequacy of its representation of the battle of Agincourt, which is to follow.
Except in this Act, the Chorus in Henry V usually announces intervals of space and time that are quite lengthy -- as the journey from London to Southampton, or from Southampton to Harfleur - yet here it is the night before the great battle of Agincourt. Descriptions of preparations within the two camps render a picture of business and reflection. Here the Chorus prepares the audience for war and in turn creates suspense. This Chorus serves to show that Shakespeare introduced this device, not simply for the sake of bridging intervals of time and space but to create dramatic contrast between the two camps and elicit more sympathy for Henry who walks from camp to camp encouraging his sick and tired men to war.
Here Shakespeare relies upon the epic poet's method. No scene in the drama paints so vividly a portrait of pre-war tension as a few lines in this Chorus.