Explore the Nature of Kingship In "Henry V".

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Explore the Nature of Kingship

In “Henry V”

“Henry V” is Shakespeare's adaptation of an actual event in English history. Shakespeare would have originally written the play for the monarch at the time. So to please the monarch Shakespeare would omit historical details and use poetic licence to change events in order to flatter the monarch. In this essay I will attempt to explain how Shakespeare describes and portrays the nature of kingship within the play “Henry V”. I will explore all aspects of the play including: Henry's rousing speeches, minor characters’ views of Henry and Henry’s role as a king compared to the French monarch.

        The Chorus in “Henry V” is used by Shakespeare to outline the forthcoming scene and to drop hints as to the future plot. The Chorus almost has a spectator or commentator’s view of the proceedings and therefore possess a biased view of Henry. The Chorus praises Henry throughout his appearances in the play. Even before we have met Henry the Chorus praises him, in the Act 1 Chorus Henry is described as "warlike" and like the "Port of mars". Mars being the Roman God of war, this shows how great Henry is. As Henry is being compared to a God of war then he must be a good leader in battle. Also the fact that he is being called "warlike" shows the Chorus’ admiration for Henry. The Chorus’ biased opinion towards Henry influences the audience’s view of Henry, allowing them to take a similar view to the Chorus. The Chorus’ praise for Henry is not only shown in Act 1 but in all of the Choruses. The Chorus describes the French King offering his daughter and “petty and unprofitable dukedoms”. Henry however turns down the offer: “the offer likes not”. Henry is shown to not back down for what he believes in, and Henry is portrayed as a strong and loyal King. Henry is also viewed as “the grace of all kings” so he views him as graceful and a righteous king.

The Act 4 Chorus again portrays Henry as a great leader and king.  The Chorus talks about Henry as a great speaker and how he is good at rousing his men. ”Calls them brothers, friends and country men” this quote shows how Henry views his men as equals by calling them brothers. The aftermath of the battle at Agincourt shows the Chorus praising Henry’s actions. The Chorus describes how Henry gives God the glory of battle, how he tells his men not to celebrate their victory:  “He forbids it”, this shows Henry giving God the glory of the victory and that Henry is a very religious king. As in the Chorus in Act 1, Act 5 shows Henry compared to famous and great leaders. “Like to senators of th’anique Rome” or “Caesar”. Henry being compared to these great leaders reflects heavily on his role as a king, as the Chorus views him as one of the great leaders. The Chorus’ final Epilogue describes Henry as “this star of England” this is the final compliment given by the Chorus and sums up Henry. It shows how he led England to victory even though they were outnumbered, by using his great leadership skills, therefore making him a great King.

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The Chorus offers us a good insight into the French Monarchy. “Have for the guilt of France (oh guilt indeed)”, this shows that the French are weak having to pay men to commit treason against their King. Also the fact that the French have to resort to corrupt methods suggests that they fear they may lose the battle. This quote also shows the French as corrupt, not playing by the conventional rules of war. Compared to Henry’s actions the French are made to look bad, and therefore the Chorus is praising Henry. The Chorus continues to praise Henry by comparing ...

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