Henry appears to be a very well educated person, although he appeared to be some what of a rouge in his youth,” Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs, You would say it hath been all in all his study”. He displays his wisdom, and incredible control over language “To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences. ” through speeches. One excellent example of such a demonstration would be the speech Henry made to his men just before the battle. The purpose of which was to instil in them a sense of patriotism honour and courage.
The main point he wishes to make, is that although they are massively outnumbered, he does not want anymore men than he already has, “Gods will, I pray thee wish not one man more. ” Creating a tremendous sense of community between them. His main speech starts at line 18 and finishes at line 67, the sheer size of this speech, tells us how much convincing Henry believes he has to do. The King employs a clever use of propaganda throughout by using such stirring sentences as, “But we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”. The speech served its purpose at the time, and was an inspiration to
Henry’s men, although today this could be seen as underhand and immoral, as he is obviously manipulating the men, and using them as objects be it for personal gain or otherwise. Taking all of these points into consideration many modern day directors of productions choose to portray Henry as a very negative character, often making him into the evil side of the story, and the sinister corruption that lurks behind Shakespeare’s story, if it is studied. Often described as a “thug” in recent versions of the play, this is the way most people would tend to view Henry.
I believe that by looking at Henry’s character in general throughout, he could be seen as an honourable character, with a few simple flaws, although the genuine Henry, is what we find behind this mask. A manipulative identity, who views the people around him as rungs in a ladder, that are simply there to aid him. Ultimately we can see both sides of Henry, indeed at some points in the work, we can begin to admire and respect him, he does but amazing amounts of effort into persuading his men and justifying his causes.
His displays of oratory throughout seem genuine, and meaningful. Apart from this there are numerable occasions in which we see Henry fulfilling his role as a good Christian, and as a good leader to his people. He is loved by many of his men, “He is as full of valour as of kindness”, he is honest to his people, and manages to demonstrate mercy to the French. A good example of the superior side of Henry is in his conversations with Kate. In one conversation with the French princess, Henry tells her he is a friend of the French people, “But in loving me you should love the friend of France.
” However, this again may be an intelligent use of propaganda to persuade Kate to marry him. Although I have already begun to label Henry as being an unfavourable person, I would not classify him as being ruthless. I believe he is aware of the consequences of his actions, and there are some prices he is not willing to pay. Although Henry is in pursuit of victory, and works both himself and his men extremely hard in order to obtain it, I do not believe he would do anything to claim it.
It is likely that in some cases, such as earlier in the text where Henry is constantly passing the blame to others, that he is not doing this out of a callus, and cold disregard for others, but they are simply the actions of a young and vulnerable king with little to no experience of such troubling times. Again to add further to this list, we can observe his strength, when not allowing himself and his kingdom to be ransomed by the French, along with his composure when receiving the tennis balls from the French, “We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us. His present and your pains we thank you for. ”
Although Henry does use propaganda, and persuasive manipulation when motivating his men, he is not glorifying war. To his men, he is glorifying, courage, sacrifice, and the will to fight for ones country by simply listing the personal benefits and rewards that all these things hold. In Olivier’s film, he chooses to focus in on this concept, he depicts Henry as a heroic character, and shows the above statement to be true. However Branagh’s version caters for a more modern audience, twisting this idea, leading us to believe Henry has a sadistic temperament and ideology, and so
illustrates Henry’s manipulation as glorification of war. If explore these two films in greater detail we can find that there are very few similarities in the way that the directors chose to depict Henry. At the time Olivier was making his version of Shakespeare’s play, the British soldiers were preparing for the Second World War. Because of this, all of Henry’s actions were that of an honourable and fair king, it is again because of the time period and situation that war seems to be glorified in Olivier’s film. We can also notice when comparing the original script and this film that the director chooses to cut sections that have a traitorous or treasonous content.
The reason for this is simply to avoid instilling such thoughts into the British troops. Branagh’s version however seems to have a more realistic and grittier tone throughout, all the outtakes from the original film were kept, it stuck firmly to Shakespeare’s script and was further exploitative of the depth of Henry’s character. Branagh, stretched to conceal nothing from his audience, and indeed the way he actually films his work is a stark contrast to that of Olivier’s.
When comparing the way the two are filmed we can observe that whilst Olivier’s version is set upon lavish backdrops and begins on a stage before an audience in somewhat of a humorous manner, Branagh chooses to shoot his scenes on location, giving the dramatisation a darker semblance. We are shown rain, dirt, bloody battle scenes, and the horrendous consequences that are laden upon a king and his kingdom. We are shown truth, and that is why the this version is today consider the best. In conclusion, through analysing Henry’s character, I would maintain my original argument.
Although through observing what I have said in the main body of this essay it is possible to deduce that there is an outstanding aspect of all three original elements contained within him. Nevertheless it is obvious that the strongest aspect of Henry Shakespeare wished to enforce, was his manipulative, controlling and often sinister side. Again, it would not, of course be fair to say this is Henry’s only characteristic, Indeed he shows a somewhat caring and considerate side at times, most predominantly during the time he spends convincing Kate to be his wife.