In Henry V it emerges that to be a good king does not necessarily mean being an ideal man. An example of this is the claim to the throne by the divine right of kings “Derived from Edward, his great grandfather.” This quote suggests that Henry was supposed to be king and justifies him going to war with France. In addition he calls upon God through the “divine right of kings”, throughout the play which suggests that God wants Henry to be king. On the other hand it appears that he has no loyalty to his previous friends as he contributes to the death of Bardolph and Sir John Falstaff. Moreover Henry has reformed like “The strawberry grows underneath the nettle/ and wholesome berries thrive and ripen best/ neighboured by fruit of baser quality.” Henry is now a wise and sober king and concealed this when he was young but transpired to be an excellent king.
Henry is a Christian king and calls upon god on numerous occasions during the play. An example of this is when he does not want to fight because of the sickness amongst his men, but if the French confront him he will not avoid it. Henry says “Yet forgive me, God,” and “Yet, God before, tell him we will come.” He demonstrates that he is a fine Christian monarch with the French ambassadors stating that they can speak freely, “We are no tyrant, but a Christian king.” Henry questions whether he should have been given the thrown through the divine right of kings, “As touching France, to give a greater sum/ than ever at one time the clergy yet/ did to his predecessors part withal.” All the way through the play Henry demonstrates how he should be the king “May I withright”.
This implies that Henry ought to be king, as he associates with God, which means that he is the chosen one and should be the monarch of England. He even atones his father’s murdering of Richard. This shows that not only is he doing the best for what was happening in the present but he was also making amends for what his father, Henry IV did, which not only shows maturity but the fact that he is willing to learn from mistakes that his predecessors made. The decisions Henry makes during the play can also demonstrate how good a Christian king he is, but it can be disputed that being a good king juxtaposes with being a good Christian. This is apparent especially with issue of the war as there is a thin line between doing what is morally correct and just being a man who can be blamed for an unnecessary bloodbath. An example of this is when he says he does not want to fight because of the sickness amongst his men, but if the French confront him he will not avoid it.
Henry showed in the play that he reformed his character as when the Bishops are talking about Henry’s reformation “And therefore we must needs admit the means/ how things are perfected.” This shows Henry has got divine grace and has changed from a drunk to a civilise man. Furthermore “Under the veil of wildness” shows that he has always been clever and capable, it was just hidden, intellect maturity. He has the ability, perhaps a faï¿½ade “grew like the summer grass, fastest by night.” This statement shows that although on the outside it looks as if he is a drunk who hangs around with the low lives, but at night when everyone was asleep and could not see him he grew in knowledge, maturity and understanding. There are points in the play where it is not certain that Henry has fully matured like when the Bishops Ely and Canterbury are talking to Henry about the passing of the new law and how they support the war financially, it begs the question has Henry changed or is he still open to corruption.
There is plenty of evidence throughout to prove that Henry has reformed like when Montjoy is seeking permission to recover the dead. He refers to Henry as a “great king” twice in his speech. “By a vain, giddy, shallow, humorous youth,” this statement contrasts with “The strawberry grows underneath the nettle/ and wholesome berries thrive and ripen best/ neighboured by fruit of baser quality.” The Dauphin’s father realises that King Henry has changed and how history shows that king Henry is a threat because of his grandfather. Henry has learnt from his bad youth which has had a positive impact on him, as he just let it out of his system when he was young and his actions consequences and repercussions were not important as they are now. His actions are also justified by the fact that he does what any young person would do away from home.
Henry is described as a brave and highly successful leader, which is a fair assessment of him. He is brave as he is never scared of the French and before the battle of Agincourt inspires them with “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. This speech is stimulating as the audience can clearly see that Henry uses patriotism as a motivation for the soldiers to have some encouragement and an incentive to fight for England and how it is just an honour to be there no matter what the outcome is. He is brave as although being severely outnumbered, he has the courage to fight the French and win. He has “epic” quality of success. He demonstrates being brave all the way through starting right at the beginning by taking over from his father on his deathbed. Here the audience sees here that what he did was a brave and tough act.
Before the battle of Agincourt he wanders around the English camp in disguise, to see what the soldiers really think of him. This is the action of a highly successful leader, as he cares what the soldiers think of him and is interested into how he can improve his ways so everyone gets “a little touch of Harry in the night”. Before the battle of Harfleur and Agincourt Henry makes sure that he delivers a motivational speech. He is a competent soldier and always leads the charge; he sets the example for the others to follow in his footsteps, as a good leader should. In the battle scenes he is very brave and makes sure that he keeps the morale up around the camp. He is also fair as he says that they can take the French villages, but cannot steal from them. When Bardolph, his previous friend, steals from the church he is disloyal to him and treats him as he would to any soldier. He says “nothing taken but paid for” and later Bardolph is hanged for stealing and Henry warns of how this be a lesson for anyone else wanting to steal of the French.
In conclusion, Henry V is Shakespeare’s ideal man to a certain extent as he is a man of action, he is a good Christian, he is brave and a highly successful leader. There is much contextual knowledge to prove this as throughout the play the audience sees him demonstrate many of these qualities in different situations and to different effect. On the other hand though he is seen at times to be disloyal to his previous friends and although he has changed mainly for the better the way he treats the people who used to be good friends with him is unacceptable and shows that he is not completely perfect but does come close to perfect in the way that Shakespeare portrays him.