What Ideals Of Late Medieval Kingship Are Portrayed By Shakespeare in Henry V?
James Kim (g)
Henry V was the King of England between 1413 and 1422 and has marked his name in history under the Battle of Agincourt of 1415. Shakespeare’s play, Henry V, clearly gives an insight into how the idealistic late medieval kingship was portrayed. Henry V’s piety, military leadership, and other personal qualities are fully expressed throughout Shakespeare’s play.
Religion plays a key role in building the ideal kingship of Henry V. Before the Battle of Agincourt, there are repetitive scenes that show Henry V praying to God for victory against the French. This constant link with God, instantly indicates his religious devotion. On St. Crispin’s Day, the day of the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V gives a rallying oratory to his army, which refers to God’s will continuously. “God’s will, I pray thee wish not one man more…..I am the most offending soul alive. No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England. God’s peace, I would not lose so great an honour.” (IV.ii.23~34) His speech before the battle is bound with religion and his faith in God, which highlighted the ideal kingship of Henry V. The King’s men are also portrayed as reverent as they “kiss the ground” and show “signs of crosses” before they get ready for battle. This may further render Henry V’s image as more pious. In addition, in Henry V’s soliloquy, he states that he constantly gives charitable gifts to the poor as “alms”, which may relate to his high moral standards and how he follows God faithfully. This is how late medieval kingship consists of religion.