19 March 2018
Investigating William Shakespeare’s Henry V
Henry V is a play made by William Shakespeare. The play is in sequence to his preceding plays: Richard II and Henry IV, Parts I and II. In these previous plays, our protagonist appears as “one of the guys. Henry is depicted to be accompanied by the lower class telling jokes and drinking alcohol. Also, in the plays prior to Henry V, Henry was observed to get in trouble a myriad of times. However, In Shakespeare’s play Henry V, Henry develops into a leader and a proper King. The process in which Shakespeare decreed how Henry V would fall into kingship is praiseworthy. This process will be investigated further in this analysis of Henry V. King Henry V’s moral and emotional growth plays a major role throughout the play. This is evident through Henry’s development from a tragic hero, Shakespeare’s development of Henry V through actions/language, and Henry’s adopted role as an “true hero” in the play.
As a first point Shakespeare puts emphasis on Henry’s characteristics as a tragic hero. A tragic hero is one who exhibits: being born a noble, having an imperfect trait, a fatal flaw, wounds from experience, and is feared or pitied upon. The characteristics of a tragic hero that Henry possesses, inhibits his ability to lead as a king. This is evident in right from the start. From prior knowledge we know that in Henry V’s past he was a bit of a drunk and a fool. With Shakespeare wanting to construct a play centered around Henry V, he knew he had to some how consider Henry’s old ways and mold them in this play. At the beginning, Henry is observed to be a king who is told what to do. This observation makes it seem like Henry depends on others to make decisions and does not take full responsibility as king. This is exemplified when Bishop of Canterbury speaks to Henry, “My lord, I’ll tell you that self-bill is urged” (1.1.1). Henry should not be told what to do since he is king. The Bishop of Canterbury should only advise the king instead of the latter. To be an ideal king, Henry must step up and own lead his people. He can not be worthy leader if he heavily depends on the assistance from others.
In addition, Henry’s moral and emotional development is exemplified by Henry’s actions and use of language. To elaborate further, Henry’s emotions and morals burdened his ability to lead in some occasions. Shakespeare included in the scenes of this play Henry’s mercy, empathy, and sense of justice. All of which were shown through his decisions with the supporting characters, whom he had emotional ties with. However, the process in his decision making altered as Henry was exposed to leadership. Although there are scenes where Henry is merciful, there are situations where he had to close relationships. These relationships were with people he knew personally but betrayed him or participated in criminal acts. In such circumstances, Henry had to come to terms w...