Task: An Elizabethan audience might see the play as the presentation of the qualities of an ideal Christian king; a 21st century audience might interpret the play in a number of different ways. Discuss the way in which Shakespeare presents Kingship in the play and examine different interpretations.As the play was approximately written in the year of 1599, there where certain qualities in which a king had to have, that may differentiate from the values of today. Shakespeare has throughout the play shows quality’s that Henry has an ideal king; to an Elizabethan audience. Through the eyes of a 21st century audience value may be seen differently.
Henry is seen as a ideal king as well as a cynical king due to different philosophical and political assumptions.Shakespeare portrays kinship throughout they play showing al the good qualities of a king at some stage of the book. Firstly the fundamental quality for an ideal king is that he had to be a Christian. Henry demonstrates that several times that he is a Christian.’Praised be God, and not our strength, for it!’ Instead praising himself and his soldiers after he heard they won the battle the first words he utters are praising God.The king is also meant to support the Christian Church which is revealed to the audience in scene 1 ‘a true lover of the holy church’Henry makes use of his academic education in Act2 scene 4. A metaphor is used for war to show the French King how defenceless he will be ‘take mercy’ Its as if France will ultimately eaten up ‘hungry war’ and like a vicious beast ‘vasty jaws’ Shakespeare proves to the audience that he is scholar learned. Henry managed to put declaration of war into the French hands.
By claiming France is now English territory Henry makes it seem as if it were France in the wrong.A system of justice is seen as a must have duty of a Christian King. Henry displays justice when he doesn’t want to put forth an illegal claim for the throne.’justly religiously’ ; ‘our claim’. Henry’s curiosity in wanting to know why England is going to war shows his system of justice and religious beliefs.Henry allows himself to be counselled by the wise men of the kingdom. Westmorland argues that ‘hath cause and means and might’ indicating that he agrees with the reasons for war. This shows how Henry takes advice from the elderly.
Henry seeks to defend his state which is seen as a quality of an ideal Christian King. ‘But lay down our proportions to defend’ There will be a threat to the nation while he is gone so he is looking at his options very carefully which presents statesmanship.Shakespeare is conveying to the audience that he not just an ideal king but also a ‘plain soldier’.
This again is seen as a good quality by an Elizabethan audience. He is seen as a skilled soldier. In addition Henry can be seen as a great leader and orator.’But when the blast of war blows in our ears’This was the message Exeter delivered to the French court that Henry sent to the French King.Henry’s political judgement in the 1st two scenes shows his qualities as a Christian King.
Henry has shown to the audience that he refuses to start war lightly, unless he is certain. ‘And justly and religiously unfold.’ This is s a quality of an ideal Christian King.’May I with right and conscience make this claim?’ Henry shows his concern that he wants to make sure he is liable to the throne of France.
‘Learned Lord’ is a wise confirmation to make sure his claim is legitimate in terms of justice law and religion.Shakespeare shows good kingship within Henry when he is thinking about the souls that will be taken and he doesn’t want it to be taken for any petty reason. Also he doesn’t want his soldiers to suffer without good reason ‘sleeping sword of war.’Henry is going to war with soldiers who don’t particularly care about the war but more about their petty little issues. ‘I’ll kill him! By this sword I will’ Henry shows encouragement to his soldiers. Henry also understands and is aware of the ordinary people in the Kingdom.
Shakespeare shows the audience that Henry clearly understands the difference between him and the ordinary people lie in his position’the violet smells to him as it doth to me’. Henry may be powerful and wealthy but he recognises that flowers smell the same to him as everybody else; this conveys he is humble and is aware of ordinary people.Shakespeare demonstrates that Henry has a system of justice. Henry had some traitors among him who where bribed to kill Henry V. But subsequently King Henry found out and had to punish them. This would weaken the stability of the throne and Henry wouldn’t want people like that around him. These where is personal friends and he could have let them go is he wished. But Henry put his personal loyalties aside to handle the traitors.
‘O let us yet be merciful.’, ‘We would have all such offenders so cut off’ By asking the traitors what the punishment should be to such a violation this technique couldn’t have been fairer. Being an ideal it is said that Henry should avoid people like parasites, flatters and crawlers; and I am sure traitors are no exception.Being a King it was said that he should get married and he should produce children who should be heirs to his kingdom. Henry tries exactly that in scene 5 act 2 everyone signs the treaties that will make Henry and his son heirs to the throne of France. Marrying Kate brings the nations of France and England together as one.
Due to different political views Dauphin doesn’t approve of Henry’s kingship. In the French court is a total comparison to the English one. In the French court Dauphin perceives Henrys as ‘vain, giddy, shallow, humorous youth.’ Ironically this shows Henry’s own naivetï¿½. The Kingship has different values and morals to Henry’s.Looking at it from a different political view Henry can be perceived as a cynical King.
