At the opening, we see him still on the cusp of the Prince Hal/King Henry transformation. A gift of tennis balls from the French king in "lieu" of a promised tribute -- galls his kibe. The scene was proverbial, the subject of a ballad that (as fate would have it) endured longer here in North America than in Britain. What will this new and untested monarch do? The audience immediately craves to know, and Henry's decision to go to war with France signals his readiness to embrace danger in order to defend his realm and reputation.
And danger arrives much earlier than anticipated, in the form of a plot to kill the young king by the Earl of Cambridge (his cousin), which Henry quickly quashes, foreshadowing his decisive manner with challenges yet to come. Further victories embolden him, and yet none is easily attained; as he readies his forces for what will become the Battle of Agincourt, he (and we) learn more of his inner mettle. Disguised, he walks among the ranks, both encouraged and dismayed by what he hears.
And herein lies a crux for all of Shakespeare's history plays: it's nearly always with the king that the audience's identification lies, and yet none of that audience -- or Shakespeare himself for that matter -- has any idea of what the experience of being a king is like. It's our idea of a king -- our notion of what sovereignty entails -- that fascinates Shakespeare. And so, just as he described Prince Hal's father Henry IV, we find that 'uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.'
And so, then, we share in this uneasiness. Looking at the play, up to the moment of its central battle, what stands out? What puzzles? What resonates, perhaps makes us think of the way power yet works today? Post your thoughts below, making sure to reference specific moments in the play as needed.