Focus on "Henry V":

Navigating Digital Text, Performance, & Historical Resources


Page Three Audio File 

Henry V is a play in which the eponymous character defines nationhood using ethnic markers mainly based on gender and language. The English nation is a narrative constructed by Henry V to deal with the lack of unity in his kingdom which is highlighted when he evokes the possibility of another Scottish rising (H5, 1.2.149-60).  

As a Machiavellian ruler, he decides to use politics of diversion to change the focus of his people from internal disorder to external disorder—to prevent a civil war by waging war against a foreign power.  

The Captains’ scene encapsulates three different tales: First, the tale of the nation that defines England as an imperial nation and marginalizes Wales, Ireland, and Scotland to elevate itself as a political center; Second, the tale of the Welsh Captain, the civilized other, and the Irish and Scot captains, the barbarian others that deserve England’s hostility; Last but not least, the tale of the nation that uses racist insults and scapegoating to ensure the order and unity of the nation itself.

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