Why Henry V is Shakespeare’s best play

In my opinion, William Shakespeare’s Henry V is a biggest of all his plays and so value your consideration.

I note this for dual reasons. First, since Henry V centers on a Battle of Agincourt, a 602nd anniversary of that was this week. Second, since Shakespeare is no longer compulsory reading for English majors during Yale University.

The play starts with 28-year-old King Henry V of England considering his territorial claims in France. An envoy from France fast arrives and presents Henry with “treasure” from a Dauphin, successor to a French throne. But a value is tennis balls, a pointer that France views Henry as a seducer honourable usually ridicule.

Henry is not amused.

“We are blissful a Dauphin is so pleasing with us;” Henry tells a ambassador, “his benefaction and your heedfulness we appreciate we for: when we have march’d a rackets to these balls, we will, in France, by God’s grace, play a set Shall strike his father’s climax into a jeopardy … So get we hence in peace; and tell a Dauphin his jokingly will season though of shoal wit, when thousands yowl some-more than did giggle during it.”

Evidencing his seriousness, Henry dispatches a devoted commander to advise a French aristocrat to produce to his provincial claims. The unconvinced aristocrat responds, “Or else what follows?”

“Therefore in extreme snowstorm is he coming, in rumble and in earthquake, like a Jove.”

The aristocrat refuses Henry anyway, justifying his means for war. And so after putting down a swindling in England, Henry sets sail.

Attacking a vital pier city of Harfleur, Henry’s army wavers during a palace gates. The aristocrat summons them to action:

“Once some-more unto a breach, dear friends, once more; or tighten a wall adult with a English dead. In assent there’s zero so becomes a male as medium calm and humility: though when a blast of quarrel blows in a ears, afterwards embrace a movement of a tiger; prop a sinews, serve adult a blood … we see we mount like greyhounds in a slips, straining on a start. The game’s afoot: follow your spirit, and on this assign cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!”

Harfleur is taken.

The glory, however, is ephemeral as hunger, disease, and a vast French army shade his force. Making matters worse, a crony from Henry’s girl (and Henry IV tools 1 and 2) steals from a church and army Henry to confirm his fate. Does a aristocrat pardon his crony and risk a fortify of his army and a impending support of his French subjects?

No. In a line modern-day counterinsurgency theorists would recognize, Henry justifies his preference in that “for when pardon and cruelty play for a kingdom, a gentler backer is a soonest winner.” Shakespeare is revelation us that Henry has turn a personality who prioritizes his majestic aspiration over a friendships of his youth.

Still, a charge forward is grave.

On a eve of Agincourt, Shakespeare has Henry take adult a costume and travel by a English camp. Stopping to pronounce with soldiers, Henry bears his essence and a honest shortcoming of his leadership.

I consider a aristocrat is though a man, as we am: a violet smells to him as it doth to me: a component shows to him as it doth to me; all his senses have though tellurian conditions… Therefore when he sees reason of fears, as we do, his fears, out of doubt, be of a same gusto as ours are: yet, in reason, no male should possess him with any coming of fear, lest he, by display it, should unman his army.

Shakespeare’s doctrine here is that a leader’s fear is no impiety unless rendered apparent. Or as Winston Churchill once observed, “war is a diversion that is played with a smile. If we can’t smile, grin. If we can’t grin, keep out of a approach compartment we can.”

On a day of battle, a massed French army seem indomitable and Henry’s commanders fear better is inevitable. One wishes for some-more troops, “O that we now had here though one 10 thousand of those group in England that do no work today!”

Then comes Henry’s epic rejoinder.

What’s he that wishes so? My cousin Westmoreland? No, my satisfactory cousin: If we are mark’d to die, we are adequate to do a nation loss; and if to live, a fewer men, a larger share of honor. God’s will! we urge thee, wish not one male more… Rather broadcast it, Westmoreland, by my host, that he that hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart; his pass shall be done and crowns for procession put into his purse: We would not die in that man’s association that fears his brotherhood to die with us… He that shall live this day, and see aged age, will yearly on a burial feast his neighbors, and contend ‘tomorrow is Saint Crispian’ afterwards will he frame his sleeve and uncover his scars. And contend ‘these wounds we had on Crispin’s day.’ Old group forget: nonetheless all shall be forgot, though he’ll remember with advantages what feats he did that day.

Shakespeare has a favourite interpretation by explaining that battles describe brothers between kings, nobles, and peasants. “We few, we happy few, we rope of brothers; for he currently that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”

Then comes a French emissary, again charity Henry a possibility to save his army from an unavoidable defeat. Henry sends him packing, “I urge thee, bear my former answer back: bid them grasp me and afterwards sell my bones.” The aristocrat warns that he intends to quarrel until his final breath, “Come thou no some-more for ransom, peaceful herald: they shall have none, we swear, though these my joints; that if they have as we will leave ’em them, shall produce them little, tell a constable.”

Against all a odds, Henry’s army carried a day.

The rest of a play focuses on Henry’s onslaught to pronounce French in try to woo Catherine of Valois, daughter of a French king. As with other elements of a play, this sell is Shakespeare’s origination rather than tangible history, though it speaks to Shakespeare’s gusto for comedy!

All in all, either or not we are a Yale tyro majoring in English, Henry V is good value your time. Go to a museum production, or if we don’t like a theater, watch Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh.

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