Henry V was the King of England between 1413 and 1422 and has marked his name in history under the Battle of Agincourt of 1415. Shakespeare’s play, Henry V, clearly gives an insight into how the idealistic late medieval kingship was portrayed. Henry V’s piety, military leadership, and other personal qualities are fully expressed throughout Shakespeare’s play. Religion plays a key role in building the ideal kingship of Henry V. Before the Battle of Agincourt, there are repetitive scenes that show Henry V praying to God for victory against the French.
This constant link with God, instantly indicates his religious devotion. On St. Crispin’s Day, the day of the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V gives a rallying oratory to his army, which refers to God’s will continuously. “God’s will, I pray thee wish not one man more….. I am the most offending soul alive. No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England. God’s peace, I would not lose so great an honour. ” (IV. ii. 23~34) His speech before the battle is bound with religion and his faith in God, which highlighted the ideal kingship of Henry V.
The King’s men are also portrayed as reverent as they “kiss the ground” and show “signs of crosses” before they get ready for battle. This may further render Henry V’s image as more pious. In addition, in Henry V’s soliloquy, he states that he constantly gives charitable gifts to the poor as “alms”, which may relate to his high moral standards and how he follows God faithfully. This is how late medieval kingship consists of religion. Henry V’s militaristic character is also part of the ideal image of kingship.
His personal bravery is highlighted repetitively throughout the play as he directly leads his men into battle instead of staying back and watching his men fight. He also shows a very strong relationship with his troops both the common and noble men. He has deep and emotional conversations with the Duke of York, a noble man, which implies that he sustains a very close relationship with his fellow men. He could not sleep the night before the battle because he had to acknowledge the fact that he had to be responsible for the lives of his men in the upcoming battle.
Chivalry is also present as Shakespeare portrays his fine fighting skills. He fights on foot with his other men, which supports Shakespeare’s previous claims of Henry V’s direct involvement in leading his men to the battlefield. Furthermore, Shakespeare also credits Henry V as a great tactician as the play refer to Henry V’s actions of monitoring the enemy’s whereabouts just before the battle was to commence. Last, there are other personal qualities of Henry, which are expressed in the play. Henry V is portrayed with a strong moral code.
He is informed that his boyhood friend has been looting in the past. Henry V was clear to his men when he said that they should not loot as they make their way through France. Henry V stuck to his words and executed his boyhood friend, which shows that morality comes before friendship for the king. When Henry V gives his motivational speech to his army, his determination and passion can be undoubtedly witnessed. He fights on foot with his fellow soldiers that convey his determined personality.
When the king witnesses the casualties from the battle, he feels the pain of the loss of his men. Such sadness that the king feels is an integral part of the king’s human emotional qualities. The hardship he felt the night before the battle as he was challenged with the test of leadership also is a human quality of Henry V that was emphasised by Shakespeare. One of the most noticeable traits about Henry V is that he is a great speaker who has mastered the art of persuasion.
Being able to persuade his men against a French army five times the size of his to willingly join the battle shows his skills as an influential orator with strong leadership skills. Shakespeare portrays diverse aspects of Henry V. His piety and his men’s devoutness is emphasised throughout the play. His character as a military leader as he leads his men to battle also plays a key part of ideal kingship. Other personal characteristics such as being determined, passionate and persuasive all sum up Henry V’s ideal late medieval kingship from Shakespeare’s perspective.