William Shakespeare's Henry V
Shakespeare's, Henry V, was written in the late sixteenth century,
this composition will focus upon how Shakespeare portrayed Henry V,
using factual knowledge and Shakespeare's own interpretation. I will
look at the character, language, structure and history of the play.
Most Shakespearian, historical, plays were based upon Holinshead's
Chronicles, these were mostly true but often Shakespeare adjusted the
figures and facts to emphasise parts of his play's, and create tension
and drama, such as when he is attempting to woo Katherine, to make a
more interesting play. Many of Shakespeare's plays were historical,
based upon actual happenings. Henry V was one of these plays, among
others that include Henry VIII and Richard III.
Shakespeare's plays were greatly affected by the society in which he
lived, which was considerably different to our modern society.
Shakespeare's society was a patriarchal society, a male driven world,
examples of this are found throughout his plays. In Henry V, the King
of France forces Katherine into marriage with Henry. Even the
playhouse in which Shakespeare's plays were preformed was patriarchal.
Only men were allowed to act and young men played women's parts.
The church was also a major influence upon Shakespeare; the church was
again a highly patriarchal institution. In Henry V the Church funded
Henry's war with France, this was commonplace in both Henry and
Shakespeare's era. The church was very powerful and very rich, and the
only people above them were the king or queen and God. People of those
eras also believed in the Chain of Being, this was an imaginary chain,
the King being at the top followed by the Church, lords and nobles;
down to lowly peasants, to plants and even stones.
At the beginning of the play the Bishop reminds Ely that Henry was
once wild and offensive, "The breath no sooner left his fathers body
but that his wildness, mortified in him seemed to die too: yea, at
that very moment consideration, like an angel came and whipped the
offending Adam out of him."
However Ely refers to the good in Henry, "The strawberry groweth
underneath the nettle" Ely is saying that Henry was still growing,
surrounded by people who are bad, but is still a good person
underneath that eventually blossomed and became a good person. This is
a good example of Shakespeare's imagery. He needed lots of imagery as
the stage and scenery were very sparse and the actors were nothing
more than peasants. Prologues in a number of Elizabethan plays were
used to set the scene, give important information and ask the audience
for applause. Acting during these times was also incredibly poor, so
prologues helped compensate for this. Shakespeare's interpretation of
Henry V makes him a very controversial character. On one side he makes