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The wildness is merely the accident of an exuberant vitality, which has found no worthier outlet ; it is as distinctively cool-headed as Drake's famous game of bowls. To the short-sighted onlooker it is alarming to see the youth, destined to wear the crown of a great kingdom, wasting the precious hours on practical jokes ; but those who know him know that he is only biding his time.
So even in those earlier days, as soon as there is some worthier thing to be done, the prince sets about it with all the promptitude, skill, and determination which he had displayed in his escapades. And when once he has had a taste of work he never fairly goes back to the old life. After Shrewsbury we only see him once again among the roysterers ; and then his abrupt termination of the jest in which he is taking part shows how little his heart is in it. Before the prince is turned into the king he has already parted for ever from the world of carelessness and irresponsibility.
For that something worthier is to find him occupation for the rest of his days; and from the time when Harry appears on the scenes in the third play of the series, to the end of the drama, he is fully transformed into the ideal monarch of a warlike age—a soldier, rich in every quality becoming to a man of action. The superfluous energy of his earlier days finds vent in a legitimate channel ; the ready wit and quick resourcefulness are no longer wasted on passing jests; and those intenser feelings which he had masked before his comrades in the Eastcheap tavern are now allowed an expression as dignified as it is simple. The first note of his character now, as in the earlier plays, is his self-control. The second is his straightforward directness. To him the tortuous policy, the watchfully-suspicious scheming, which had worn his father out, are altogether foreign. His rule of conduct comes out very clearly in his wooing of the fair Katherine. There is no beating about the bush, no preparing the ground, no waste of time or preliminary skirmishing, but a direct challenge, followed up by a simultaneous assault with horse, foot, and artillery. The policy is apt to be disastrous when attempted by ordinary persons, who are liable to make miscalculations and mistakes; but when directed with unerring precision and promptitude, it becomes irresistible.
But Henry is much more than a simple soldier. Mere readiness of action and unfailing courage are not sufficient to produce a hero. The secret of the enthusiasm he inspires lies much more in the ever-ready consideration for others, the kindly feeling for all his comrades in arms, which finds spontaneous expression in his language, whether addressed to York or Erpingham, or Fluellen or Williams; and in the absolutely unaffected piety which checks all arrogance, even in the moment of supreme triumph. And the fascination of these characteristics is brought into strongest relief when we contrast them on the one hand with the selfish perfidiousness of Henry IV., on the other with the headstrong arrogance of Hotspur.
Of the minor characters little need be said. Katherine has a small part to play. The folly of the French nobles, with their bickerings and vapourings, forms an effective contrast to the sturdy grumbling loyalty, so characteristically British, of the common soldiers in Henry's army.
Apart from Ancient Pistol, the second character which belongs to our play is Fluellen, and he might well be left to speak entirely for himself. But the fact that Welshmen have prominent parts in two other plays suggests a few words. In each of them-Glendower, Fluellen, and Sir Hugh Evans — certain marks of the Celtic character have been very happily reproduced. All three are supremely courteous; all are as hot as pepper; all are endowed with a kind of simple pedantry, and a sort of amiable moral strut which is inexpressibly funny. There is something about them all which is neither exactly childlike nor childish, but between the two. And it is noteworthy that these same characteristics, curiously attractive in their combination, are to be found in their richest abundance at the present day in those portions of the British Islands where the population is largely Celtic. Yet these three characters are as distinct in their individualities as any that could be named.
Our play was written in 1599; last, except Henry VIII., of the English historical plays; before any other tragedies except Romeo. It belongs therefore to the earlier, but not the earliest, period of Shakspeare's work. He was no longer following examples, working more or less under the guidance of masters, in accordance with more or less conventional rules, to be broken only in a somewhat tentative manner
; and he had not yet reached the time when he was to grapple with the vaster problems, the deeper mysteries, the more agonising struggles, of souls fallen
upon times out of joint. His laughter is still free from the undertone of sadness, the note of triumph is unmarred by the memory of failure. His vision is clear, true, unerring ; but he has not yet gauged the heights and the depths, his mightiest achievements are yet to
The date of the Folio or first complete edition of the plays is 1623; but there were earlier Quarto editions of several single plays. No subsequent changes from the Folio have, in any case, more authority than attaches to ingenious conjectures. In many cases there is reason to consider that where Quartos and Folio differ, the Quartos represent Shakspeare's words with more general accuracy ; i.e. the Quarto readings are to be preferred. But in other cases, of which Henry V. is one, the Quarto is clearly not authoritative. There were three printings of our Quarto-in 1600, 1602, and 1608 ; but large parts of what must have been in the original play disappear from it and appear in the Folio. And in other points the Quarto shows signs of hurried and careless production. The Folio therefore is the sole authority, and has been closely followed in the accompanying text. At the same time, as the accuracy of the Folio is never thoroughly to be relied on, the emendations of later editions have been admitted into the text with rather more freedom than would have been permissible with a better certified original.
Matter which cannot be properly treated under the piecemeal system of Notes is discussed in the Appendix, and philological details are generally restricted to the Glossary. In the Notes themselves the sources of information are not always named, except where the words of a previous writer are quoted, or where judgment on a doubtful point is decided by the authority of a name.
In general my obligations are to the Cambridge Shakespeare, the great “ Variorum” Edition, Schmidt's Lexicon, Dr. Abbott's Shakespearian Grammar, and other works well known to Shakspeare students. All references to other plays are to the Globe Text.
As it cannot be assumed that students of this play have already had my 2 Henry IV. in this series in their hands, I need not apologise for incorporating in this Introduction such portions of what has already been printed there as seemed likely to prove useful to students of Henry V.