Henry V


Henry V Essay, Research Paper

In Henry V, Shakespeare uses Henry to show that a leader must

put duty and fairness above friendship. King Henry has been known as a wild

misfit, and someone who has no regard for the world around him, as it is shown

in Henry IV, Part I, and Henry IV, Part II. He is an irresponsible drunk and the people of England question his ability to control and reign the throne when hisfather dies.

He has a poor selection of friends, they all a drunks, thieves,dishonest

and cowardly. Henry’s father, Henry IV, suggests that Hotspur, the son of his

enemy and rival to the throne, would be a better candidate for the throne than

Henry. Henry is appalled at this thought and now is out to kill Hotspur. He does so at the battle at Shewsbury, while saving his fathers life. Shakespeare doesthis as to set the tone for Henry’s character and his ability to reign and be a good leader in Henry V.

Shakespeare continues this questing of Henrys ability in Henry IV,Part II. During this play, as well, Henry is still a rebellion and still is close with isdistasteful companions. Although Henry killed Hotspur and momentarily showedhis ability to lead and become a king, his father still doubts him. As his father nears death, Henry assures him that he can handle the responsibility of being the next king. His father tells him two very important pieces of advise if Henry is to become a good and just king. He must listen to trusted advisors, and he must unite the English lords through a foreign war. Shakespeare uses that to foreshadow what Henry must do to become a good king, in Henry V.

At the time when Henry becomes king, Shakespeare gives hints that the

people are questing Henry’s ability and responsibility to become a king. In Henry IV, Part II, Henry shows his advisors that he can be a good king and mend his drunken ways. When he is crowned king of England, Falstaff, his closest friend comes to him expecting King Henry to pardon him and welcome him. However, Shakespeare adds an element of suprise when Falsteff is welcomed by cruel and warning speech by the new king, warning Falstaff to stay away from him, and to mend his ways. Shakespeare has Henry be so cruel to his long loved

friend as to show his advisors that he means business. His advisors respond by

respecting the young king as they had just witnessed his virtue and rightful


In Shakespeare’s’ Henry V, henry is faced with the monumental task of

ruling the throne of England. Shakespeare has Henry go forth alone, with no

known mentors. As his father is dead, and his old drunken acquaintance,

Falstaff, is as good as dead. Although Henry abandoned Falsaff, his long time

chum, he had to do it for the wellness of the kingdom depended on it. That one

incident proved to his court and advisors that he was ready to be a king and

could handle the awesome responsibilities of the tremendous job. He was

forced to put duty and fairness above friendship.

Henry is now faced with a tough situation. He has decided to go to war , as his father told him to do, but he still has not completely finished the second element of his fathers advise. Shakespeare sets the mood that Henry is still questioning himself as king and his choice to abandon Falsaff, and he cannot help but feel responsible for Falstaff taking ill recently. His other old drinking pals obviously feel the same way. Hostess: ” The King hath killed his heart” (49, act 1, scene 2, ll 86). The hostess, along with his former friends, Pistol, Corporal Nym, Lieutenant Bardolph all feel that when the king spoke bad of Falsaff, it killed him as Henry was his closet companion at the time. Nym replies with: ”The king hath run bad rumors on the knight. That’s the even of it” ( 51, act 1, scene 2, ll 118-119). When Henry told Falsaff off, he might not of considered what would happen to Falsaff himself when he is dealing with the rejection. Shakespeare uses this attitude that Henry was forced to choose between his kingdom or his long time friends. He obviously choose the kingdom and it consequently killed a man. Even though his friends feel for the loss of Falstaff, their true side and personality comes out when pistol remarks: ” Let us condole the knight, for lambkins, we will live” ( 51, act 1, scene 2, ll 123-124). Even at a time when a dear friend is at loss, Pistol is still thinking of none other than himself. Pistol and his other chums are portrayed by Shakespeare as misfits and are meant to be away from the king, so he can rule effectively.

Later in the play, Henry is faced with the situation of dealing with traitors, who were suspiciously trying to kill the king. When Henry learns of this he is outraged, because one of the traitors is Scroop, Henry’s cousin and a very close person to him. Henry deals with the situation responsibly by saying: ” Touching our person seek we no revenge, But we our kingdoms safety must so tender. Whose ruin you [have] sought, that to her laws we do deliver you” (63, act 2, scene 2, ll 182-186). As a good leader would, Henry has just put fairness and responsibility above friendship. He could of easily disposed of them by not killing them, but decided not to for the safety of the kingdom. By doing this Henry is saying many things. He is sending a message to the French, advisors, lords, and petty men who will fight and die in the war; that this claim is not a mere threat, that he intends to fight it out, and so that they can take him seriously. Henry desperately needs the trust of everyone around him. If he does not have that trust, they will not untie successfully and be valiant against the French army. ” Such and so finely bolted did’st though seem. And thus fall hath left a kind of blot to [mark the] full frought man and best endured” ( 61, act 2, scene 2, ll 143-146). To Henry the traitors seemed so kind and trustworthy, but it did not come to be that way, their “moral sin” will influence the men who will go through it all for the king. Shakespeare uses the three traitors and their orders for execution to show that Henry can take the burdens of being a king and proceeding with the war.

Later in the play, before the battle at Agincourt, Henry is faced with yet another problem and embarrassment from a former drinking pal. After the

English army was victorious at Harfluer, Henry tells his troops to treat the town with mercy, and marches away. Bardolph, is caught looting a silver plate from a church and is ordered to be executed. ” We should have all such offenders cut off…” (115, act 3, scene 6, ll 109-110). Henry is very cut and dry about having one of his close friends being ordered to die. Shakespeare uses that to show that Henry has matured into a good, trustworthy king. For Henry can have absolutely no doubts when he is just about to enter the most important battle of the war. He must keep the troops trust and their piece at mind that they know that this is a worthy cause, and a good fight.

Throughout Henry V Shakespeare has many moods, or themes brought

up , leadership burdens of leadership, or good qualities of a good leader, just

and unjust cause, and mercy and fairness. These all relate to Henry’s choice to

quit his old ways and become a king. He is thrusted into the responsibilities of being a king, and for the most part handles it well. He became a good leader by putting duty and fairness above friendship. By not favoring his old chums, he earned respect, trust and faithful companions. In today’s society, I think that people must deal with the same dilemma, as one becomes more powerful and more exposed to the public, they must choose the right friends as to please

themselves or someone else. A lot of the time, people get hurt, just as Falstaff did or Scroop or Bardolph. Because of Henry’s decisions about his friends, and choosing not to have favoritism in his court, he became a better king and was successful at defeating the French.

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