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Qualities and Weaknesses of Shakespeare's Henry V as a King

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Qualities and Weaknesses of Shakespeare's Henry V as a King

In Shakespeare's day, historical fact had already merged with legend
to create the picture of an almost perfect King but the character of
Henry V is not a simple one as it has many aspects. By looking into
the King's manners in his speeches, strengths and weaknesses and
behaviour throughout the play I will try to analyse how King Henry's
character progresses and changes to show why I believe Shakespeare
represented the character in this way. An insight into Henrys
character is shown in Act One Scene One when he became King as the
Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely are speaking of Henry.
The Archbishop of Canterbury exclaims, "The King is full of grace and
fine regard." To which Ely replies "And a true lover of the Holy
Church." These both are qualities expected of a noble and honourable
king that shows Henry himself is honourable. However Canterbury tells
us this was not always so, "The breath no sooner left his fathers
body, But the wilderness, mortified in him, Seemed to die too." These
lines tell the reader how the King left his frivolous youth behind him
and accepted responsibility of being a King when his father died
therefore becoming a king committed to his people, country and duty
with his willingness to give up a life of constant fun.

In Act Three Scene One Henrys speech is world famous as well as
showing a lot about Henry character and how he feels about becoming
King of England. "Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more;"
the two words "dear friends" tells the reader that Henry considers
himself as an equal to his soldiers and also shows how his use of
language for encouraging his men. Churchill has also used such
speeches for this as he has recognised this as a famous speech in his
efforts in the 2nd World War as he knew this speech would have made
Henry popular as in his speeches he mentions many aspects of life from
peace and war with honour and patriotism. "Follow your spirit, and
upon this charge." (See picture below)


Through out the play Henrys usage of the words "I" and "we" as Henry V
play is the unique of Shakespeare's writing as usually these reveal
their personal thoughts and emotions often in soliloquies apart from
Henry whose public mask is almost firmly in place to hide his inside
thoughts to the reader. This could have developed as a defence
mechanism to move away or hide from his bad behaviour as a child or
simply to show no weaknesses to foe or his soldiers. A good king will
be able to converse with and understand the will of the common man
that he does in Act Four when he passes himself off as a soldier to
merge with and talk with the soldiers.

The readers know Henry is in disguise even though the soldiers don't
realise that it is the king trying to raise his troops morale "I
myself heard the king say he would not be ransomed." Henry was a
determined character who convinced a soldier Bates with his passionate
use of language to become willing to fight whist still knowingly being
outnumbered to the French troops in the near future battle that lay
before them. This scene shows a more desirable quality of Henry in his
courage but also his efforts of encouraging his men. Henry does after
his talk with Bates speak openly to him self of his own worries to
himself as he dwells on the idea of his role as a king is much tougher
as to be king is to worry while the soldiers sleep of his actions and
the consequences of them. This could show Henry lack of maturity or
his youthfulness as he realises what the role of a king truly entails.


Charm and an ability to woo and be loved by women are yet more
qualities King Henry displays in Act Five Scene Two. With all these
qualities being shown by the king it becomes more obvious what
Shakespeare is trying to do in creating a perfect king. In this scene
Henry is with the French princess Katherine and her attendant. "Mock
mercifully, the rather, gentle princess, because I love thee cruelly."
This is just one line spoken to woo Katherine to create an English and
French alliance. Henrys usage of the word "I" is not spoken as a true
feeling from himself as his proposal to Katherine he presented himself
in a very cold and impersonal posture as he didn't even grant
Katherine permission to sit but he sat virtually the whole way through
the courtship. This for me puts question into the surface meaning of
the language as again Henry never really reveals his true self from
under his public mask but uses his language as a source of achieving
his goals but not openly exposing his inner thoughts.

I believe that Shakespeare used the character of Henry to show his
patriotism and inspire it in others in his telling of the great
victory of Agincourt as well as inspiring patriotism in the common
man. Shakespeare in my opinion used his plays as means of creating
messages to all Englishmen to strive and achieve their goals and by
doing this would result in becoming a role model in reflection of
Henry and becoming a perfect gentleman. Shakespeare message is clear
to show if everyone were as honourable as King Henry and I think this
was to set guidelines for a Utopian perfect gentleman. It would be
unjust to discuss Henry as a King without relating how Shakespeare has
portrayed his character so this is why I feel Shakespeare has a main
role in my essay, Henry is seen to be at all times politically correct
in most of his speeches, Shakespeare does not let a reader really see
Henrys true self but just an almost perfect noble king.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Qualities and Weaknesses of Shakespeare's Henry V as a King." 06 Dec 2016

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