the King with a patronising gift of tennis balls (‘real’, or old-fashioned, tennis being a popular game in the middle ages). Henry doesn’t show his anger, but instead deals with the slighting reference to what he terms "our wilder days" and responds with a playful threat, punning on the rules of real tennis:

"We will in France, by God’s grace, play a set

Shall strike his father’s crown into the hazard."

He shows the steely power of his resolve and rhetorical skill in informing the ambassador of his reply to his master:

"…many a thousand widows

Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands,

Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down,

And some are yet ungotten and unborn

That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin’s scorn."

The ambassador departs, and the King’s uncle says, "This was a merry message" in appreciation of his nephew’s show of regal power.

Act II

The Chorus opens the act with great vigour and enthusiasm, telling us: "Now all the youth of England are on fire, / And silken dalliance in the wardrobe lies". Fine clothes and idle pastimes are left behind and those of fighting age are on the move with their youthful King. The only fault lies with three noblemen, Cambridge, Scroop and Grey, who have become traitors on behalf of France:

"O England, model to thy inward greatness,

Like little body with a mighty heart,

What mightst thou do, that honour would thee do,

Were all thy children kind and natural!"

The Chorus presents England as a nation as beautiful and noble in its appearance as in its soul, let down only by some offspring lacking feelings of kin (so not ‘kind’) and law of nature. Again the audience is encouraged to feel patriotic but also to see beyond the constraints of the play to a wider sense of nationhood. In the second scene, we are allowed to see the traitorous nobles still paying lip service to their King, in the knowledge that Henry is fully aware of their treason. Once again the idea is to acknowledge the young King’s mastery of statecraft as he discusses the release of a drunken prisoner before turning the traitor’s harsh sentencing on themselves with a display of suitably Machiavellian policy:

"The mercy that was quick in us but late

By your own counsel is suppressed and killed:

You must not dare, for shame, to talk of mercy,

For your own reasons turn into your bosoms

As dogs upon their masters, worrying you."

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