Henry V (1598–1599)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 14 August 1600

First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1600 as The cronicle history of Henry the fift, with his battell fought at Agin Court in France. Togither with Auntient Pistoll. 1623 Folio text appeared under the title The Life of Henry the Fift

First recorded performance: 7 January 1605 at the Globe Theatre, performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men.

Evidence: Of all Shakespeare's plays, Henry V is one of the easiest to date. A reference by the Chorus to the Earl of Essex's Irish expedition of 1599 means the play was most likely written sometime between March 1599 (when Essex left for Ireland) and September 1599 (when he returned).

 

ACT I

PROLOGUE

 

 Enter Chorus

Chorus

 O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.

Full Text of Play