‘Henry V’ Study Guide Now Available

The ASC Study Guide for Henry V is now available. I got to stretch my historical muscles and revisit my medieval studies roots for this one, which was a real treat for me.
Here is a ten-page preview for your perusing enjoyment. Activities in this guide include the following:

  • The Basics: Getting your students on their feet, working with iambic pentameter, paraphrasing, exploring rhetoric, and turning your classroom into an early modern stage.
  • Line Assignments: A way to give your students ownership over a small section of text, which they will use in further language-based activities and staging explorations.
  • Staging Challenges: Dealing with Canterbury’s seemingly interminable Salic Law speech — and turning it into an exciting exploration of language and performance opportunities. The Salic Law speech may, at first, seem to represent everything your students fear most about Shakespeare: an enormous block of text, spoken by a high-ranking official, which doesn’t appear to say anything of importance. This activity will help you show your students that there is humor for the mining in Canterbury’s digressions, and that the entire speech is a set-up for a grand punchline.
  • Perspectives: How does Henry craft his language in order to motivate his men? And is he really such a glorious leader, or is there some disconnect between the Henry that the Chorus celebrates and the Henry that Shakespeare shows us in action? This activity examines the examples of leadership, both positive and negative, presented in Henry V: heroic Henry, not-so-heroic Henry, the flippant Dauphin, the aging Charles VI, the brusque Fluellen, and others. Your students will relate Shakespeare’s various portrayals of leadership to modern politics, and will examine Henry’s methods of motivation as compared to modern military recruiting techniques.
  • Perspectives: The Battle of Agincourt stands as one of England’s most famous victories, but what were the historical realities? Were the English outnumbered 6-to-1? 10-to-1? Or just 4-to-3? Your students will explore contemporary accounts, secondary sources, and modern research to cast new light on the version of events Shakespeare portrays. They will also discuss the place that Agincourt holds in the English narrative of national identity and will explore what similar moments in American history hold that same position for us.
  • Rhetoric: Henry V is one of Shakespeare’s very best speakers. He fits his speech to the occasion and his listeners remarkably well, changing his tenor, his vocabulary, and his rhythms for greatest appeal. Your students will examine those conditions throughout their exploration of Henry V, but how does Henry speak when he is alone with the audience? In this activity, your students will explore how Henry uses devices of repetition and substitution in order to build a rapport with the audience.
  • A variety of scenes for alternative stagings.
  • Production Choices: A guide to producing a 1-hour version of the play in your classroom

If you would like to purchase a downloadable PDF of the Henry V Study Guide, or of any of our other Study Guides, please visit our website. I’ve already begun work on the next offering: Much Ado about Nothing — It’s my all-time favorite play, so I’m quite excited about it.