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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

on 5 December 2017
good quality and very good service
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on 20 February 2016
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead! In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility; But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger" (III, i, 1-6)."

This play celebrates one of history’s most amazing military upsets. This was the English victory over the French at Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War. We get a some small amounts of comic relief as the action progresses but there are no major sub-plots.

Saying that there is a reasonable amount of ambiguity in the play. This has led to diverse interpretations in performance. Laurence Olivier's 1944 film, made during the Second World War, emphasises the patriotic side. It ignores the fact that the enemy of the play, the French, were in fact allies in that conflict. Kenneth Branagh's 1989 film stresses the horrors of war. A 2003 Royal National Theatre production featured Henry as a modern war general, ridiculing the Iraq invasion.

The play is the final part of a teratology, preceded by Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2. The original audiences would thus have already been familiar with the title character. Henry was depicted in the Henry IV plays as a wild, undisciplined lad known as "Prince Harry" and by Falstaff as "Hal". In Henry V, the young prince has become a mature man and embarks on a successful conquest of France.

In analysing it, I found it easier to divide it into four parts:

1. the events leading up to the war between the English and French forces,
2. preparations for battle,
3. the actual battles, and
4. the aftermath of the war.

And here are a few of the main themes that I noticed:


Henry V investigates the relationship between a monarch and his people. Henry takes on many roles as the play progresses. These include an absolute ruler, a merciful Christian, a warrior, a patriot, an optimist, and an eloquent orator. Perhaps the most important role Henry takes is that that of a vulnerable human? He imagines how it would feel to sleep the peaceful sleep of a common man, unburdened by kingly responsibility. This responsibility includes a decision to go to war. For me Henry based this on some dubious reasoning. He vindicates his decision to invade another country by some obscure genealogical interpretation.

Also, Henry’s bloodthirsty speech at the siege of Harfleur, and his order to kill the French prisoners, is morally unjustifiable. He also rejects his friend Falstaff. He allows Bardolph, to be hung. Does he embody the four cardinal virtues of justice, fortitude, temperance, and prudence? Maybe not?

Modern readers such as myself tend not to view war as a glorious or heroic. We distrust our leaders, and condemn wars of aggression. In this context he appears to be a good leader but perhaps not an ideal king? The play suggests that the qualities that define a good king are not the same qualities that define a good person.


In Henry V, appearances shift time and again. The characters on stage struggle with falseness, for example is Henry a hero or a villain? The Chorus highlights that even the stage itself isn't what it seems, it is nothing but:

“the flat unraised spirits that have dared on this unworthy scaffold to bring forth so great an object”.

So, does Henry V glorify war? Or does it show the ugliness and inhumanity of war?

On the one hand the play seems to celebrate Henry's invasion of France and valorises military might. On the other it can be read as an anti-war portrayal.

The Chorus refers to the looked-for military triumphs of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, in the fifth act. Henry V himself is sometimes seen as an ambivalent representation of the stage machiavel. He combines sincerity with a willingness to use deceit and force to meet his ends.

Warfare makes up the entire dramatic arc of Henry V but uses many (male only) perspectives to examine events. For examples, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry V and his advisors, army officers and common soldiers to name but a few. This allows the examination of several views on war. Henry also links religion to war too, using the argument that the war is just as it is Gods will. This is at odds to the perspective of the common man and ordinary soldier. Unconvinced by appeals to war’s godliness intelligent and courageous men, such as Michael Williams, distrust his motives. It is often seen as a measure of Henry’s integrity that he is able to tolerate Williams’s type of dissent with magnanimity.

These perspectives from many social classes and nationalities paint a diverse portrait of England. Monarchy is critical, borders and geography are malleable, its is a multicultural melting pot. There is a fluid, functional way in which the characters react to cultural differences. These merge or rupture depending on the situation. And because of the continual movement of England's boundaries; national character and patriotism a common identity is everything.

Ironically, belief in the justness of war’s does not equate to war’s efficacy. Chorus reminds us that the effects of that victory were undone by the next generation.

Shakespeare’s play has an uncanny ability to reflect the spirit of the times. The reader should not only see a production of the play but seek out and explore the play’s contradictions. Enjoy deciding for yourself.
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Henry V, one of Shakespeare's historical plays has to be one of the most patriotic plays ever written in the world. Although slightly ambigious in its entirety there have been two major film versions. Olivier's performance was in the Second World War and is seen as more of a patriotic call to arms, whereas Branagh's performance can be seen as one that deals more with the horrors of war. Indeed reading the play carefully you can see both of these viewpoints.

Taking place during the Hundred Years War, the Henry 'Prince Hal' in Henry IV has now grown up and become the king. This play centres on the events up to Agincourt and the immediate aftermath. Some of the speeches in this will make your hairs stand on end, instil patriotism in the heart and make you proud of being from this nation.

