How does Shakespeare show the qualities of kingship in Henry V

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Junade Ul-Hussain

Henry V- How does Shakespeare show the qualities of kingship?

The play Henry V was written in the reign of Elizabeth the 1st. This was a time when the Spanish Armada was taking place and Mary Queen of Scots was probably plotting and scheming away on how she could get rid of Elizabeth and to take the throne. This was a perfect opportunity for Shakespeare to step up and to produce a morale-boosting and confidence-reclaiming play- Henry V

People of that time were quite aware of Henry V and heir opinion of him was a sanguine one. They knew of his feats and how his status was quite a high one. Shakespeare couldn’t have chosen this play to be released and performed at a better time.

What makes a great king? Is it the fact that he is pious and religious, so that his people have a good example of a leader by relating with religion? Or does he have to be strategic and have situations such as country matters under control and to also have the upper-hand in wars and battles. This is actually just a brief description of Henry. He was all of the above but the bit about him that separated him from other leaders in the past was the fact that he was altruistic and humane. In his younger days when he was acknowledged as ‘Hal’ he stuck around with the bad lot and watched them make trouble but made sure to not get too involved. He didn’t get into trouble but actually gained experience of what it was like to live as a normal human being. It was from here that he learnt how different types of people react in different ways and was the main factor of most of his speeches in which an audience was present.

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‘If we are marked to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live’ (lines 20-21)

This is one of the most famous lines in the play. It shows Shakespeare portraying Henry as a monarch ready to give up his existence for his country. This shows the sacrifices he is willing to make and to even become a martyr due to this all in the aid of the country, and the love he possesses for it. It shows a true sense of submission to his nation which makes him an even more admirable king and a ...

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