Essay about The Irony Depicted in Shakespeare's Henry V

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The Irony Depicted in Shakespeare's Henry V

As Norman Rabkin has observed, Henry V is a play which organizes critics into "rival camps" of interpretation (35). It can be seen as a play that is ambiguous; a play that exposes the playwright's own indecision; a play that aggressively takes sides in favour of nationalistic fervour which Shakespeare himself didn't believe in (35). All of these views, writes Rabkin, are wrong since according to him the play's "ultimate power" lies in its ability to "point in two opposite directions, virtually daring us to choose one of the two opposed interpretations" (36). In fact, it is Rabkin that is wrong: not in his supposition that the play "dares" the audience to choose, but rather, that a reading
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In the case of the duplicity of Scrope and the other traitors, Henry makes them examples during their "public humiliation" (Brennan 42), "a public demonstration," furthermore, "of his sense of injury." In Rabkin's words, he knows how to give a good "performance," verification of his "political acumen" (Either/Or 45). Unlike his predecessors, this is a king who can recognize that he is in fact a role more than he is a man, and that "ceremony consists only in what is conferred by others." (Rabkin 46). He is so dangerously pragmatic because he is "far less detectable and unsettling because he has none of Richard III's vice-like propensity," and "we are liable to find his image building" similar to modern politicians (Brennan 24).

This is precisely the kind of brutal clarity that helps in his construction and use of the U.K.'s burgeoning state-hood as we know it in the modern sense: "the modern world in which every action of a leader is shaped for public consumption" (Brennan 32). The nation is but a mass of potential chaos, a multiplicity which only reaches its potential as a political, unitary force when it is summoned for battle. Henry's use of his soldiers for instance, and stress on unity (their shared experience and camaraderie of Act ....), leads to the illusory notion that there is a possibility of "nobility" for those who earn it (Brennan
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