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Shakespeare's Presentation Of Henry V Essay

2829 words - 11 pages

Shakespeare's Presentation of Henry V

During the course of the play we are shown many different sides of
Henry, the most prominent in my opinion being that he is a great
leader but ruthless. Our views of Henry are formed not only by his
actions and what he says, but also by other characters’ opinions of
him and how the audience would value these opinions according to how
Shakespeare has presented them.

Henry is first introduced into the play through the Chorus’s speech in
the prologue. ‘Harry’ is described as being ‘warlike’. A comparison of
him to Mars, the Roman God of war emphasises Henry’s military skills
and establishes the character as a hero. This first impression of
Henry portrays him as being a very powerful man of high status.
Throughout the play, the Chorus sets the tone of the conflict as epic
and depicts Henry as an epic hero, this is achieved through the
eloquent and poetic language used which reinforces the grand nature of
events.

Act 1 begins with a conversation between the Archbishop of Canterbury
and the Bishop of Ely. They start discussing the King, and as the men
are alone the audience can assume that they are being sincere. ‘The
King is full of grace and fair regard / And a true lover of the Holy
Church’ Canterbury and Ely obviously respect and like the King and he
is depicted as a Holy man. The men remark that the King is a
completely different man than he used to be, or was expected ‘The
courses of his youth promised it not’ and religious metaphors are used
to describe the change in his character, ‘Consideration like an
angel…leaving his body…T’envelop and contain celestial spirits.’ This
again reinforces the idea of Henry being almost God-like; this
reformation from ‘his wilderness’ seems to come like salvation.
Canterbury also comments on Henry’s political skills ‘Turn to him any
cause of policy. / The Gordian knot of it he would unloose.’ This
informs the audience that since assuming power, Henry V has become a
great politician and military strategist. In this act we see Henry’s
political negotiating skills in practice. Through Canterbury and Ely,
we see the Church has offered to give Henry money in support of the
war in hoping that he will then oppose the bill; the support of the
church also makes Henry’s campaign against France more legitimate.
This shows a more cunning side to the king and contradicts the earlier
image of him being holy, as he seems to be bribing the church into
supporting him; this is not a religious approach but a pragmatic one
on the King’s part.

In Act 3 Scene 1 Henry delivers a speech outside Harfleur to rally his
soldiers and raise morale before they go into battle. From the
beginning of the speech Henry tries to make it more personal, ‘Once
more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.’ The audience knows
that...

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