Henry V: The Ideal King

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Who is someone you admire? In our present society, many types of people, from presidents to musicians, are ardently adored, but this was not always the case. During the 1500’s, kings, along with the clergy, who were perceived and reverenced as God’s delegates on earth, constituted the select few counterparts of modern celebrities. Henry V, an English monarch, was no exception. Nevertheless, in one of William Shakespeare’s acclaimed plays, Henry V, Shakespeare depicted Henry V as a less than ideal king, even though he also displayed certain admirable qualities at times. From a Biblical perspective, an ideal king possesses, among other attributes, humility, peacefulness, and truthfulness. Certainly, at times, Henry appeared to possess these…show more content…
At the beginning of the play, the two bishops of Canterbury lauded Henry’s piousness, temperateness, and knowledge, qualities which greatly contrasted the recklessness of his boyhood. Furthermore, after the Dauphin scoffed at Henry because of his wildness as a prince, the French Constable rebuked him, answering, “You are too much mistaken in this king. / Question your Grace the late ambassadors / With what great state he heard their embassy, / How well supplied with noble councillors, / How modest in exception, and withal / How terrible in resolution” (2.4.32-37). However, although his contemporaries extensively praised Henry throughout the play, this does not mitigate his flaws, since humans are, in their ignorance, prone to be flawed in their judgment, and thus it is God and the Scriptures, not humans and their words, which alone are the ultimate judges of mankind. In addition, some may assert that Henry was an ideal king because the chorus also praised him. Indeed, the chorus called Henry V “the mirror of all Christian kings” (2.Chorus.6) and a “star of England” (5.Epilogue.6), and likened him to both “Mars” (Prologue.6) and “the sun” (4.Chorus.44). By contrasting the popular view of Henry (declared by the chorus) with the actual actions of the king, however, Shakespeare heightened his own, more critical view of Henry. Therefore, although characters in the play and the chorus both praised Henry V, these laudations mainly exist to create an irony by highlighting the less than ideal attributes and actions he exhibited throughout the
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