‘Take pity of your town and of your people’ By hearing this one could interpret that Henry should think about the souls he is going to take and the consequences.In scene 3 act 3 Henry can also be interpreted here as a cynical king. He presents to the Governor a realistic sense of what is going to happen.
‘impious war’ He talks about rape and murder and makes it seem that he shows concern for the souls of the people who will die. But it can be seen as just a front. A way of trying to persuade the Governor not to fight so he doesn’t have to go through all the hassle. Henry may have an aim that is not legitimate and using his ‘claim’ as a smokescreen it blinds people oh his real intentions.’But lay down our proportions to defend’ Can be seen as jus being selfish and wants to make sure his land and power is safe and isn’t worried about the state.A feature of Henry that Canterbury gives him praise to is hisreligious devotion.
His journey to France is seen to be having God’s blessing. His final words prior to the Great War consists of him crying out to his God’And how Thou pleasest, God, dispose the day!’ On the other hand just can be seen as a stunt to make it seem that he is calling out for God, but he just doesn’t want to be sussed out. When it is told of the amount of people that died in the English army and how many died in the French army Henry’s scream of ‘O God, thy arm was here!’ assumes to the audience that it comes form his heart The audience perceive that he will not agree to taking any of the credit for the defeat. An Elizabethan audience would see Henry as free from vainness and smugness. Where as a 21st century audience may see him as lying again, just trying to please his fellow soldiers.
It seems that Henry is certain that God shall obtain every bit of the credit. This modesty makes the audience more willing to give him credit for his contribution. The audience may come to the conclusion that God decided to the help the English during the war as they were out numbered. However, part of the audience from a Elizabethan audience may go to the extreme and suggest there is rather a Christ-like quality as regards to Henry the King.Shakespeare presents Kingship in Henry’s case as a way of improving from a wild child. ‘The courses of his youth promised him not’ this is how the French court perceives Henry the same way he was as a youth. But after the death of his father’his wildness, mortified in him’.The French kingship is a huge comparison to the English one.
Shakespeare has presented to the audience the diversity in all that they do. In Scene 4 act there is a sense of military arrogance. ‘They have said their prayers, and they stay for death’Humility before God is missing. They are giving to war without the philosophical thought. Also the French have no spiritual concept and their minds are focused on themselves in comparison to King Henry V. Dauphin is a classic example where he is thinking bout ‘my horse’.
His mind is focused on his horse boasting about his horse. Looking at it from a philosophical view the interpretation can be made that Henry as being manipulative towards the people of Hafleur. ‘Take pity of your town and of your people’ When Henry makes threats fear strike the people of Hafleur, it can be seen that he has no concern at all for the people of Hafleur.
This shows the negativity that will be spotted out by an 21century audience but not a Elizabethan audience. Henry can be seen as magnanimous in victory and have a media reputation as a King ‘use mercy to them all’.The 21st century audience will also notice the fact that Catherine is being used as a political pawn. ‘With full accord to all our just demands’ this is seen as manipulative in the eyes of a 21st century audience as we now marry based on feeling rather than state issues. Henry’s advantage out of it is that he will be uniting England and France his motive is not based on his feelings s an 21st century audience wouldn’t really approve; of Henry’s actions here.I understand that kingship in the times of 1414-1415, when the play was set, the ordinary people of the kingdom were distant from the king. I believe that they hardly ever saw the king to know or remember distinctly what he looks like. In scene 4 act 1 he asks Erpingham ‘Lend me thy cloak’ by doing so an Elizabethan audience believe he is disguised well.
On the other hand a 21st century audience will see it as ridiculous. It can be argued that the soldiers can’t recognise him in the flesh. This symbolises how distant the king is from his soldiers.In conclusion, I feel that Shakespeare is presenting his opinion about kingship is that the qualities that characterize a good sovereign are not inevitably in line with the same as the qualities that describe a good person. I feel that Shakespeare presents Henry’s gripping skill to connect with his people and motivate them to accomplish his purpose as the primary condition of good leadership ‘you, good yeomen’. I value Henry as an extremely king. He is exceedingly bright, persistent, and inspirational to his soldiers.
In turn this presenting Henry as the epitome of a good leader and king. All in all despite the bad interpretations of Henry V I understand him to be an ideal king for his time. I believe that Shakespeare put the French as a symbolic reference to what a kingship shouldn’t be similar to. I understand that Shakespeare’s representation of the king shows that authority causes difficulties to distinguish between being a hero or a villain.I believe that Shakespeare presents Henry as the hero and great king and what values a king should have. Whereas the French should be seen as a good example of what a awful kingship should be in reminiscent of.