Shakespeare's Presentation of Henry V Essay

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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
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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 the soldiers would never be Henry’s friends from the episode of Henry’s rejection of Falstaff, but Henry is relating to and uniting his men. Henry uses poetic techniques to depict the glory of war: ‘Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.’ The imagery of the ocean is very effective as it portrays the uncontrolled surge of battle. He
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