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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT V, SCENE 2
The French and the English Kings and their courts meet to finalize a peace-treaty. The Duke of Burgundy, who has been mediating the discussions, describes the decay of civilization in France because of the war and urges peace. Henry insists on an acceptance of the English demands. The French King asks for a working party to negotiate the details of the treaty, which is agreed. Katharine, whose marriage to Henry is one of the English demands, is left with him. He woos her, but disclaims all pretensions of eloquence or courtliness. He is a plain soldier who can merely say that he loves her. Katharine finally says that if her father agrees to the marriage she will be content. The others return, and a celebration ensues. It is announced that all the English demands have been accepted, including the marriage. Henry is recognized as the heir to the French throne. There are expressions of general amity. All wish that England and France never again be enemies in war.
The end of the war has finally been executed through negotiations between England and France. The Duke of Burgundy's speech is a plea to end the destruction that has resulted in a poor and defective nation. The horrors of war are never far from any cause for celebration and so the victory of England over France is diminished by the Duke's powerful speech.
The final demands of the agreement include Henry's marriage to Katharine, the daughter of the king of France. Yet the courtship seems to be far from an exciting affair because it is dictated by policy and strategy. Henry has demanded that Katharine be his wife, so he can have legal access to the throne of France; therefore the wooing of her can be seen as irrelevant as it is already foregone. The wooing of her becomes a formality that lacks passion or true feelings. On the other hand, although Henry may perceive of himself as not being a lover, but a fighter, he does manage to charm Katharine with his winsome words. His charm stems from his modesty and honesty. Two aspects of his character that are immutable. If nothing else, this scene serves to reveal another aspect of Henry's character that is quite different from his political and military roles that tend to dominate in the play. Still, Henry is painted here not as a gallant lover, but as a shrewd politician as he ascertains that he is named inheritor of France and makes other stipulations that benefit England. This union between him and Katharine is also a political union of countries who have had much animosity between them. It is Katharine and not Henry who must learn to speak the language of her partner. This is symbolic of the new France that has been subjugated by England.
Despite the earlier haggling about the designation of Henry King as an heir to France, the French King concedes to that point also and joins the hands of Henry and Katharine with the hope that England and France will cease their strife and hatred. Blessings for the royal couple and peace between the two kingdoms are repeated by Queen Isabel.
Henry lived only for a short time, until he was thirty-four, but lived greatly. He left England and France to his infant son, Henry VI. However, because he was so young when he ascended the throne, so many people had a hand in his government that they lost France and caused England much civil strife. These events have often been shown in the theater.
An Epilogue is a short address in prose or verse that rounds off a dramatic performance. It may briefly reflect on the action of the drama or it may briefly look forward to the future. Both these functions are fulfilled here. The epilogue here is a Shakespearean sonnet, consisting of three quatrains with alternate rhymes and a final clinching couplet.
The Epilogue, spoken by the Chorus, stands outside the main action of the play. It tells the audience how the dramatist has attempted to cover the story of "mighty men" in a short space, and has occasionally been unsuccessful because of the scope of the history it covers. Referring to Henry as "This star of England," the Epilogue reveals that he achieved great glory and power for England before he left it to Henry VI. Henry VI was crowned King of England and France as a child. Unfortunately Henry VI's kingdom was managed by too many hands and during his regime France was lost and England descended to civil strife. This legacy however was a continuation of the strife that endured throughout the reign of Henry IV, V, and VI and hearkens back to Henry IV's illegal overthrow of Richard II. Therefore, although this play has shown Henry V to be a just and strong leader, his family line has marred the health of the country because of its transgression. Henry V ends on a gloomy note as the epilogue suggest that although Henry V attempted to rectify his father's wrongs, he was not able to sustain the health of the nation because of the higher powers that mete out divine retribution.