Is Henry V an ideal Christian king?

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Bharrathi Sarvananthan        -  -        ‘Henry V’ Coursework

Shakespeare coursework – ‘Henry V’

Henry V is the last of the four Shakespearean plays dealing with the rise of the House of Lancaster but unlike any of its predecessors, this play focuses more on going to war rather than the issue of ruling over England. In the play Henry [V] is portrayed as being the ideal Christian king, but what made an ideal king? In this essay, I will examine four key speeches made by Henry in the play, analyse them and see what they reveal about his character and from that deduce what made an ideal Christian king. The speeches that I will consider can be found in Act 1 Scene 2 [lines 259-298], Act 2 Scene 2 [lines 79-144], Act 3 Scene 1 [whole scene] and Act 3 Scene 3 [whole scene].

        The first extract [Act 1 Scene 2] is Henry’s reply to the Dauphin in response to the insult with the tennis balls. The purpose of this speech is very obvious from the start; to warn the Dauphin of the forthcoming invasion of France and the defeat of the French which Henry believes will come about as a result. He also tells the Dauphin that the whole country and its future citizens will hate him for this mockery of the king. The speech starts with an ironic light hearted riposte when he says, “We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us…” [line 260]. Then almost immediately the speech takes on a greater seriousness and we can feel the tension swell in the room as Henry is giving the state response to the insult. It ends with Henry launching a personal attack on the Dauphin and we can clearly see that this is his personal response to the insult.

        In terms of language and imagery there are two distinct sections within the extract itself. In the first section [lines 259-267], Henry describes the retributive future war in the context of a game of tennis. During the speech Henry uses the metaphors of a game of tennis e.g. a set being played in France [line 263], the triple pun on the word court [line 266] where the meanings are a tennis court, regal court and law court and chases [line 267] which are part of tennis scoring system. Together these suggest that the war will almost be like a game of tennis in France where the English give the French a royal thrashing. In the second part of the speech [lines 268-298] the language changes from that of a game of tennis to that of war and misery. Another thing which should be noted is that we can tell when Henry is giving the state response because he speaks using the pluralis majestatis (the royal we) e.g. “When we have matched…” [line 262]

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        In terms of leadership qualities, the extract from Act 1 Scene 2 shows us that Henry has oratorical skills, he makes an eloquent and meaningful response to an insult to the state from the Dauphin, and his religious belief when says that the forthcoming war would be under God’s jurisdiction. We also see some of his warrior instinct as he demands war in return for the political insult as well as his statesmanship.

        The next speech being considered is in Act 2 Scene 2 and this is Henry’s speech to the traitors Scroop, Cambridge and Grey following the ...

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