Functions of the Chorus in Shakespeare's Henry V

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Functions of the Chorus in Shakespeare's Henry V

In Shakespeare's Henry V, the chorus plays a prominent role. There are

few other plays written by Shakespeare that include a chorus, however

in no other play does the chorus have such an important role.

The principal purpose of the chorus is that of story telling. The

chorus acts as a guide for the audience, narrating parts that wouldn't

fit into the action of the play. For example in the Act II Chorus, we

are told about treason:

'The sum is paid, the traitors are agreed, the king is now set from

London, and the scene is now transported, gentles, to Southampton.'

As we can see, the chorus reviews what has happened in previous scenes

and also tell us where we are going next.

Kenneth Branagh made a film version of Shakespeare's Henry V in 1989.

He made several alterations to the script and especially to parts of

the chorus. I think he chose to do this for two main reasons. Firstly,

to sustain levels of dramatic tension and interest, as modern

audiences have a far lower attention span. Branagh was also able to

make cuts because he had created the play through a modern medium, not

all the explanation of the action was necessary, as it could be shown.

This is effective for Branagh, as stage technology has developed since

Shakespeare's time. Shakespeare would need to explain several scenes

in the play in close detail, as they are near impossible to appear as

realistic as Branagh is able to make them seem.

Another function of the chorus is to arouse expectation. The chorus is

used to influence the way the audience react to people and events.

This is especially true in the way tha...

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...making the audience feel involved in the action and

encouraging them to use their imaginations are the most important

functions of the chorus.

I think that writing a part like that of the chorus into a play, which

makes the audience concentrate on the action on stage, was a very good

idea. It means that the audience get so much more out of the play,

they haven't just sat and watched the action, they've been asked to

recreate it in their minds, so will enjoy the whole experience a lot


Shakespeare was an extremely clever writer, because he knew that he

could make plays that could be seem boring to 'normal' people more

interesting by just simply making them feel involved. Once he'd done

this, it wouldn't matter to them about poor stagecraft, the play

becomes epic to them, the exact intention Shakespeare had.