King Henry in Henry V

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Henry V is a play written by William Shakespeare, that is apart of a series of plays what were very popular in his time. Henry is the king of England and he is going to war with France to try take over Agincourt. He relies on his people and God to win this war, because it did not look good for England, but is this noble? . In Henry V, through the Historicism and Marxism critical analysis and the relationships between Henry and God, and Henry and the church, Shakespeare portrays war as noble.

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In Henry V, King Henry is a major character, leading his people into war. Before Henry V was crowned king after his father, he was not fit to be a king at all. He was a unruly and rough teenager who was thief and spent most of his time in bars with his friends. When he became the king of england he also became the Anti-Hero of Henry V. Henry is an Anti Hero because he has positive traits but also has flaws, and makes a lot of unruly choices to win the Battle of Agincourt. Henry V is dynamic and round. Henry V character is shown and described through his dialect and his dialogue. In Henry V there are a lot of jokes, and most of them involve Henry, for example, the tennis balls, Henry uses a game of tennis to compare with the war that is about to take place between him and France. Henry States:

When we have matched our rackets to these balls,

We will in France, by God’s grace, play a set

Shall strike his father’s crown into the hazard.

In this line, Henry’s character is brought to light, he is a jokester even when talking about something as serious as a noble thing such as war. During Henry V, Henry has many problems, not only between England and France, but with Katherine, his soon to be wife, but only if he can win the War of Agincourt. The War of Agincourt happened because Henry felt that God had appointed him king of France as well as england. Henry’s army however, was not ready to fight, but Henry gives a speech called “The Crispian Day”. In this speech Henry shows himself as a good king, wanting to win Agincourt. In the article Rabbits, Ducks, and Henry V, Norman Rabkin states:

We recognize it as a performance; we share the strain of the King’s greatness, the necessary effort of his image-projecting. “We are thrilled,” Goldman says, “because he is brilliantly meeting a political challenge that has been spelled out for us. It is a moment when he must respond to the unspoken needs of his men?

The king loved his people even when the war didn’t look well, he put all his trust in God. That speech is when the king showed himself as a great leader of England and soon to be france. After the War of Agincourt, when Henry is with Katherine trying to win her heart, Katherine asked how she could love him,when he is her enemy, and henry replies with a sweet explanation, but in this he still mentions war and how it leads his life. Henry says. “But, in loving me, you should love the friend of France, for I love France so well that I will not part with a village of it. I will have it all mine.” He basically tells her not to worry about being an enemy, because he will soon have every village in France. Henry is a confident king who has faith in God and just wants to win a noble war.

The exposition of Henry V starts when Prince Hal became King Henry V. The Archbishop of Canterbury and Henry want to protect the church and the economy but in doing so, Archbishop convinces Henry to reclaim english territory in france. Henry states:

Now are we well resolved, and by God’s help

And yours, the noble sinews of our power,

France being ours, we’ll bend it to our awe,

Or break it all to pieces.

As the new king, Henry is already making brave choices for his people and God. Shakespeare, in Henry V, act 1 scene 2 portrays war as noble when is fought for people and God. After the war was decided, french ambassadors enter the room with something for Henry, tennisballs. The tennisballs is marked in the plot as the end of the exposition of Henry V. The Dauphin from France sends the tennisballs to insult the king, and this angers Henry which then leads the the final and concerte decision to go to war with France. The rising action of Henry V, is when Henry is preparing for the battle of Agincourt, and he finds out that, Grey, Scroop, and Cainbridge have been bribed by the french to kill him. When he finds this information out he tricks the three men into saying a man should be executed for stealing, and when Henry brings up what they had planned to do, the pled for not be killed when they wanted a man dead for something so little compared to what they were going to commit. King Henry orders “

Their faults are open. Arrest them to the answer of the law, And God acquit them of their practices.” After that the Henry sends Exeter to France to make it clear that Henry will take over France. The king of France offers his daughter to marry Henry, if he can win the war he has ordered. Henry surprisingly turns down the offer and goes to war. The French army is growing in size, while the English amy dwindles due to sickness and disease. But Henry does not surrender, even though the odds are against them and gives the speech that will make this war noble again.

The climax and turning point of Henry V, when Henry walks around his camp disguised so no one would know it was him. He listens in on what his soldiers think of the war and talks to them about himself to see what they think of him as a king. The men are not happy about the war, and think that if Henry would not have declared war, a lot of lives would be saved. Henry defends himself by saying, ” Methinks I could not die anywhere so contented asin the king’s company, his cause being just and his quarrel honorable.” (IV.I.122-124). Henry believes the war is justified and that all of the men in the camp should be excited to fight alongside the King of England. After Henry goes around the whole camp, disguised, the next day he gives a speech `that will encourage all the men that this war is noble and encourages all the men to fight hard.

