Act 4, Scene 4
Page Five Audio File
Act 4, Scene 4 displays the only direct confrontation between the French and the English army during the battle of Agincourt in Henry V. Monsieur Le Fer is presented as the other. Defined by foreign and barbarous terms in order to identify him as the enemy, the French – standing for its nation – is to be conquered through language. In an attempt to “tame” him, Pistol renames his opponent: he manipulates Le Fer’s cultural identity using French anglicized words so as to coin a new name. Pistol’s empty threat of physical violence brings to mind Henry V’s comparison between France and a maid: both of them need to be conquered by soldiers, thus suggesting sexual violation.
Monsieur Le Fer’s submission to Pistol symbolizes the defeat of the French side, but the depiction of the English soldier as an unheroic, worthless braggart qualifies this triumph. The bravado Pistol shows makes this scene nothing but a farcical parody of combat, thus pointing out a malfunction within Henry V’s army. Despite the king’s efforts to unite the Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and Londoners against the French, this aggressively comic scene is a reminder that violent tensions still persist against the other, the other being defined more from a cultural than a geographical point of view. Even if the eponymous character’s military forces vanquish their political opponent, France, another internal challenge remains: the definition of Britishness and the construction of a “united” United Kingdom.