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Image of King Henry V, Act 3, Scene 3

John Boydell
English, 1719–1804
Josiah Boydell (aka Joshua Boydell)
English, 1752–1817
James Stow
English, about 1770–after 1820
after Richard Westall
English, 1765–1836

King Henry V, Act 3, Scene 3

about 1804
From Boydell's Graphic Illustrations of the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare

Object Type: Print
Dimensions:
10 11/16 x 6 9/16 in. (27 x 17 cm)
Medium and Support: Engraving on paper
Accession Number: 2016.0008.0012

Credit Line: Gift of Dora Kaufman Nelke, by exchange


In 1786, a successful London publisher, alderman John Boydell, conceived of a gallery of art devoted to scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. Named for its founder, the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery was one of the first large-scale commercial endeavors intended to promote British literature and artists both in Great Britain as well as throughout the European continent. He commissioned over 167 paintings of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and produced engravings based on these paintings. In creating the engravings, John Boydell partnered with his son, Josiah, whose name appears after his father’s in the list above. The third name is that of the engraver, and the fourth is that of the painter who created the original composition in oils. The role of the engraver was to transfer the painter’s composition onto plates for printing.

About this scene:
The “wild” Prince Hal matures into a talented politician, an heroic general, and a king who means to redeem his father’s seizure of the crown. Proclaiming his genealogical right to the French throne, Henry’s army besieges Harfleur. He rouses his troops with patriotic appeal, then threatens the desperate city with rapine, murder, and destruction to gain its submission. After Harfleur surrenders, seen here, he charges his kinsman Exeter to govern the city with mercy, as Henry intended, despite his threats.

The outraged French nobles intend to crush him as he marches across northern France, and, vastly outnumbered at Agincourt, Henry prays God’s mercy on his men, calls them his brothers, and invokes how they will be remembered—as they are, since they achieved one of history’s greatest upset victories. Henry then wins the French princess’s hand and promise of the French crown, though he will die only weeks before inheriting it.
-Susan Willis, dramaturg, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, September 28, 2020

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