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Puerile Prince or Stalwart King: An Analysis of Shakespeare's Henry V


Notoman 20 / 419  
Sep 21, 2009   #1
Help! Pretty please. I am not the happiest with this essay. My teacher is the toughest grader I have ever had so I know he'll rip this apart. I'd much rather go through the shredding here. C'mon, bring it on. I can take it, *wink*

The transitions don't seem to be working, I am afraid I use too many passive verbs, and I don't want the vocabulary to look like it was plucked out of a thesaurus.

The structure is a little odd because of the format we were given:
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 Shakespeare seems to develop is
____________________________________________________________ _________________

Shakespeare opens Henry V in the first act with the Bishops of Ely and Canterbury extolling Henry's virtues. The Bishop of Ely calls Henry "a true lover of the holy church" (1.1.25) while the Bishop of Canterbury admits that "The courses of his youth promised it not" (1.1.27). Henry, known as Prince Hal in Shakespeare's Henry IV plays, has a proclivity for the profligate; but in the opening lines of Henry V, "a heady currance scour his faults" (Bishop of Canterbury 1.1.36), and Henry is held up as a mature, scholarly king and the stalwart sovereign of his domain. The echoes of the immature and arrogant prince exhibit themselves throughout much of the play as Henry fails to take responsibility for his actions, toys with the people around him, and bumbles his way through battles. Henry V sheds his youthful indulgences and is at his most heroic in his oration just before the battle at Agincourt. As he rallies his men behind the patriotic cause, he importunes his soldiers to stand shoulder to shoulder with him and fight to a glorious victory against the much larger French forces.

There are several incidents in the play where Henry puts the responsibility for his actions onto others. Henry seeks to invade France and claim the crown for his own, but he is reluctant to answer for the English lives the war will cost. Henry lays the burden of the decision on the Bishop of Canterbury, telling him, "take heed how you impawn our person,/ How you awake our sleeping sword of war" (1.2.24-25) and disavows guilt. Even as Henry threatens the town of Harfleur with the rape of its women, the elders' "heads dashed to the walls," and "naked infants spitted upon pikes," (3.3.37-38), he eschews blame for the carnage he threatens by telling the men of Harfleur, "What is 't to me, when you yourselves are cause" (3.3.19).

Henry exhibits immaturity when he toys with people in lopsided games, assured of victory by his station in life. In 4.1, Henry borrows Erpingham's cloak so he may wander among his men incognito. Henry engages a soldier named Williams in conversation. Williams offends Henry when he says that the King may claim that he will not be ransomed and "he [says] so to make us fight cheerfully, but when our throats are cut, he may be ransomed and we ne'er the wiser" (4.1.199-201). Henry and Williams exchange gloves in a promise to fight and Williams is unaware that he has just quarreled with the King. Henry amuses himself further when he sets up Fluellen to take Williams' blow by having Fluellen wear the glove in his cap and telling Fluellen that "If any man challenge this, he is a friend of Alençon and an enemy to our person. If thou encounter any such, apprehend him, an thou dost me love" (4.7.163-166).

Henry appears to be a youthful King out of his league blundering his way through France. It is providence not proficiency that helps Henry to win battles. After the battle of Agincourt, Henry admits to Montjoy, "I know not if the day be ours or no" (4.7.88). With the English suffering only twenty nine deaths while the French lose ten thousand men, Henry's ignorance is astonishing. Henry then has to ask Montjoy where they are.

In spite of these foibles and follies, Henry is the heroic King and leader of men. Henry is at his best while giving his Saint Crispin's Day speech to his troops. The English are greatly outnumbered at Agincourt; Henry's soldiers are gloomy with the prospect of defeat. Henry bolsters their morale with a rousing oration that garners the soldiers' loyalty to the King. Decrying the greater number of French combatants, Henry tells his men "The fewer men, the greater share of honor" (4.3.25) they will enjoy for their victory. Henry promises them lasting glory for their victory, saying, "This story shall the good man teach his son,/ And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,/ From this day to the ending of the world,/ But we in it shall be remembered" (4.3.58-61). In saying that "he who sheds his blood with me/ Shall be my brother" (4.3.63), Henry is elevating even the basest soldier to the exalted position of royal sibling. Henry refuses Montjoy's offer to negotiate a ransom and surrender and stands amidst his soldiers as they battle the French.

It is in this inspirational speech on Saint Crispin's Day that Henry V takes his biggest step on the journey from puerile prince to stalwart king. Henry shows great leadership and charisma in his call-to-arms. Henry's fellowship with his men enables the outnumbered English to strike a decisive blow to the French defenders. When all hope appears to be lost, Henry rises to the occasion. Henry sets himself apart from his men, he comes across as immature and inexperienced, but when Henry stands with his men as "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers" (4.3.62), Henry lives up to the elevated proclamations of valor and grandeur Shakespeare promises in the opening lines of the play.

THANK YOU!

EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Sep 21, 2009   #2
This the the very strong body of an essay. Now you need to write an introduction and conclusion. Given the degree of control exhibited by your instructor in this assignment, I'm going to assume that s/he wants your introduction to explicitly state your thesis in words very close to those of the assignment. Your conclusion should recap your arguments and restate your thesis. Boring but, with a teacher like this, probably necessary.

I'll leave it to other forum members to say whether or not they agree with your analysis of the play itself. Your grammar is very good and I don't notice an over-reliance on passive verbs at all.
OP Notoman 20 / 419  
Sep 22, 2009   #3
I'll leave it to other forum members to say whether or not they agree with your analysis of the play itself.

What? Are you saying that I misinterpreted the play? *wink* It wouldn't surprise me. Shakespeare is hard.

