The main characters in Shakespeare's Henry V are extraordinarily compelling. From the beginning of the play, most of the focus is directed to interactions between King Henry and other royalty or people of status and significance. Very little attention is focused on the minor characters, the peasants- the Hostess, the Boy, and the soldiers- Bardolf, Nym, and Pistol. Although these characters have only small parts in the play, they are essential. They take the spotlight for a moment, temporarily diverting our attention from the King and his political responsibilities. Each of them contribute necessary background information, their opinion of King Henry, and the soldier's perspective of the upcoming battle,
The first act of the play is focused on the conspiracy between the leaders of the Church and King Henry making the decision to go to war with France. While all of the political information is needed for the plot, it is quite dense, and some of it is hard to get through. There is some relief in Act II of the play, when the Hostess, the Boy, Bardolf, Nym, and Pistol are introduced. There is some humor in the exchanges between the soldiers. For example, Bardolph to Nym: "What, are Ancient Pistol and you friends yet?" Nym answers, and Bardolph to Nym: "I will bestow a breakfast to make you friends and we'll all three be sworn brothers to France." This is clearly a sarcastic teasing remark to Nym, with the suggestion these two situations will never happen.
The scene becomes grim when the Boy enters, informing them of Falstaff's illness. Falstaff is seriously ill, and in scene three of Act II, we learn that Falstaff has passed on. The soldiers grieve for their lost friend, but the Hostess has the strongest emotional reaction. She was caring for him at his bedside when he passed away.
Falstaff was an integral character in the preceding play, King Henry IV. He and the other soldiers were friends of Henry...