Written by William Shakespeare around 1599, The Life of Henry the Fifth, more commonly known as Henry V, chronicles the later history of King Henry the Fifth of England and his efforts during Hundred Years’ War to reclaim disputed territories in France. The play starts with Henry’s claims to be the rightful heir to the French throne and, after his invasion of France, culminates with his famous and improbable victory at the Battle of Agincourt and the negotiation of the Treaty of Troyes.
Henry V is believed to have been first performed in 1599 and first appears in a “bad” quarto in 1600, so-called because it contains a shortened version, likely unauthorized and potentially just based on a performance. This quarto was republished again in 1602 by a different printer and again in 1619. The first definitive text is the version published in the 1623 First Folio.
The play is the last part of a series of four history plays written by Shakespeare, including Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, and Henry IV, Part 2 and many of characters like Henry (who appears as a wild young Hal in the Henry IVs), Pistol, Bardolph, and Mistress Quickly would have therefore been familiar to the audience. It contains some of Shakespeare’s most memorable lines and is often held up as a powerful portrayal of inspirational leadership.
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