Throughout the play Shakespeare uses a variety of methods, to carefully construct the presentation of Henry’s character to his audiences. Within the play devices are used to portray Henry’s kingly qualities and his suitability in his position of King. Thoughts and emotions are provoked in the reader deliberately by Shakespeare so that he can manipulate and control the audience’s perception of Henry as a person. In this essay I will be exploring and investigating the emotions and judgements created by Shakespeare’s various conventions.
In the first scene we find the two religious leaders, Archbishop of Canterbury and Ely discussing, in depth, Henrys character. The description of the changes within Henrys character reminds the audience of his wild and reckless behaviour as ‘Prince Hal’ in the previous books Henry the IV (part 1 and 2). But the mental image created within the audience’s minds of Henry, by the device of these two characters is that of a strong and competent king, “The king is full of grace and fair regard” This scene is carefully created and crafted by Shakespeare to change, or create the image of Henry.
Shakespeare wants to diminish the picture of Henrys turbulent youth and prepare the audience for this intelligent and knowledgeable king. The reminder of Henrys untoward behaviour in the past brings a sense of realism to the character and creates a more realistic character within Henry. Ely and Canterbury rave of Henrys qualities to each other. They speak of his intelligence and competence but also of his generosity and affection. These two factors on Henrys character of found throughout the play.
A good example of this can be found in Act II Scene II, when Henry orders the release of a drunkard who was arrested for shouting abuse at him in the streets. Irony is created, cleverly by Shakespeare through Henry when he asks the traitors Scroop, Cambridge and Gray their opinion on the matter. “Let him be punished sovereign, lest example” Henry uses wit and intelligence to deceive the traitors into awarding punishment for crime before handing them written orders which in fact detail their own treachery. Shakespeare here presents a side to Henry which shows increasing strength and power.
Henry sends a message and shows an example that he will not be defeated. This in turn gives great confidence to the audience of his competence as a king. Shakespeares cleaver use of characters and dialog to convey the hidden attributes of Henry can also be seen in the reactions toward the character Montjoy. Henry shows much respect for Montroy’s courage and for the loyal and dignified way in which he carries out his duties, may it be a message of defiance from the French King or asking permission to collect the bodies of the dead after the defeat. Henry talks to him with respect and dignity
“What is thy name? I know thy quality” Shakespeare has a sub plot throughout the play of some lower class characters. Their scenes cause a short relief from the series action of the rest of the play. Fluellen, the professional, conscientious and loyal Welsh captain presents yet another side to Henrys character. Henrys respect for the lower class and ability to regain respect and admiration for them, especially characters such a Fluellen. This is shown as yet another powerful attribute of a King. Henry extends his friendships to compensate for all his soldiers.
This creates a general feeling of good fellowship within the English army. The night before the Battle Of Agincourt Henry presents a soliloquy to the audience expressing a number of feeling and emotions. This gives a real insight into Henrys character. Shakespeare presents the fact that religion is very important to Henrys soul. “What kind of God art thou? ” Beyond Henrys strength and power that we have seen before, we see that he is scared, not enough to admit it, but it can be seen. He recognises what is needed with kingship and the responsibilitites being brought upon him.
He prays for God to be brought to him and his soldiers ” Oh god of battles, steel my soldiers hearts:, possess them not with fear” Shakespeare uses this aspect of religion to bring a different side to the audiences perception of Henry. His weakness in himself can be seen as he begs God for support. Religion is a something that would have truly created a respected perception of Henry. Shakespeare’s audience lived in a time where religion was one of the most relevant and manipulative factors of their culture, making Henrys strength with God a very powerful thing when Shakespeare is presenting a characters traits.
Religion is to Henry a very serious and coincidental matter. A light-hearted side of Henry can be seen in Shakespeare’s scene between Henry, Williams and Fluellen. Henry plays a joke on Williams. Williams threatens to “box o’ th’ ear” of the man who wears his lost glove. So Henry plants the glove upon Fluellen but sends two noblemen along, Lord of Warwick and Gloucester, to prevent anything to violent happening. This scene created by Shakespeare could of just been there to create a little comic relief from the seriousness of the rest of the play, but I feel it was there for another reason.
This action is slightly cruel, but the audience of Shakespeare had a crueller more risqui?? sense of humour. Shakespeare is constantly trying to portray a more humane character with Henry. He wants him to be seen as a strong and capable king, but containing a sense of realism. Shakespeare shows that Henry is both realistic and idealistic in his many traits Within these brave and respectable traits lines another factor to Henry that has not yet been explored. His modesty and honest nature can be seen throughout the play. It presents us with a sympathetic respect for his character.
This can be seen in Henrys conversation with Montjoy ( the French herald). Henry is open and honest with his weak position within the war. ” I know not if the day be ours, or no” Montjoy replies with ” the day is yours” but Henry seems unphased by this. His modesty prevails him yet and he begins to thank God for this pleasure and victory. His modesty and respect for Gods purpose is , yet again constructed purposely to portray the King as a man and not a unrelatable being. His modesty and honesty can been seen again in the final scene in his crude attempts at courtliness towards Katherine.
” I am glad thou canst speak no better English, for if thoudt could, thou would find me such a plain king that thou would think I had sold my farm to buy my crown” The love between Henry and Katherine cannot hide the fact that theirs is, originally nothing but a political union. Katherine agrees to marry him but it is clear she has no choice. Shakespeare brings Henrys clumsy but yet strangely romantic attempts to woo Katherine in maybe once again for some comical aspects, (as it cannot be denied that the language barriers between the two have proved to be funny), but to show yet another side to Henry.
He has shown his openness prevails with Montjoy, but he is able to love and that to an audience is very powerful. It fills the missing space in the character adaptation by Shakespeare, and makes Shakespeare’s ability to manipulate and create a characters through theatre brilliant, Shakespeare took the perceived legend of the historical character of Henry V and managed to create a character that has established a new perception of what a king can be.
It must be remembered that very sentence and word in this play is not but a mere reaction or coincidence, but part of a carefully constructed plan to establish and develop the audiences perception of a character. And the more intricate and complicated a character becomes the more an audience can relate to this personality. Shakespeare developed Henry away from the stereotypical images of grandeur associated with Monarchy and gave us a man. A man who at time is scared. And at times strong. But a man that throughout the play a sense of a realism.