An Historic Proposal: “King Henry V”

At a time when so many momentous events are taking place in the British Isles, we wanted to take a look at one of Shakespeare’s historical epics. King Henry V is perhaps most famous for its brilliant “St. Crispin’s Day” speech – a soaring testament to courage which we will explore in a future post – but for now, we will think about the play from a more romantic angle.

Today, popular television shows like The Crown and Victoria examine the age-old balance between love and duty. Nowhere is this better explored, though, than in King Henry’s proposal to Princess Katherine of France. The language is both tender and majestic, evoking images of Henry’s royal lineage and the kingdoms he holds: “England is thine, Ireland is thine …” Ours is to be no lighthearted fairy tale, we hear Henry implicitly tell his bride-to-be, but a marriage built on love and a noble legacy.

This is a terrific monologue for a bolder young thespian who wants to play a part of distinction as King Henry – and it also offers a chance for a more reserved student to share the stage as Princess Katherine. Once again, as in any positive relationship (onstage or off) – it is all about the balance.