In Shakespeare’s Henry V the king is too easily persuaded by his advisors that the English economy will continue to function smoothly, like obedient little honey-bees in their hive, while he is away with his armies conquering France (1598)

William Shakespeare

King Henry V is too easily persuaded by his advisors that the English economy will continue to function smoothly, like a well-ordered bee hive, while he is away with his armies conquering France. The Archbishop of Canterbury advises him that:

Therefore doth heaven divide The state of man in divers functions, Setting endeavour in continual motion; To which is fixed, as an aim or butt, Obedience: for so work the honey-bees, Creatures that by a rule in nature teach The act of order to a peopled kingdom. … I this infer, That many things, having full reference To one consent, may work contrariously; As many arrows, loosed several ways, Fly to one mark; as many ways meet in one town; As many fresh streams meet in one salt sea; As many lines close in the dial’s centre; So may a thousand actions, once afoot, End in one purpose, and be all well borne Without defeat. Therefore to France, my liege.

We continue our exploration of the newly added Oxford Shakespeare to the OLL collection. Here we find Henry’s noble and churchly senior advisors providing him with reasons why he can and should invade France. Do they persuade a fence-sitting King, or has he already made up his mind for war and just wants to hear the kind of arguments they can come up with? When they have finished telling him that the realm will be safe while he is away in France and the productive “honey bees” will continue to produce the taxes to fund his adventure, Henry declares war on France and promises to “bend it to our awe or break it all to pieces.”