Henry: An Ideal Monarch?
In the 1590s, there was a very strict ideal of a Monarch. The way an
ideal Monarch would be viewed in the 1590s was not far removed from
the expectations of a King in the early 15th century. A 15th or 16th
century King was expected to be a competent ruler above anything else,
but far more was needed to lead the people of Medieval Briton.
The role of the king in society progressed and differed throughout the
middle ages, with the introduction of bureaucracy towards the end of
the period and a gradual detachment from the Roman empire. Many of the
king's duties remained consistent though; a king must be completely
devout and devoted to the church and to God.
The loyalty of a monarch's subjects was also imperative. The support
of the bishops and the clergy was vital for a ruler, equally the
support of the nobility and warlords of the country. Much potential
power also lay in the serfs and peasants and a good king would aim to
please even their most humble servant and an ideal king of this period
would inspire patriotism and confidence in every one of his people. An
ideal king would invoke serenity, when a time of peace was necessary,
would encourage hard labour when the economy was bad, but most
importantly: the ideal king would generate belligerence in his people
at a time of war. To be able do to this, a king must have certain
characteristics. These characteristics would motivate the confidence
of the nation.
Some of the necessary characteristics: Bravery, charisma, chivalry,
aptitude, knowledge and loyalty to the country and to god.
Shakespeare wrote 'Henry V' in the 1590s. At this time, Elizabeth I
was the ruler of the country, but the rich landowners maintained power
in the countryside, away from London. She was powerful and well
respected but not to the extent that an ideal ruler should be. She
was: 'The Virgin Queen' and therefore, she had no heir. She had ruled
through a period of stability, but as she had no heir, there was no
heir apparent to the throne. The people of Briton feared civil war,
and this would rock the country. The next ruler of Briton needed to be
powerful and controlling, yet patriotic and well respected.
Shakespeare may have had different motivations to write this play. One
of his motives may have been, to restore national pride and
individuality, in a period shortly after Henry VIII had ended all
Briton's relations with the Church of Rome, or to inspire the rise of
an ideal monarch for the country. These motives could have been the
reason why Shakespeare portrayed such a seemingly 'ideal' monarch and
such a nationally biased depiction of History. At this time, people
would learn most that they learn, and form many opinions from what
they saw in the theatre. Therefore, if Shakespeare had wanted to