In Act I of Henry V how does Shakespeare portray the character of the King?

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In Act I of Henry V how does Shakespeare portray the character of the King?


By writing this play, Shakespeare was hoping to inspire the people of England because at that time there was a possible threat of war from Spain or Ireland. He was trying to create the feeling of patriotism so writing about Henry was a good idea because he was the epitome of a brave, courageous king. He was able to inspire his men to great victories such as the Battle of Agincourt, where the English won against the odds. Many of the English were tired, fatigued before the battle and they were up against the best French knights. This play was made into a film during the Second World War to inspire the British against the Nazis. You could say it was propaganda because it was trying to promote the governments view.

In the prologue it’s basically apologising because it is not possible to produce the atmosphere of the great battles in the play. So the audience is asked to be imaginative in order to behold the events of the play, transferred from a vast battlefield to the theatre. The chorus sets the scene for the rest of the story.

The prologue is also written to glorify King Henry. It suggests that he is powerful and successful by saying ‘Then should the warlike Harry, like himself, assume the port of Mars’. This alerts us to some of the play’s most powerful war themes. Harry (or Henry) is likened to the Roman god of War, Mars. This immediately paints a picture of a great warrior in our mind and suggests that he is God-like.

Henry is said to have total control over what he does and brings. ‘(Leashed in, like hounds) should famine, sword and fire crouch for employment’. Shakespeare uses personification here by bringing the three aspects mentioned in the quotation to life. He says that Henry controls them like a man controlling his hound. Shakespeare continues this further by saying that they crouch at his side waiting for his command. Henry knows what his actions will bring. It suggests that Henry has the power to control the effects of war.

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At this time the Church was in some of trouble. Canterbury tells Ely about a bill, which could take land away from the church. Henry is now a true man of the Church and is likely to support the Church. But even so the cunning Bishop of Canterbury has a plan that will divert his mind from the bill, and that is Henry’s possible claims to land in France. He says to Ely ‘For I have made an offer to his majesty’. If there is a war to get the land the Church will pay some money for the ...

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