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King Henry Iv Essay

1164 words - 5 pages

Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, opens in the royal palace in London, where King Henry IV of England is discussing the current state of his country with his councillors. In the three parts of his opening speech, King Henry IV discusses issues surrounding England's political strife and civil turmoil. Recognizing the explanation for the unrest as being his accession to the throne, Henry must face his opposition and attempt to reunite his troubled kingdom. Challenged with choices and decisions, King Henry reveals his intuitive solutions to resolve the instability. Closely emulating propaganda, this figurative passage uncovers King Henry IV's instinctive leadership qualities and his manipulative political strategy. As the play opens, the legitimacy of King Henry's rein is in question. The first part of Henry's speech reveals that England has become plagued with rebellion, treachery, and shifting alliances in the period following the deposition of King Richard II. Addressing Westmoreland and his counsellors, King Henry brings into perspective his guilt towards the crown and his concerns for England. The kingdom's recent instabilities have made him physically "shaken" and psychologically "wan" (l.1) and although he metaphorically reveals that he is exhausted like a horse in battle, Henry quickly shifts the tone of his speech to one full of strength and confidence. Aware of the civil conflicts occurring throughout his country, Henry recommences his speech by recounting the hardships surrounding his countries civil war. It is here we begin to identify components of propaganda in Henry's dissemination of information. His highly suggestive use of dark, figurative language heavily emphasizes the severity of the war: "furious close of civil butchery" (l.13). Yet like a dynamic leader, King Henry speaks with passion and conviction, revealing his goals and presenting his intentions to salvage his country's future. He creates a carnal image personifying England's civil war as a mother drinking the blood of her children, but then vows to rid his country of this thirst. He continues elaborating on his country's sorrows with a stream of very physical images and very powerful words: "those opposed eyes ... like the meteors of a troubled heaven ... Did meet in the intestine shock" (ll. 9,10,12). The deliberateness of his statements emphasizes England's widespread discontent, but more importantly, reveals his own resentments towards the warfare. When comparing war to an "ill-sheathed knife" (l.17), which will no longer "cut his master "(l.18), King Henry makes clear to the audience that ensuring peace within his country is his overriding ambition. Subsequent to his portrayal of civil war, the ruling King diverts the audiences attention towards his future objectives. In this second part of the monarch's speech, elements of propaganda again become very evident. King Henry's words become emotionally charged, refocusing his...

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