Blurred Lines Of Heroism And Villainy In Shakspeare's Henry V

1472 words - 6 pages

King Henry V is considered to be by far one of the greatest rulers to ever have graced the throne of England. Shakespeare demonstrates this belief by exemplifying Henry’s strong attributes showing just how great and powerful of a leader Henry was. However the issue of power and ethics plays a tremendous role in the personification of Henry as a person. There is no doubt that Henry’s power and ethical stance makes him a great king, but by being a great king, Henry is forced to act in a way that can be construed as dissolute. Henry betrays a number of his friends including Falstaff, and threatens the Governor of Harfleur ordering him to surrender or he will kill the innocent children of Harfleur. It is through the issue of power and ethics demonstrated by King Henry V that the blurred line between hero and villain can be seen and in the end one can see that it is possible to describe Henry as being an immoral human being.
Throughout the play there are occasions in which Henry betrays his friends. Falstaff happens to be one of the friends betrayed by Henry. Falstaff cherished Henry and acted as a father figure to him, yet once in power Henry forbids Falstaff to be within 10 miles of him or face punishment. Falstaff is caught off guard by Henry and is completely humiliated by Henry who tells him that he dreamed of knowing a man such as Falstaff who was fat, crude and obnoxious and that he despises ever having such a dream. These cruel words heard by Falstaff coming from his greatest companion were like daggers to his heart. In Act II, scene iii Pistol, Nim, Bardolph, and the hostess are together to mourn over the death of Falstaff. It is never said outright what killed Falstaff, but it is clear that after his encounter with King Henry he fell into a deep state of depression and ended up dying of a broken heart. The actions taken by King Henry towards Falstaff were rash, and it is a clear example of how his power affected his morality towards his friend which led to his death. It is understandable that Henry acted in such a way to preserve the power of his throne, but to some it can be seen as an act of immorality caused by excess power. So in this instance the lines of hero and villain are blurred by Henry’s banishment of Falstaff which ended in death.
There are two other instances involving friends of Henry in which Henry’s power and ethics come into play, and once again Shakespeare blurs the lines of hero and villain. The first incident comes to light in Act II, scene ii in which Henry becomes informed of a treacherous plot against him by Scroop, Cambridge and Grey. Henry allows the three to speak freely before they are aware that he has been informed of their treasonous plan. The three speak highly of the King, giving him praise on his fearless leadership. Cambridge at one point state “Never was monarch better feared and loved than is your Majesty. There’s not, I think, a subject that sits in heart-grief and uneasiness under the sweet shade...

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