Perhaps not as popular at the present time this is still something that you can really get your teeth in to. There is of course comic relief here, especially with a stereotypical Welshman. This is somthing that you should really read, and I can promise you that you will enjoy it. One can only imagine how this was originally performed on such a small stage and it is a tribute to the language of Shakespeare that this is still performed.
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on 9 November 2015
thank you as discribed and is in excellent condition. the speed of delivery was also good well done
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on 4 May 2015
Never read any Shakespeare before. Saw a clip of Henry V at university during s lecture on leadership. Looked fantastic so wanted to read the story. Absolutely love it! Book is brilliant with lots of footnotes and a section to define certain words in the back so if you don't want to use it there is no break in the literature. Brilliant story and easy to read.
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on 14 June 2013
I have argued, with support from a couple of my senior Shakespeareans at SAA, that Henry V is the comedy Shakespeare promised at the end of 2 Henry 4, epilog: "to continue the story, with Sir John [Falstaff] in it. But after the actor who played Falstaff disappeared (Will Kemp--probably to tour Germany), Shakespeare created a very different kind of comedy, a reconciliation of conflicting nationalities in the usual comic resolution, however preposterous: marriage. And in a thoroughly modern (even modernist) touch, the spirit of comic reconciliation pervades the play through its linguistic playfulness. This is Shakespeare's only play using national accents: French, Welsh, Scottish, Irish and of course English.
I would speculate that the "Great Britain" only enshrined around a century later (1705?) was initiated under James I, and here in Shakespeare's Henry the Fifth, previewed. The comic interlude of Fluellen and Jamy, etc, features the strong Scottish and Welsh accent, where for instance Fluellen says, "Alexander the Pig." He is corrected, "Don't you mean Alexander the Great?" F, "The great, or the pig, are all one reckonings..."
Later in the play, the King "claims kin" with F's despised Welsh minority; "For I am Welsh, you know, good countryman" (4.7.105). And Fluellen may speak English "funny," but he is an excellent soldier, and very knowledgeable about the history of warfare, especially Roman.
Well, all this is available in Fran Teague, Acting Funny in Shakespeare, which I heartily recommend with self-interest.
Olivier's film gets the comedy right; Branagh's does not.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 February 2017
Bernard Fall concludes his classic account of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, entitled Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu), which I have now read twice, with the following: “…the 10,000 men who died here and who may have done more to shape the fate of the world than the soldiers at Agincourt, Waterloo, or Stalingrad.” Surely not, even when I read it the first time, in an equally remote valley with strong resemblances to the prosaically named “seat of the border county prefecture.” The latter two battles truly were shatteringly significant, particularly compared to a battle that only confirmed the inevitable denouement that occurred in so many colonies after the Second World War. And how did Agincourt, in 1415, get thrown into the mix? And how did William Shakespeare decide to provide his own account? Questions that provided the motive force for a read.

The play was written almost two centuries after the battle. It remains a famous English victory, so Shakespeare was playing to the home-town crowd. The English were seriously outnumbered. How outnumbered is still a matter of dispute today. Shakespeare says five to one. It was the English long bowman that carried the day, launching a deadly hail of arrows that pierced French armor. And the French led themselves into poor battlefield placement that prevented them from bringing to bear their numerical strength. The battle itself, though central to the play, was not actually re-enacted. The play was primarily the fore and the aft.

It is a good play in that many of the strategic considerations are covered. Like what was it about? The bottom line is that it was one of the many dynastic feuds that has racked Europe for centuries. A small group of “elites,” related, and re-related through marriages, have falling outs. Then they managed to convince a lot of the non-elites to go out onto some battlefield and settle it for them by trying to have the other set of non-elites die in greater numbers. To Henry V’s credit, unlike our modern leaders, he was out on the battlefield, in the fray. Henry claimed various parts of France, based on rights of succession going back to Charlemagne. Enforcing one’s “rights” carried numerous concerns. Henry worried that Scotland might attack while he was in France. And some English malcontents had an assassination plot that was uncovered before he left England. After the hurly-burly in Pas-de-Calais is done, how to cement the victory? In bed, of course, such a pleasant alternative. Henry woes and will marry the King of France’s daughter, Kate. Which really re-re-relates things, not to mention fostering a few genetic abnormalities thanks to all the in-breading.

More so than any other Shakespeare play, but perhaps fittingly, due to the locale, there is a large amount of French dialogue. For non-French speakers, all is indexed and translated in an appendix. The play itself is roughly half the total text in this volume. There are numerous others sections that provide both insight into the life and times of Shakespeare himself, as well as explanations and notes on the historical context of the play set in the early 1400’s. There are also a couple dynastic charts, so the reader can keep track of some of his other plays, named after other English rulers. There is even a section on the famous lines and phrases from the play.

Perhaps the most famous phrase came from a speech by Henry V, and was borrowed by Stephen Ambrose: “We band of brothers.” And that is why most soldiers fight, be it in 1415 with Henry or 1944-45, with the 101st Airborne. Small unit cohesion. Not to lose face, or let your friends down. That motive force worked, five centuries apart, in northern France, and elsewhere. This was the first of Shakespeare’s histories that I have read, and I found it to be a good introduction. 5-stars.
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on 25 May 2016
For what is worth I love Henry the Fifth as it's one of my favourite history plays. I miss though Sir John Falstaff, when on Henry the Fourth he was a main act, here is never mentioned by his old pal; the former Hal, Harry, or Henry Prince of Wales, now Henry V. The King.

This, like all Wordsworth Classic, is value for money - though for 3.99 you can get on Amazon, Henry V on Oxford World Classic which is for all accounts; binding, notes, ancilllary information, etc, far superior.

Still 5 star for me - as if you love Shakespeare this edition is still done well and has all the essentials - if you study at Uni level then I'd advise a better (dearer) edition like Oxford, Cambridge, RSC or Arden.
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on 18 March 2014
I love this play! I had bought the complete works of Shakespeare in a huge volume which is too large to carry around, or even read easily. This book is small, light and easy to read wherever you are. Good value for money.
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on 29 September 2014
Shakespeare is, of course, peerless!
This is a first-class edition - good, readable font; well-annotated; well-presented; and very beautiful cover-picture!
Wordsworth editions are excellent, low-cost Shakespeares!
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