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Henry V and the Saying All's Fair in Love and War By Migel Jayasinghe

Henry V and the Saying 'All's Fair in Love and War'
The expression 'All's fair in love and war' may be considered a saying, an idiom, or proverb that has been traced back to John Lyly's 'Euphues' published in 1578. 'Any impiete may lawfully bemitted in love, which is lawlesse' (l. 236). The full expression is seen in Miguel Cervante's 'Don Quixote' as translated by T. Sheraton. 'Love and warre are all one, .. It is lawfull to use sleights and stratagems to attain the wished end'. In plain English, what the proverb means is that the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war. Anything goes.
In Shakespeare's play, Henry V, which followed Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2, we have the young king portrayed as something of a hell-raiser in his youth, before he ascended to the throne. These high jinks in the case of Prince Harry (drawing parallels with today's prince Harry) were ephemeral. John Falstaff, one of his erstwhilepanions, he refuses to recognize once he becomes king. Henry V had turned over a new leaf. He is a responsible and law-abiding king.
Henry V, the play, is about the English king leading his army in battle against the French and winning at Agincourt. This is a historical fact which Shakespeare uses to dramatize in blank verse. The English king's right to the French throne was established as lawful (through the female line) before he decided to go to war. The king consults the Archbishop of Canterbury for this purpose who simplifies for our edification the abstruse legal position. The king first requests politely that the French king surrender to him what is his due. However, the Dauphin, the French king's son, the heir to the throne, ridicules Henry V, by rejecting the request while making the sardonic present of a few tennis balls.
Much of the action in the play is about the preparation and the actual conduct of the war. As regards love, of course Henry V declares his love for Kate, the French king's daughter, but it is no real love affair. It is a marriage of convenience. It is the union of two powerful kingdoms to the greater glory of both. There is no rival to Henry V for Kate's affections. He wins the girl merely by her father's assent. Therefore the proverb could not apply in this case.
Returning to the war, is there any indication that Henry V took the law into his own hands and acted unfairly? The evidence is to the contrary. Henry V begins by saying early in the play: 'We are no tyrant, but a Christian king'. He invokes the almighty and His blessing before any of his major undertakings.
While Bardolph is to be executed for robbing a church in France, the king utters these memorable lines.
We would have all such offenders so cut off: and we Give express charge, that in our marches through the Country, there be nothingpelled from the Villages, nothing taken but paid for, none of the French upbraided or abused in disdainful language; For when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the Gentler gamester is the soonest winner.
Here's a king who plays by the rules and is just. On the evidence above, the proverb 'All's Fair in Love and War' in no way applies to Shakespeare's play Henry V.
If only today's wars were fought on the basis of such gallantry, the world would be a far better place.
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