Henry's Wars and Shakespeare's Laws: Perspectives on the Law of War in the Later Middle Ages

By Theodor Meron | Go to book overview
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9
Agincourt: Prisoners of War, Reprisals, and Necessity

The events at Agincourt are comprehensible only if we consider how outnumbered the English forces were and how great their fear must have been. The tension which was felt in the English camp is palpable in the complaint attributed by Shakespeare to Warwick (in the Oxford edition by Wells and Taylor which I am using), or to Westmoreland (in other editions; Westmoreland was not on the Agincourt campaign at all), and in Henry's heroic reply:

[ WARWICK] O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work today.
KING What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Warwick? No, my fair cousin.
If we are marked to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will, I pray thee wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It ernes me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace, I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O do not wish one more.
Rather proclaim it presently through my host
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart.

( Henry V, iv. iii. 17-36)

-154-

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