Prologue, Henry V. William Shakespeare

Chorus

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide on man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;
For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

Exit

In groups of 3-4 students, translate Shakespeare’s text into modern language, attempting to stay as truthful to the original meaning as possible. In other words, try a word-for-word translation, if possible. And if Shakespeare uses a metaphor do not remove the metaphor. Each group translates one quatrain. 

24 thoughts on “Prologue, Henry V. William Shakespeare”

  1. “O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
    The brightest heaven of invention,
    A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
    And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!”

    Throughout the passage, I came to realization that Shakespeare does really speak his very own language. In this opening stanza it seems as if he is talking about how great his play is going to be. He began by saying “O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend, the brightest heaven of invention “. It sounds as if he is making himself sound as if he is a goddess, cause the quality of his work is that good. Where fire will come out because what he is doing is deemed to be the “brightest heaven of invention”. The upcoming lines I believe Shakespeare is speaking about the quality of his plays its “A kingdom for a stage, princes to act”, showing that the people perfoming is one of the best in the country. And If you’re one of the people on the stage performing, you’re highly respected and valued. Shakespeare was around when there still was tyrant form of government, the highest in command were the most respected. In the passage it states ” and monarchs to behold the swelling scene”. I believe what he is saying is that monarchs are sitting beyond the sideline seeing the play be performed.

  2. Group 5
    Rich Guerra
    Jaskinderpal Sunda
    Nathaniel Maldonado

    Original:
    O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
    Attest in little place a million;
    And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
    On your imaginary forces work.

    Translation:
    Please, forgive us. If a bad person can talk.
    In a little place of my honest heart;
    Let us talk about this great account,
    Be open minded.

  3. Group 4
    Dariel Rodriguez
    Joshua Cando
    Cristian Reyes

    Original:
    or may we cram
    Within this wooden O the very casques
    That did affright the air at Agincourt?
    O, pardon!

    Our translation:
    Forget that we are on this stage and imagine that we are on the battlefield of Agincourt frightened for our lives only wearing this helmet to protect us.

  4. Group #1
    Daniella Abramova
    Jessica Cruz
    Danielley Ostolaza
    Christina Cruz

    O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
    The brightest heaven of invention,
    A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
    And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

    Translation:
    The God of great inspiration made out of fire that lead to the greatest imaginations.
    A stage of kingdom used for the setting of the princes to act and play, while the monarchs watch the glorious show!

  5. Group 6
    Amar Santhosh
    Cinthia Gallardo
    Ronald Perla
    Original:
    Suppose within the girdle of these walls
    Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
    Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
    The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder
    Our Translation:
    Within this place are two sides who’s opposition towards each other is so strong that they could metaphorically push apart on ocean with their views against each other.

  6. Group 3
    Kenneth Wu
    Chase James
    Daniela Tomaino
    Kevin Martinez

    Original:
    “The flat unraised spirits that have dared
    On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
    So great an object: can this cockpit hold
    The vasty fields of France? or may we cram”

    Translated:
    The uninspired people that dared
    This stage is unworthy to bring
    An object so large; can it be held
    In the many fields of France? Or are we crammed

  7. Gabriela Pineda
    Anai Ortiz
    Kimmar Mightly
    Kimberly Mora Bello

    “Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
    Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
    Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
    Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,”

    Translation:
    Harry comes out resembling the god of war with fire and hounds (dogs) by his feet ready for war

  8. Group 5
    Aaron Arroyo
    Zhen Deng
    Jasmine Mason

    And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
    On your imaginary forces work.
    Suppose within the girdle of these walls
    Are now confined two mighty monarchies,

    Roughly, this means in english:

    So, our secret knowers of the account.
    Use your imagination to imagine this: Suppose in this one room, or one building, are two powerful kingdoms.

  9. Group 7:
    Antonios Vandoulakis
    Sheriff Safie
    Brian Anner

    Original:
    And make imaginary puissance;
    Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
    Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;
    For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,

    Translation:
    A large group of imaginary people
    Pretend you see horses stomping into the ground
    For the act you must accept the characters

  10. Group 7:
    Antonios Vandoulakis
    Sheriff Safie
    Brian Anner

    Original:
    And make imaginary puissance;
    Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
    Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;
    For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,

    Translation:
    A large group of imaginary people
    Pretend you see horses stomping into the ground
    For the act you must accept the characters

  11. Group 1

    Emilia Ilarda
    Robertxander Bello
    Elijah Rickman
    Jacky Leung

    “O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
    The brightest heaven of invention,
    A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
    And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!”

    – The stage is used as a platform to inspire the audience. These lines symbolize the stage as being its own kingdom and its own world where the actors play the role of princes while the literal monarchs or nobles are able to watch the performance.

  12. Group
    S. Christie Ndreu
    Marcelo Fernandez
    Thomas Baez

    Translation:
    The violence and tensions that are butting between England and France.
    Here on stage make your own opinions about our flaws and create your own thoughts;
    pretend that one man stands for a thousand.

    Henry V
    Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
    The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
    Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
    Into a thousand parts divide on man,

  13. Group 3:
    Ngawang Tseten
    George Esquea
    Luke Hahn

    Orginal:
    The flat unraised spirits that have dared
    On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
    So great an object: can this cockpit hold
    The vasty fields of France? or may we cram

    Translation:
    Performers that have dared
    On this stage to bring forth/illustrate
    Such a larger than life figure – Harry,
    Can this theater attempt to present, and contain, the vastness of France

  14. Group 4: Garcelle Matthew, Jonathan Vasquez
    Within this wooden O the very casques
    That did affright the air at Agincourt?
    O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
    Attest in little place a million;

    Translation:
    within this house the helmet lies here
    is there fear in the air due to the battles happening at Agincourt?
    Oh forgive me ! A weak person / old person can
    declare / bear witness that this stage cannot hold a million people

  15. Salina Shrestha
    Nick Mallios
    Elizabeth Chantes
    Peter Vandoulakis

    5 Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
    6 Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,

    -He is a leader and is compared to Mars who is the God of war.

    7 Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
    8 Crouch for employment.

    -He is feared by others, he is followed (like a dog) by hunger, violence and fire, and it can be triggered just by his permission. Those things can be set off at any moment under his wish.

    9 But pardon, and gentles all,
    But excuse anyone that gets in his way… They should be careful when they are around him.

  16. Nicholas Cabrera

    “Turning the accomplishment of many years
    Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
    Admit me Chorus to this history;
    Who prologue-like your humble patience pray”

    Translation:
    After many years of accomplishments
    but as time continues,
    We look back at our history
    and we patiently pray

Leave a Reply