Henry V Speech Analysis

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Ravi Lakhani 10Y                13/04/2009

Henry V persuasion speech analysis.

Once more unto the breach dear friends once more.

This speech given by Henry 5th is set at the siege of the French town Harfleur, where Henry’s miners have blown a breach in the outer wall and his soldiers are reluctant to enter the castle as they know that it means almost certain death. Henry is trying to persuade them to rush into the breach. Shakespeare’s speech for Henry is decasyllabic, ( each line has 10 syllables) showing that Henry is a noble man.

“dear friends”

 In the first line of the speech Henry addresses his soldiers personally, this creates a feeling of comradeship and allows him to gain their trust, with the intention of increasing their loyalty to him as they feel that they are respected and held in high esteem.

“Or close the wall up with our English dead”

Henry does not lie to his soldiers; he is honest and tells them that it is better for them to die fighting like heroes than cowards that will end up filling up the breach with their  dead bodies. This reinforces the soldiers trust in Henry as they feel that he is openly addressing the situation at hand and he earns their respect by doing so.

“In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

 As modest stillness and humility;”

Shakespeare uses sibilants which are consonants that are pronounced with a hissing sound in ‘peace’, ‘modest and ‘stillness and rallentando which is a gradual slowing of pace, to modulate the speech .Henry indicates to his soldiers that they are good honest men, even though he knows that most of his army was made up of thieves and murders, however it allows them to feel noble and inflates their self esteem , which serves Henry’s purpose.

“But when the blast of war blows in our ears,”

The tone and speed of the speech is raised again when Henry erupts into this flurry. Here Shakespeare uses the “b” plosive sound to install fearlessness in his soldiers and to give them a blood rush.

“Then imitate the action of the tiger:”

To Henry’s soldiers the tiger would have been a legendary creature, the ultimate killer, fierce, silent and deadly. To work the soldiers into a frenzy Shakespeare quickens the pace and raises the volume.

“Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood”.

Henry gives the soldiers instructions to get them into the physical and mental state of a berserker, he uses the idea of blood to bring out deep ,subconscious animal instincts from within the soldiers.

“Disguise the fair nature with hard-favoured rage; Then lend the eye a terrible aspect …now set the teeth.. hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit”

By doing this he builds up the energy and gives them a feeling of being like the tiger.

“ On, on you noblest English”

The repetition of “on” creates a feeling of thrust and he also refers to them as noble, which increases their will to charge at the breach, as, if they survive they think that they will be honoured and glorified. Henry then continues to swell their ego and make them more confident.

“Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof”

Here he is saying that their fathers were invincible “war proof” making them also feel invincible. “Fathers like so many Alexanders” He is referring to “Alexander the great” and saying that their fathers were as great as him, this makes them feel proud and bold. “ Have in these parts from morn to even fought, And sheathed their swords for lack of argument” He sets an example and indirectly tells them to copy it.

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“ Dishonour not you mothers”

He now changes tack from praising their forefathers to saying. Are you a worthy son? “ That those whom you called fathers did beget you” By using these insults he is rousing their anger which he now channels towards charging the breach. “Be copy now to men of grosser blood, And teach them how to war” He gives them a challenge which is also saying that if they do not charge, they are not worthy of their ancestry.

Picking on a small group he shouts . “And you, good yeomen, Whose ...

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