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Shakespeare's Henry V Paragraph (received a 65% on it)


Notoman 20 / 419  
Sep 17, 2009   #1
This is an assignment that I received a 65% on. We have the full-blown essay due on Tuesday and I *need* to do much better on that. I thought I would post the instructions and the paragraph here for feedback. I'd like to figure out where I fell short so I can do better on the big assignment. Granted, this teacher is the toughest grader I have ever had, but I am still a little clueless why the assignment scored as low as it did.

Discuss the significance of the execution. To get full credit, consider it in light of character development, thematic issues, and echoes of early events in this play (and the other Henry plays), and/or symbolism. Respond in a developed, formally written (avoid I, we, you, me, my, us, our, your, things, stuff, a lot, contractions) paragraph. Open with a strong topic sentence that functions as the "thesis" for the paragraph. You can refer to the scene using the number format modeled above. Make use of direct quotes that you parenthetically document correctly.

Henry, with his commitment to justice and concern for his reputation among the French people, shows maturation and leadership in Act Three, Scene Six. Henry's friend, Bardolph, is accused of pilfering a religious object from the French and is "to be executed for robbing a church" (Fluellen 3.6.103). Henry had been friends with Bardolph when he was a young prince and Bardolph had been a part of Henry's own drinking and stealing in his younger days. Henry shows no mercy to his former friend, saying, "We would have all such offenders so cut off" (3.6.109-110). The younger Henry would have interceded on behalf of his friend, but King Henry V sees his role as being the enforcer of order through swift and harsh justice. Henry has an eye toward his reputation as a king, and knowing that "the gentler gamester is the soonest winner" (3.6.115-116), has ordered his men that "there be nothing compelled from the villages, nothing taken but paid for, none of the French upbraided or abused in disdainful language" (3.6.111-114). Henry hopes to rule the French after he wins the battle and has an eye toward leniency with his future subjects that he doesn't hold for Bardolph. In this scene, Henry is propelled on his journey from puerile prince to stalwart king.

I lost points because I said "Act Three, Scene Six," and I should have written "3.6." I knew to do it that way in parenthetical documentation, but it feels weird to do it in the body. No problem. I can be taught. I also lost points for not developing my analysis enough or stating what "theme" this scene supports. That is where I am lost. I would love input on how to improve.

(Yes, I did try to talk to my teacher, but he told me to make an appointment. I think that he has the impression that I am a grade-grubbing idiot instead of a kid who just wants to do it right).
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Sep 17, 2009   #2
Right away, we know that the teacher is a jerk due to the points subtraction for "Act Three, Scene Six" instead of "3.6." First, it's perfectly acceptable -- and, in my view, preferable -- to write it as you did and, second, even if this were some sort of hard-and-fast rule in Shakespeare scholarship, it's not like MLA or APA style, which students really must master moving forward. So, really, there's no reason other than pettiness to subtract points for such a thing.

Looking at what you shared, the only problem I can see is that your first sentence doesn't quite do what the instructions say the first sentence ought to do.
OP Notoman 20 / 419  
Sep 17, 2009   #3
Oh, I forgot: I lost points for using a contraction too ("doesn't" in the second to last sentence). My fault there. The instructions specially said not to use contractions. I need to be more careful. Sometimes I write like I think and forget about using formal voice.

How could I make the first sentence stronger as a thesis? Do I need to be more obvious? Something like: The execution of Bardolph showcases Henry's transformation from a callow and irresponsible prince to an intrepid leader of his kingdom with an eye toward the future.

I am really struggling with the larger essay. I can't even figure out what I am going to write about!

Here are the basic instructions:

Chose one part (a scene or less). In a well-developed, multi-paragraph essay, discuss how the part complicates and enriches our grasp of the play as a whole. Whether you explore this question in terms of characters) or issue, either way, make sure that you take your discussion to level of theme. As you try to arrive at a message/moral/point/theme, consider the question: To what does Shakespeare show allegiance/support?

