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Shakespeare Coursework - Henry

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English Coursework - Shakespeare's King Henry V Task: To what extent, and for what reasons, do you find Shakespeare's presentation of Henry to be an entirely positive and sympathetic one? Shakespeare's presentation of Henry is not wholly of a positive and sympathetic view, although it can be said that Shakespeare does allow the reader or speaker to make their own mind up on some areas where possible negatives from the king could occur. Nevertheless Henry is shown in many different lights and not all of the situations show him as the best king or man that he could be. Shakespeare does allow some interpretation of his feelings towards Henrys' actions and decisions; these scenes have been interpreted differently in the many productions and movies made from this script. The reason for Shakespeare's presentation of Henry in a positive way is because this script was written to show Henrys' progression form a boy to a man; from Henry IV to Henry V- showing the strong leadership in war that even the most unlikely of characters can make. It also has a very patriotic theme, during a time in history when patriotism was needed in order to promote the monarchy. The portrayal of Henrys' character at the beginning of the text shows him as a very self-righteous and proud King. Henry uses his image to portray a message to his people and subjects, by appearing to be a God-fearing man and acting in a very pious way. ...read more.


This shows that he had to make the difficult decision to execute his former friend, but this scene could be portrayed in different ways. Kenneth Branaghs' perspective shows Henry reminiscing of the days when he was comrades with Bardolph however Shakespeare allows interpretation of this scene; which gives no real indication to how Henry reacts to the decision he has to make in the script. Henry is a very good public speaker and motivational speaker, this is shown in the many speeches throughout the play, such as; the speeches made at Harfleur, Agincourt and also in response to opposition like the Dauphin's gift. When Henry is presented with the Dauphins gift of tennis balls, he is enraged by the Dauphin's arrogance- assuming that Henry is spineless and unable to make a move. His speech is very witty and he uses the idea of the game of tennis to show how France will pay for this insult "he hath made a match with such a wrangler that all the courts of France will be disturbed". He then turns the Dauphins 'mock' into a metaphor for his army and how they will now destroy the French. Henry is quick-witted with his puns and then quick to make his threat more sinister, this recovery from the insult shows Henry's consciousness of his image being ruined by threats, when his pride is on the line he responds quickly and doesn't let the attendants around him feel any weakness in their new king. ...read more.


bodies are being buried all around him and he is in deep sorrow of the deaths that have come from this battle. The fragile side of Henry is shown when he tries to woo Katherine, as he offers himself as a "plain king" with no gifts but his love. He feels ashamed of his lack of preparedness as he is forced into translating his English to a clumsy French translation. She then tells him she fears loving the enemy of France but Henry uses his quick wit to turn that situation around to his advantage "in loving me you should love the friend of France" This different side to Henry shows that he is not a purely ruthless man instead he is a heroic leader who inspired his men to victory in France and shows that he is capable of self-restraint by trying to woo Kate instead of just having her, which he could do. Shakespeare portrays Henry as both a king and a man who can undertake the responsibilities of being king while dealing with his own personal problems such as his past, and his guilty conscience. This shows him as a man who respects his position and understands the duties of kingship and will do more than needed in his quest for respect, so people can remember him as a great king. On the other hand Shakespeare has left areas of interpretation where Henry can be deemed as a bad or self-interested king allowing the audience to make their own decision about Henry as a person and king. ...read more.

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