Question: Consider the idea that Shakespeare’s Henry V embodies the idea of Shakespeare’s ideal king
This Shakespeare essay is asking you not just to consider one play, or one character, but the way in which the play forms a culmination to a series of plays which Shakespeare wrote about kingship. In Henry V, he continues a theme which he has begun in Richard II i.e. what makes a good king?
This play develops a character first introduced as the wild young Prince Hal in Henry IV and now the audience has to believe that this ‘boy king’ can become a man whom his subjects not only respect but love. He does this by allowing the audience of this Shakespeare play to see both the inner struggles of the man and the strength of the anointed king, best exemplified by the famous St Crispin’s Day speech which follows Henry’s lone wander amongst his men in disguise, the night before the Battle of Agincourt (Act IV, Scene iii).
This Shakespeare essay requires that you focus on the way that Shakespeare shows Prince Hal’s development into Henry V, and also consider how he uses the interaction between the king and those around him to show this: his court, the church, the common men and his friends.
A suitable structure for this Shakespeare essay might be:
- An introduction centring on your thesis statement on Shakespeare’s intent and the methodology you intend to employ to show this.
- A main body of three paragraphs, the first identifying Henry’s early rebukes by those in authority, the second featuring his overcoming these one by one and establishing his kingship and the third showing how all of these blend to demonstrate not only Henry’s divine right to be king (like Richard II but unlike his father, the usurper Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV) but also his fitness for the role as ‘all things to all men’ and a strong leader.
- A conclusion which pulls together your ideas on the question and sums up your ideas.
Remember that this play is the climax of a series of plays and this Shakespeare essay should reflect that by showing some knowledge of the ethos behind the play to gain maximum marks. As with all of these Shakespeare plays, close analysis of the text is essential.
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