He gave us a prep sheet that confuses me even more. He wants us to use a "Part to Whole" approach. Here is the sheet:

For much of the play, the author's message (not about Henry and not just a thematic idea like glory, war, mercy, etc) seems to be ________________________________________________ because of these three moments in the play:

______________________ ______________________ ______________ ________.

However, the moment in the play that challenges this theme is ______________________________ because in this scene ____________________________________________________________ ____

Based on this scene and the other three mentioned above, the complex theme Shakespeare develops is
____________________________________________________________ _________________

OR

For much of the play, Henry seems to be __________________________ because of these three moments in the play:
______________________ ______________________ ______________ ________.

However, the moment in the play that challenges this view of Henry is_____________________________ because in this scene ____________________________________________________________ _________________

Based on this scene and the other three mentioned above, the complex theme (not about Henry and not just a thematic idea like glory, war, mercy, etc) Shakespeare seems to develop is

____________________________________________________________ _________________

I thought I might do something about the Kingly vestments and how they command respect for the office and then use the scene where Henry dresses in common clothes and mingles with the men as the "challenge" to that view, but it isn't really a challenge because he isn't in his royal garb. It does support the idea that the respect, especially at first, is shown to the station in life and not necessarily the man. And the theme? I have no idea what the theme is.

Thanks Simone! Your help means the world to this lost and forlorn lad.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Sep 17, 2009   #4
To get full credit, consider it in light of character development, thematic issues, and echoes of early events in this play (and the other Henry plays), and/or symbolism.

Well, let's see. You focus very heavily on character development, no problem there. Thematic issues, not so much. You could easily go on to say that Henry's character development develops some theme about what a king should be, or about what it means to come of age, etc., and one gets the idea that you are aware of this, but you haven't actually done so. You're on firmer ground with "echoes of early events in this play," though it would have been nice if you had quoted a specific scene in which Henry's previous attitude is clearly revealed to contrast with his new one. You don't seem to reference any of the other plays, though. Symbolism is sort of covered, in as much as you say the whole incident is symbolic of Henry's new attitude, I guess. Your analysis could also be a bit tighter near the end. After all, if the gentler gamester is the better option, why is he not gentle to Bardolph? He has his eye on lenience to his future subjects you say, but since when has harshness at the start of a tyrants career ever led inevitably to leniency in it later on? I know what you mean to say, but I don't think you have actually said it.

He wants us to use a "Part to Whole" approach.

Allow me to echo Simone's sentiment that your teacher is a jerk. On the other hand, the second option seems like it would work really well with what you have now. Pick three scenes in which Henry seems immature/arrogant/uncaring, etc, then one in which that idea is challenged.
OP Notoman 20 / 419  
Sep 18, 2009   #5
Thanks Sean! That is *exactly* what I needed to hear. I think that this teacher expects a lot out of a group of high school students--this isn't even an honors or AP class. On the bright side, I will learn and this is good preparation for college.

Thematic issues, not so much.

I am struggling with theme! I don't know what the themes are in this play. A good king must be willing to make sacrifices including his personal life? United we stand--as in the play has various groups (the Irish, the Welsh, Scottish, and English) all fighting for a common cause under Henry? God loves the English? Divine right versus divine might? Good fences make good neighbors? (Just kidding on that last one)

You don't seem to reference any of the other plays

This is the first play we have read--it is only the middle of September. The teacher expects us to come at this with a lot of previous knowledge. We did have a brief lecture about how Henry V ties into Shakespeare's other plays, but not enough information to really reference those pieces.

After reading your response, I understand *much* better why my paragraph scored as low as it did. I think I was thrown, in part, by the word "paragraph" and didn't attempt to develop it nearly as much as I would an essay. I was also stymied by my inability to understand the theme (not a good place to start when you are writing!).

But a D? I may not have brought the cow, but my bull should have been worth a 70%.

On the other hand, the second option seems like it would work really well with what you have now. Pick three scenes in which Henry seems immature/arrogant/uncaring, etc, then one in which that idea is challenged.

