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'Shakespeare has not single attitude to war in this play' - Henry V - Discuss

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Introduction

'Shakespeare has not single attitude to war in this play' - Discuss In Shakespeare's play, 'Henry V', war is presented in two ways, firstly it is presented as a very noble enterprise, but on the other side of things it is presented as a destructive and terrifying thing. The first view that the play takes is the view that war is a very noble enterprise. The chorus talks about how 'All the youth of England are on fire' This shows how all of the young men are preparing for war as they gather their equipment and prepare mentally and physically for the war. This line shows how much they are eager to go to war. 'Now thrive the armourers, and honour's thought/ reigns solely in the breast of every man.' This line shows that the armourers are getting the soldiers ready to fight and it also shows how the soldiers are proud to be going to war because they have 'honour in their breast'.

Middle

Exeter's speech in which he describes two people dying is a very noble and important speech in the play. York 'Comes to him where gore he lay in step, and takes him by the beard, kisses the gashes that bloodily did yawn upon his face.' This is a very powerful and beautiful part of the speech made by Exeter as it describes how York comes to see if he can save 'The noble Earl of Suffolk' He finds him dying and so he kisses the wounds, as this is the best that he can do for him. 'And with a feeble grip says 'Dear my Lord, commend my service to my sovereign", as one of them dies he cries to the Lord. The speech can be looked at another way, a way that has the view that war is a very ghastly thing and that it is just blood and gore; this is the other view of war that is portrayed by Shakespeare. The King, in one of his speeches gives a very horrifying account of how they must conquer Harfleur victoriously; 'I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur till in her ashes she lie buried' is a very chilling sentence to describe this fact.

Conclusion

Montjoy asks the king if they can have a break 'to view the field in safety, and dispose of their dead bodies.' This is a very beautiful piece of language to describe a horrifying ordeal. This speech, among others gives the impression that Henry is afraid of war, although he hides this well. Kenneth Branagh's film of 'Henry V' gives a very beautiful yet somewhat ghastly view of war. It showed very clearly that Henry was afraid of war and that he was going to do the best that he could to keep up with the pace of the fighting. Olivier gives a very bright view on 'Henry V' in which Henry seems to be unafraid of war, somewhat a different view to that of 'the long the Short and the Tall' which has a easily accepted view that 'War stinks'. The views are well depicted in the original, beautiful, text by William Shakespeare; although the main view is one that war is a horrifying ordeal to be confronted with, under the noble circumstances of a King.

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