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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT V, CHORUS
The Chorus informs the audience that once again they must imagine events that will occur after Agincourt. Henry goes to Calais and returns to England where he is given a triumphal welcome. The audience is further informed that the Holy Roman Emperor visits England on behalf of France to try to arrange a peace but is unsuccessful and so Henry returns to France.
This Chorus serves two purposes here. First of all, it shows the passage of time between Act IV and V (the years 1415-17). Secondly, it urges the audience to imagine what is impossible or unnecessary to represent on the stage.
The Chorus begs the indulgence of the audience for not being able to portray on the stage things as they really are. The audience is asked to imagine the King proceeding to Calais and then crossing the Channel. On the English beach huge crowds gather to greet the victor, and he moves on to London. Although the principal citizens desire to have his helmet and sword borne before him through the city, Henry is "free from vainness and self-glorious pride." He forbids such pomp and circumstance. Even so the Lord Mayor, the best citizens, and all the people flock to give him a royal welcome. His welcome is such that it might be best compared to the one that would be accorded to the Earl of Essex returning victorious from Ireland where he had gone to quell a rebellion.
The Chorus then mentions Henry's sojourn in London, the attempt on the part of Sigismund to negotiate between England and France and Henry's return to France. Lastly, the Chorus asks our pardon for abridging the time into such a small compass and invites the audience to imagine that the audience is back again in France.
ACT V, SCENE 1
In the English camp in France, Fluellen is still wearing a leek in his cap, although St. David's Day, a Welsh national holiday, is past. He explains to Gower that Pistol has mocked his leek, and that he is going to teach him a lesson. Fluellen beats Pistol with a cudgel and makes him eat the leek. Gower reproaches Pistol for his malice and cowardice. Left alone, Pistol reveals that his wife is dead from syphilis and that he has nowhere to go. He decides to return to England and live as a pimp and pickpocket. He will pretend that the wounds that Fluellen has given him are war-wounds.
The war between France and England lasted for five more years after the battle of Agincourt and took its toll on the English population. That victory is undermined by this scene where the repulsive Pistol, who has managed to scrape through the war unscathed, now has his downfall. The scene focuses on the humiliation of Pistol and seems to serve the purpose of poetic justice although some sympathy is solicited on hearing about the death of his wife and the loss of all his friends. He is the sole survivor of the group that Falstaff headed and that Henry cavorted with and his demise is as unsavory as many that went before him. He will end up the way he began, as a thief.
All his boasting is knocked out of him. The French wars, from which he expected to reap a rich harvest, have proved to be his undoing. He is the last member of Falstaff and his coterie and he has certainly been enjoyed for his rout and bombast throughout the tetralogy. The reader cannot part from him without regret.
Pistol's mockery of the valiant Welshman Fluellen is not going to go unpunished. For such an offense the punishment must be the same. The boaster is roughly repaid with hard knocks, then he is punished with humiliation in its bitterest form. Fluellen gives a sound thrashing to the scoundrel who has disgraced the profession of the soldier. He forces the leek he jeered at down his throat.
Despite the honor that Henry has brought to England, those subjects like Pistol still remain unchanged by the rousing patriotism or noble feats of the soldier. Even in this last scene, Pistol devises a plan to take advantage of the injuries Fluellen has meted on him. He will swear that the scars he got from Fluellen's cudgel are war-wounds and gain easier access to people's sympathies. Thus, war is and always will have mercenary types who undercut the more noble intentions of battle.