Perfect! Okay, so I am not going to get this essay written tonight like I hoped, but at least I have a starting point. Off to make an outline ...
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Sep 18, 2009   #6
I am struggling with theme! I don't know what the themes are in this play

1. Then why do you follow up with a list of potential themes?

2. Have you heard of Google?

3. To locate themes, ask yourself questions like "What does this play say about X," where X is something that the play clearly deals with. So, what does this play say about being a king? What does it say about war? And so on. The answers will tend to be the themes you are looking for.

This is the first play we have read--it is only the middle of September. The teacher expects us to come at this with a lot of previous knowledge.

Do you know, Shakespeare's copyright claims expired centuries ago. All of his plays are freely available on-line. Why, a student who felt particularly ambitious might even call up a copy and read them. Or go to that biggish building, the one with all the books that they let you borrow for free, what do they call it again . . . "library," I think it was? They might have a copy or two of the other Henry plays floating around . . .

I think I was thrown, in part, by the word "paragraph" and didn't attempt to develop it nearly as much as I would an essay.

In spite of my relentless sarcasm above, I sympathize with you, and agree that your teacher is a jerk. He wanted much more than a standard paragraph, and should have said so.

I was also stymied by my inability to understand the theme

Back to this again. A quick point -- the notion of theme is confusing because of how the word is used. Often, people say that the theme of a literary work is "war" or "the power of love," or something very general. On the other hand, many teachers want something more specific, as in, what does the play say about war or the power of love. Really the themes of a work are just what its about, really about, I mean, rather than just the story details. And while some themes are rather obvious (after all, the author usually *wants* the reader to ken his message), you can say anything is a theme if you can find enough textual evidence to back up your claim, and explain away parts of the text that would seem to work against your case.

But a D? I may not have brought the cow, but my bull should have been worth a 70%.

I like the reference. And how much was the essay, er, paragraph, worth, as a percentage of your final grade? I'm guessing you still have plenty of room to recover.

Off to make an outline

Good luck.
OP Notoman 20 / 419  
Sep 18, 2009   #7
2. Have you heard of Google?

I tried looking up "Google" in the dictionary and it wasn't there, *wink* This is the teacher that strictly prohibits any outside sources or study guides. He wants us to struggle through Shakespeare in order to really learn how to read him. He doesn't want his students using the spoon feeding that is available. I am paranoid of incurring his wrath if I step out of his boundaries. I get his point. I think I will come out the other side of this with a great knowledge and appreciation for Shakespeare.

Do you know, Shakespeare's copyright claims expired centuries ago. All of his plays are freely available on-line. Why, a student who felt particularly ambitious might even call up a copy and read them. Or go to that biggish building, the one with all the books that they let you borrow for free, what do they call it again . . . "library," I think it was? They might have a copy or two of the other Henry plays floating around . . .

I love you and hate you at the same time. I love your wry sense of humor and your ability to mock while helping. I hate you because your suggestion is impractical. I haven't gotten to bed before midnight since this school year has started. I take that back. I have been asleep before the clock sees double digits on the weekends. Reading all of the sonnets and Henry V within a couple of weeks has been difficult enough (and doing the homework assignments that go along with them) without adding Henry IV (I & II) and then Richard II for good measure. Might as well toss in Henry VI (I, II, & II). If only I could read while I sleep.

the notion of theme is confusing because of how the word is used.

Why, yes, it is confusing. I am relatively new to the concept of theme. My foundational knowledge of theme isn't strong enough to tackle Shakespeare's history plays with any semblance of panache. Your explanation helps A LOT.

And how much was the essay, er, paragraph, worth, as a percentage of your final grade? I'm guessing you still have plenty of room to recover.

It is hard to say. We've had ten homework assignments thus far. Most of them have been worth ten points. Biographical questions on Shakespeare that took me about six hours to complete were worth 40. This assignment was worth 20 points. We have a test tomorrow over Henry V and I have really studied hard for it--I don't know how many points it is worth as high school teachers aren't always forthcoming with that kind of information. I do have time to recover assuming I can figure out how to play the game. This grade hasn't been my only low score in this class. Do you remember the sonnet analysis that I posted? That scored a 50%.

