Shakespear's Henry The Fifth, An Argumentative Essay Proving Henry's Worth As A Rhetorical Hero

1246 words - 5 pages

A hero is one who acts in the best interests of the greater whole. According to the Oxford English dictionary, a hero is "a man who exhibits extraordinary bravery, firmness, fortitude, or greatness of soul, in any course of action, or in connexion with any pursuit, work, or enterprise; a man admired and venerated for his achievements and noble qualities." But given those qualities, does the quality of being a great rhetorician support a claim to heroism? The thought that one can use language, rather than the conventional brute strength exemplified by Hercules and Beowulf, to achieve a beneficial outcome can be supported by Henry's character in William Shakespeare's Henry V.King Henry V assumes his role as king after the death of his father, Henry IV. Prior to ascending the throne, Harry, as his friends call him, was known for his debauchery. Harry was an immature prince, but as the King of England, he suddenly becomes mature and wise. Henry's bishops convince him of his right and duty to acquire the throne of France. Soon, Britain is preparing for war and fully supporting their king in his pursuit of the French crown.Henry's powerful words prove his ability to rouse his troops and frighten the enemy. Unlike more traditional heroes, Henry's heroism is not shown in battle, but rather before the battle. Because Henry is able to put fear into the enemy with his threatening messages, the opposing army may not fight as well as one might expect. As seen at Harfleur, the governor surrenders to save the lives of the citizens. It can then be assumed that Henry, along with saving the innocent lives of the townspeople, has saved the lives of some soldiers that would not have fared so well in battle had the governor not heard Henry's messages of fear. Henry delivers this message to the town of Harfleur:"[...] you men of Harfleur,Take pity on your town and of your peopleWhiles yet my soldiers and in command [...]If not - why, in a moment look to seeThe blind and bloody soldier with a foul handDefile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;Your fathers taken by the silver beards,And their most reverend heads dashed to the walls;Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confusedDo break the clouds, as did the wives of JewryAt Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen." (III.3. 27-41)This speech demonstrates Henry's scare tactics with his enemies. The king does this so that the governor will surrender and Henry can conquer Harfleur without a bloody battle. Although his speech sounds menacing, a quality not found in the characteristics of a hero, it is only a façade Henry creates to achieve the outcome he wants. Henry's reluctance to make good on his promise of this massacre is proven when he states, "use mercy to them all" (III.3. 54). Henry is not the monster he appears to be; instead, he is a leader using any method he can to gain land while keeping his troops out of harm's way.Opposition to the argument that Henry is a...

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