Essay on The Flawed King in Shakespeare's Henry V

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The Flawed King in Shakespeare's Henry V

To turn Henry V into a play glorifying war or a play condemning war would be to presume Shakespeare's intentions too much. He does both of these and more in his recount of the historical battle of Agincourt. Although Shakespeare devotes the play to the events leading to war, he simultaneously gives us insight into the political and private life of a king. It is this unity of two distinct areas that has turned the play into a critical no man's land, "acrimoniously contested and periodically disfigured by opposing barrages of intellectual artillery" (Taylor 1). One may believe that Henry is the epitome of kingly glory, a disgrace of royalty, or think that Shakespeare himself disliked Henry
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Approaching the play through mere historical reconstruction limits the potential for insight into society and threatens to create a stagnant historical account. Although the situation to which the play refers no longer exists, a connection can be made between spectator and stage. The Chorus facilitates this connection. Shakespeare obviously intended that the Chorus help the audience visualize the proceedings of history. The Chorus has a dynamic role in inviting each audience member on a journey through time. They have to assemble for themselves the model ruler of Henry, in accordance with the instructions given, for "it would be falsification of history to pretend that [the play] could contain a clear-cut and unambiguous ideal" (Iser 186). The Chorus provides a sense of individual responsibility in creating an image; a product of the imagination and not a fact of history. The Chorus bridges the gap between the past and the present. The spectator is encouraged to walk on an illusionary plain with Henry and share in his experiences.

The communication by the actors is emphasized in this production, as there will be little in terms of stage decor. The Chorus is a dictionary, so to speak, for this new method of a raw and pure rendition of Henry V. It is "explicit about how much stage and actors will do, how much the audience must do for itself" (Beauman 6).

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