This speech is called The Crispian Day Speech. The falling action is England and France on the battlefield, France is confident in the victory until they slowly realize that the victory is slipping out from under them. The French go after their people held as prisoners on England’s side, and when Henry learns this, he orders to kill the prisoners. When this happens the French kill the boys guarding the language. The war turned out very gruesome and tragic but the French lost, and King Henry won the Battle of Agincourt. The conclusion to Henry V, is Henry returning to France to negotiate peace when he is met by Princess Katherine and he convinces her to marry him. All in all, Henry V by William Shakespeare has a classic plot that portrays the Battle of Agincourt as a noble war, because throughout the plot it is made known that the war was being fought for the people of England and God.

During the climax, before the speech, when King Henry was walking around the camp disguised as just another soldier, this is dramatic irony. The fact is that this was a significant action made by Henry, but all the other men and soldiers did not realize this. This was a vital time that Henry needed before his big speech. He heard the doubt and the lack of confidence in winning the battle, that his speech was formulated to boost their confidence and to make them have trust in him, even as a young inexperienced king. The biggest form of irony in Henry V, is that Shakespeare compares Henry and war but he isn’t truly. In act 1, prologue Shakespeare wrote “Then should the warlike Harry, like himself, Assume the port of Mars”. In the journal I cannot tell wat is like me, by Judith Haber he states “Was like, and had indeed against us lines that insistently echo the phrase “warlike Harry, like himself,” but in which the relevant words (“self,” “like”) mean something else (“same,” “likely”) and are therefore nothing (or not very much) like.” Shakespeare, himself did not think war was noble but he portrays it as noble in his plays. There are many small details in Henry V, that support the irony of this, like the boys getting killed because the french thought their prisoners were going to get killed. Shakespeare intended for the war to be noble in the play but the irony is that in real world wars, there is nothing noble about them. The tennis balls was also, a symbol. When the Dauphin send the tennis balls to Henry, the French ambassador says:

In answer of which claim, the prince our master

Says that you savor too much of your youth

And bids you be advised there’s naught in France

That can be with a nimble galliard won.

You cannot revel into dukedoms there.

The tennis balls were sent to tell Henry that he is a young and immature king who has no business planning a war, and should just keep playing childish games such as tennis. In the journal Oaths, Threats, and Henry V by John Kerrigan he states “still unsure of Hal’s reformation??”and to function as a threat. This comes out the more plainly when the assurance is given again over the Dauphin’s tun of tennis balls:” Along with this being a symbol, this also plays into the irony of Shakespeare not believing war in noble himself but portraying it as noble in his plays.

King Henry’s relationship with the church of England is interesting. The battle of Agincourt was all in order for the church of England’s well being. When the archbishop of Canterbury came to talk with King Henry, he persuaded the idea of war, by bringing up the wellbeing of the church if the salic law passes again. Archbishop of Canterbury says in Henry V:

It must be thought on. If it pass against us,

We lose the better half of our possession,

For all the temporal lands which men devout

By testament have given to the Church

Would they strip from us. 

Now he is not talking to King henry at the time but this gives the idea that the Archbishop is serious about this and when he brings an issue to the king that involves the church he is almost right away ready to go to war with France. Throughout Henry V, Henry mentions God multiple times. He says before the Battle that if England wins it will be because of God and then when they do will Henry states “Praised be God, and not our strength, for it!” The war was fought unevenly but Henry believes that the only way they won the war was because of God. This is interesting because the initial reason to go to war with France was because of the church. All in all King Henry’s relationship between God and the church is an important detail to Henry V, that helps Shakespeare portray war as noble.This leads to new historicism, which is power relationships and beliefs that led to a change in history in the time it was written. Henry V brought new ideas in the time it was written and being watched as play. In the journal entry Cultural Materialism, by Neema Parvini, she writes:

It has three chief movements: ‘Warring Ideologies’, a critique of the humanist academics of the past; second, ‘Aesthetic Colonizations’, which looks at the attempt made in Henry V to establish and maintain a sense of national unity; and third, ‘Masculinity’ and ‘Miscegenation’, which analyse gender construction in the play. The war ideologies that Shakespeare was trying to get across was that war is noble and in doing so he made that argument by promoting national unity between England and France. In order for that to happen, war needed to be fought. Shakespeare basically promoted that in order to unite nations, the nations would fight to see who takes over the losing country.

The last point was “Masculinity and Miscegenation” which also relates to Feminist critical analysis. In the tim this play was written, Men were superior, only they went to war an the women were outspoken and left at home. All 3 of those points give way to the new historicist analysis, showing the attitude and the problems Shakespeare was trying to bring to light in Henry V. The biggest Point that Parvini makes is the war ideology and the national unity. This demonstrates war as noble, the unity of when Henry gives the Crispian Day Speech to the day France and England became one nation when King Henry and Katherine get married.

In conclusion, William Shakespeare’s Henry V, portrays war as noble, through a young and inexperienced, but confident king who cared for his people and most of all the church and God. Shakespeare supported war being noble with various events that occur in the play such as The Crispian day Speech. Lastly, through Historical critical analysis and a touch of the Feminist approach Shakespeare demonstrates war as noble with National unity.

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King Henry In Henry V. (2019, Dec 24). Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from

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