The Function of the Chorus in Henry V Essay

The Function of the Chorus in Henry V Essay

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The Function of the Chorus in Henry V


"O for a muse of fire," The Chorus introduces the start of Henry V
with imagery of flames and war. Shakespeare uses the Chorus to
initiate the play and summarise each act to the audience before the
next one begins. He is merely a tool to avoid the audience getting too
confused. The function for the chorus is merely a practical one, by
summarising the plot at every available opportunity; there is little
chance for confusion, even if the audience do have to use their
imagination.

But, we must ask ourselves, if this was Shakespeare's only reason for
including the Chorus, why does he not use a similar device in his
other plays? Surely in all of his plays the audience have to imagine
the setting (the stage of the globe was set in the round, and so had
no room for large props and scenery), and many of his plays have more
complex plots than this one, so why do we need the Chorus?

The answer is the Chorus puts across a very clear view of warfare and
Henry's kingship. It is a very romantic, idealised view, which uses
over-zealous language, such as "two mighty monarchies" to create a
strong glorified impact on the audience. They are building up the
audience's expectations of this to be a mighty, glorious play.

The use of the imagery of flames and fire repeats itself throughout
the Chorus's scenes. "O for a muse of fire" is the very first line,
which immediately conjures up a grand image. Flames represent war, but
are also a typical representation of courage and bravery. When the
Chorus says, "the youth of England are on fire," it imposes upon the
audience the idea of keen anticipation and excit...


... middle of paper ...


...nch of salt and are not really
to be trusted. Certain productions of Henry V do glorify war, for
example Laurence Olivier's production in the 1940's painted a
beautiful, majestic picture of war, However after analysing the role
of the Chorus in the play, I do not believe this play is a
glorification of warfare. Henry's leadership is romanticised in the
play considerably more than the idea of warfare. Productions such as
Kenneth Brannagh's creation paint a far more realistic view of war, as
a bloody, filthy affair. This is more what I feel the subtext of the
play is. War is not really idealised in this play, it can be taken as
being glorified, but because of Shakespeare's use of the structure of
the play, and the Chorus's propaganda fabrications, the character of
the Chorus does not in any way add to this glorification.

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