Henry V is portrayed as a perfect king and, more importantly, an outstanding leader in the play. This is because Henry has some distinguishable characteristics which create this great image of him. First, Henry has a fantastic quality of speaking. Second, he can change his style of rhetoric to suit the mood and atmosphere that he is trying to create. Third, at times in the play, Henry has to persuade his people that he is one of them and that there is a bond of unity between them, almost as if he and they are brothers, all the sons of the same God and the same Country – England.
This is the case particularly outside Harfleur when Henry is rousing his men to fight bravely. He creates a unity between them by using words like ‘yours’ and ‘our’ a lot – “Dear friends … you noble English … made in England … you are worth your breeding”. – This is a summary of the speech, and it shows how Henry creates a relationship with his subjects and how he creates an intensely patriotic atmosphere. Whereas outside Harfleur, when Henry speaks to the town’s governor (in Act 3 Scene 4), he displays his ability to put fear into an enemy. With harsh language, he puts across dreadful images of his enemy’s “naked infants spitted upon pikes”.
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This instantly conveys a tremendous amount of terror into the men of Harfleur, who consequently surrender. This demonstrates just how powerful Henry’s rhetoric is. These two situations show Henry’s ability to adapt to the situation. They also demonstrate how Henry always has to change his personality and temperament. Henry is very able to change his character to match the situation that he is facing.
On the one hand, he needs to be an inspirational idol for his army. Yet, on the other hand, he has to carry out his duty to be cruel and strict. He is sometimes required to be merciless, and at other times needed to be merciful.
These apparent two-faced attitudes of Henry merely display the differences between when he needs to be a leader and when he needs to be a human. Italian writer Machiavelli once famously wrote, “The prince should rule by fear than love.” The ease with which Henry seems to create both of these emotions makes him both a kind acquaintance of his subjects and an effective leader for them. Henry’s subjects would look upon him to have to be both of the former is to be a religious person.
Henry is greatly respected and followed in his religious devotion. His general attitude to religion makes him an effective leader. He is a true believer in God, and he conveys this very well by being so sincere throughout the play. He always turns to God when in need of help and thanks God when he achieves something. This is shown before and after the battle of Agincourt. The night before the battle, Henry prays, “O God of battles, steel my soldiers’ hearts.” This shows Henry feels God is there to help whenever he calls upon him. He also passes his glory on to God after winning the battle, for when Montjoy tells him the day is his, Henry replies, “Praised be God, and not our strength, for it”.
This also shows how Henry feels God is always there for him, and he honestly and sincerely depends on him. In these religious times, the King was a firm believer of God’s good, for it influenced and helped his people’s faith. But Henry is only serious; he also has a fun side, consisting of his humour and wits. These display his mental sharpness. At the beginning of the play, Henry replies to insult with wit and intelligence. He replies to Dauphin’s insolence by turning his sarcasm into a figurative speech, which can be interpreted as a joke, or as a severe threat. ”
And tell the pleasant prince this mock of his hath turned his balls into gun-stones” – this is a witty remark, but when interpreting the metaphor, one realizes that Henry is declaring war on France. This is also another example of Henry’s rhetoric skills. This speech by Henry required intelligence to continue the metaphor so well. This intelligence is something that Henry possesses a lot of. When his colleagues betray him, he slyly makes them decide upon their death in a little psychological game he plays. After asking them what they thought a traitor’s fate should be, he carries out their decision on – death.
“You show great mercy if you give him life,” says Gray, one of the conspirators. Another, Scroop, says that he should be killed to set an example towards other conspirators. The King subsequently punishes them precisely the way they dictated by handing them their death warrant. This game shows the King’s intelligence, and is also another example of his funny side. Henry shows here hostility towards his enemy, but towards his loyal subjects; Henry is very caring.
He can be a compassionate leader who cares what his subjects think about him and what he does. Henry feels very strongly about how his decision to attack France could affect his subjects – even when Pistol offends the King, Henry says, “God be with you” just so that he doesn’t lose his support. We see Henry personally caring about his subjects when he walks around the camp on the night before the battle of Agincourt. His men are downhearted and expecting to die the next day. Henry tries to urge his people to have faith in God and hence be courageous in battle. He wants his subjects to have faith in him, and he cares what they feel.
This is shown when he prays to God to get his soldiers to be brave – “O God of battles, steel my soldiers’ hearts. Possess them not with fear”. Henry possesses most of the characteristics of an effective leader. He is merciful and merciless, evokes fear and love, and is a great King, yet still a human. These attributes, when alone, would not create a good leader, but when put together into one person – Henry – they create a great leader.