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William Shakespeare's Henry V Essay

2475 words - 10 pages

William Shakespeare's Henry V

William Shakespeare is one of the most famous and influential writers
of all time. His plays not only portray the past, but also aspects of
love and hate, humour and tragedy.

Henry V, written by Shakespeare, using Raphael Holinshed's historical
chronicles, appealed to many of the citizens of that time, as it
presented an insight into their country's past, as well as 'feel-good'
nationalism. It would have been performed on stage at a time when
Henry VIII had secluded the country of all contact with the Church of
Rome. Providing the audience with its country's past glories and
triumphs, the play counter-acts this feeling of seclusion and loss of
identity with glorified achievement and renewal of patriotism.

Henry V continues Shakespeare's series of historic plays; it follows
Henry IV and is the predecessor to Henry VI. In Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2,
the audience is introduced to Henry V. Henry is young and considered
'wild' as his days were spent in the 'Boars Head' among the likes of
his dear friend, and father-figure, Sir John Falstaff, and the other
members of the 'Eastcheap Mob' (Henry's 'greener days' are later
referred to and mocked at by the French Dauphin). Once crowned King,
these days, as well as the people who shared them with Henry, are
quickly forgotten, and Falstaff soon dies of a 'broken heart', due to
the disownment his 'son-figure' has pursued. We soon see the change,
and it is evidential that it is for the better, later on in the play
when we witness Henry go to war with France. Not only is Henry filled
with confidence and fuelled by ambition; he has also gained the
ability to grasp the essence of war and the ability to persuade with
an evocative manner, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once
more."

The chorus eloquently suggests that Henry is 'the star of England' and
'the mirror of all Christian kings'. Are they correct in their
assumption: is Henry a great king, or does William Shakespeare merely
include this as a biased opinion to enforce onto the audience, so as
to prosper the basis of patriotism already built earlier?

The play begins with the chorus' prologue to the play. Naturally,
Shakespeare provides the chorus with words so descriptive and elegant
that the apology for lack of realism is forgotten, as is the stage and
theatre, and, instead, the open planes of Agincourt are forcefully
seen in one's 'minds eye'. No more are we an audience, but a witness.

Shakespeare portrays Henry as a very religious king; whether this is
to promote Henry or to express his own opinions as to what principles
a King should have, especially whilst Henry VIII was on the thrown at
that time, and the Roman Church had been cut off from England,
indicating that religion wasn't too high on Henry VIII's agenda. There
is evidence...

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