I don't notice an over-reliance on passive verbs at all.

I'll probably lose points for having any passive verbs. Oh well. I tried to rewrite some of the sentences, but the construction got a little weird. I figured it was better to leave some of them in and have the piece as a whole flow better.

Thanks Simone!
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Sep 22, 2009   #4
It's been too long since I read the play for me to comment on the interpretation, but your essay makes sense from the quotations you have included. In your second-to-last paragraph, it would be nice if you made it clear from the outset why the Crispin day speech is so important. By the end, I see what you mean -- he says that the troops are all his equals, and proves it by refusing to negotiate a ransom (though this is of course not part of the speech). However, the speech itself can be seen as little more than words until he refuses ransom, so perhaps you might want to say that the speech and battle together prove that he has finally decided to live up to his responsibilities? Just a thought.
OP Notoman 20 / 419  
Sep 28, 2009   #5
Sean, I didn't get to see your comments before I had to turn in the paper. You made a very good point. And Simone, you are so right too! I did restate my thesis more clearly, but not direct enough. I missed hitting the theme--no surprise. I had a really tough time nailing down a theme in this play.

An update, just in case you were curious. I scored an 83% Not bad, not bad at all. Considering that this teacher is the toughest grader I have ever had, I am happy with an 83%.

Here are the teacher's comments:

Your essay is very articulate, and you establish the difference that is present in the Agincourt speech. The assertions you make about Henry are backed up with evidence. You are willing to make interpretations of his character and to support them with a close look at the text. Anchor those good ideas with a more direct thesis. Then, take your argument to the level of theme. What is the author's ultimate message? Also, never give Sh. the last word. After you quote him, discuss the significance of his ideas.

And here are some of his corrections:

Henry, known as Prince Hal in Shakespeare's Henry IV plays, has a proclivity for the profligate; but in the opening lines of Henry V, "a heady currance scour his faults" (Bishop of Canterbury 1.1.36), and Henry is held up as a mature, scholarly king and the stalwart sovereign of his domain.

I shouldn't have used a conjunction after a semicolon. I felt like the sentence was heavy on commas and that the semicolon would give it a more significant break--kind of like using semicolons in lists that already contain commas. Commas and semicolons can be so complex! I still have a lot to learn.

Even as Henry threatens the town of Harfleur with the rape of its women, the elders' "heads dashed to the walls," and "naked infants spitted upon pikes," (3.3.37-38), he eschews blame for the carnage he threatens by telling the men of Harfleur, "What is 't to me, when you yourselves are cause" (3.3.19).

He says, "Good evidence-now discuss it." He's right. I needed to go into more detail on why I thought this was important.

Henry exhibits immaturity when he toys with people ...

I am lacking a transition.

Henry amuses himself further when he sets up Fluellen to take Williams' blow by having Fluellen wear the glove in his cap and telling Fluellen that "If any man challenge this, he is a friend of Alençon and an enemy to our person. If thou encounter any such, apprehend him, an thou dost me love" (4.7.163-166).

The teacher says, "Again, your evidence is solid (as is the point you are making). After the quote, discuss it." I love to see an example of the perfect paper. I don't quite get how to discuss these types of things.

Henry then has to ask Montjoy where they are.

He says, "Awkward."

In spite of these foibles and follies, Henry is the heroic King and leader of men. Henry is at his best while giving his Saint Crispin's Day speech to his troops.

He likes this! "Nice movement to the complexity of the text."

Henry is elevating even the basest soldier to the exalted position of royal sibling.

He likes this too, "Well-put."

When Henry sets himself apart from his men, he comes across as immature and inexperienced, but when Henry stands with his men as "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers" (4.3.62), Henry lives up to the elevated proclamations of valor and grandeur Shakespeare promises in the opening lines of the play.

He likes the conclusion too, saying, "You make a good distinction here about where the dividing line is between his strengths and weaknesses." (Whew! Those little nuggets leave me feeling like there is hope for my future).
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Sep 29, 2009   #6
Good job. Your grades are going up, and, just as importantly, you are learning stuff, which is the whole point of attending school. As for the discussion thing, that just means that after every quotation, you should have an explanation of why you quoted it, preferably focusing on one or two key words in the quotation. For instance:

"Henry and Williams exchange gloves in a promise to fight and Williams is unaware that he has just quarreled with the King. Henry amuses himself further when he sets up Fluellen to take Williams' blow by having Fluellen wear the glove in his cap and telling Fluellen that 'If any man challenge this, he is a friend of Alençon and an enemy to our person. If thou encounter any such, apprehend him, an thou dost me love' (4.7.163-166). This is a classic example of Henry eschewing responsibility for his actions and indulging in immature behavior. For one thing, William isn't an "enemy to" Henry's person. He is merely someone who has stated a glaringly obvious truth. Henry has done nothing by this point in the play to show that he would not save himself with a ransom, and his royal blood means he could do so if he wanted to, something his soldiers cannot count on. It is unfair for Henry to take issue with one of his subjects for speaking the truth. Worse, Henry does not confront Williams personally, but rather sets up Fluellen to fight for him, while leaving neither man aware of what the fight will actually be about. Essentially, Henry's feelings have been hurt by the truth, so he arranges a potentially dangerous prank by way of revenge, an especially immature act as he deliberately disguised himself in the first place specifically to hear the truth about how others thought of him.
OP Notoman 20 / 419  
Sep 29, 2009   #7
*Smooch*! I get it now! I can be so dense sometimes. Thank you for taking the time to do that for me.

My English teacher last year gave very little feedback with the exception of a numerical score. I really appreciate the level of feedback that this year's teacher gives. I know that I will learn a lot in this class--it will be a ton of work, but I will learn.


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