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Henry V: The Commoner's King Essay

926 words - 4 pages

Henry V: The Commoner's King

Henry the Fifth has been noted as England’s best King throughout history. He was loved among the common people and nobles alike for his fairness, his effectiveness on the throne, his justness, and his ability to relate to people of all classes. The kings that reigned before him, especially his father King Henry IV and King John, provide a striking contrast to Hal’s attitude on the throne. Kings of the past had not experienced the life of the common people, and chose to lead their lives in the realm of the castle. As we witnessed in I Henry IV, Hal’s father even went as far to discuss this approach to ruling at length with Hal. Henry IV believed that a king was best admired and supplicated if he was kept out of the public’s eye.

Needless to say, Hal did not conform to his father’s ideas of kingly virtue. His past prevented him from this. Since he was previously a tavern dweller (and this no doubt was not forgotten among the people), he had relationships among the common and lower class citizens.

King Henry V held friendly conversations with commoners and did not speak down to them as other kings did. He usually used the addresses of "learned lord" (1.2,9), "gentle knight" (2.2,14), "dear friends"(3.1,1), and the like, whereas most kings we have read about addressed people of lower status as "sirrah".

Hal recognizes the good qualities in people and praised a job well done. This can be seen in Act III, scene 6 when Montjoy, a French messenger, delivers an offer to King Henry V from the King of France. Montjoy tells Hal that he was sent to tell him that if he gives up now that France will hold Henry as prisoner only until England has paid all the damages caused, then he will be free to leave. This message also serves as news that France has not given up. Though this would invoke rage in most kings of the past, Henry keeps his temper in check and even asks the messenger of his name and compliments him of his good work:

King: What is thy name? I know thy quality.
Montjoy: Montjoy.
King: Thou dost thy office fairly.
(3.6,143-5)

King Henry V also touched on a subject very pertinent to many people of that time: God. In many instances, he places God before all else. In Act 1, scene 2, England receives a message from France in the form of tennis balls. This is when he decides to make war with France final. He tells his lords:

…omit no happy hour
That may give furth’rance to our expedition.
For we have now no...

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