I am not complaining. This class is really stretching me. It is what I imagine college classes to be like. I want to rise to the occasion, but I feel like I have a hundred-pound weight chained around my neck. Can I borrow a pair of bolt cutters?

Thank you so much for taking the time to walk me through this and for listening to my laments.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Sep 18, 2009   #8
Why, it seems as if these wrought blades of knowledge and wisdom might be useful for cutting through chain links, were one weighed down by heavy strands of youthful inexperience.

Some more advice:

1. See if you can find a production of Henry V, and go and see it performed live if at all possible. A faithful movie version would be okay in an pinch, but really, a live performance would be better if you can swing it. Bear in mind, Shakespeare's plays weren't meant to be read -- they were meant to be watched performed on stage. Having body language and tone of voice to work with really helps when you're still getting use to Shakespeare.

2. At some point, you'll get some time off. Use that free time to read a lot of Shakespeare and Romantic and Victorian narrative poetry, not necessarily in that order. You might find it easier to get used to poetry written in more contemporary English first, and then poetry written in Shakespearean English later. But really, it's just another form of English, and like any language, is best acquired through practice. Plus, once you get into them, Shakespeare's plays are *good.* That's why they are still produced regularly. I'd like to say that's why they are studied in school, but I fear that's more tradition mindlessly carried out than anything else.

3. When reading Shakespeare, if you are reading in private, read his work aloud. Try to say it so that it sounds as if you have the emphasis and tone of voice right throughout. Don't be afraid to read each passage several times to get full comprehension. And, if all else fails, read it without trying to figure out each line, but only skim with a view to getting the gist. Then go back once you know roughly what is being said. Consider this passage:

"So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils
To be commenced in strands afar remote.
No more the thirsty entrance of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood;
No more shall trenching war channel her fields,
Nor bruise her flowerets with the armed hoofs
Of hostile paces: those opposed eyes,
Which, like the meteors of a troubled heaven,
All of one nature, of one substance bred,
Did lately meet in the intestine shock
And furious close of civil butchery,
Shall now, in mutual well-beseeming ranks,
March all one way, and be no more opposed
Against acquaintance, kindred, and allies:
The edge of war, like an ill-sheathed knife,
No more shall cut his master. Therefore, friends,
As far as to the sepulchre of Christ--
Whose soldier now, under whose blessed cross
We are impressed and engaged to fight--
Forthwith a power of English shall we levy,
To chase these pagans in those holy fields
Over whose acres walk'd those blessed feet
Which fourteen hundred years ago were nail'd
For our advantage on the bitter cross.
But this our purpose now is twelvemonth old,
And bootless 'tis to tell you we will go:
Therefore we meet not now.--Then let me hear
Of you, my gentle cousin Westmoreland,
What yesternight our Council did decree
In forwarding this dear expedience."

This is my reading process, translated into text. I'm mostly just rearranging the key words a bit and adding some of my own for grammatical clarity:

we [are] shaken [and] wan [and] for a time pant for peace
[but will] commence new broils [someplace] remote.
No more blood on this soil
No more shall war [lots of imagery that makes it clear that the war was bad, mostly skippable] oppose acquaintance and kindred [against each other]

No more shall war [oh god, he's just repeating himself yet again. No wonder scholars don't find Shakespeare hard. If you miss it the first time, you have three or four more chances to get it thereafter] pit us against each other. [okay, that was a pure paraphrase, but by now you get the idea]

Therefore, now we go to Christ's sepulchre
to fight Pagans in these holy fields [Yikes! Sounds like a crusade]
Purpose is twelvemonth old though,
So you already know all of this.
Enough about me, Westmoreland, tell me about you, and what the Council did decree about me.

It becomes second nature after half-a-dozen or so plays, carefully read.


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