Could you give an example of imagery in King Henry V, and explain how it helps the reader understand the play? 


Henry V

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robertwilliam's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #1)

Imagery is everywhere in Shakespeare: open your play at any page, and there'll be something interesting there which deepens or makes more complex the meaning of the passage.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage...

This very famous example is usually talked about as a jingoistic, bloodthirsty call to arms; a patriotic speech from the King to his loyal soldiers. Yet, a closer glance at some of the imagery suggests another layer of meaning within the speech.

Note the number of duplicities that Henry incites his men to perform: "disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage", "imitate the action of the tigers", "lend the eye a terrible aspect", and so on. What's the difference between asking someone to act like a tiger, and be like a tiger?

Well, Henry seems to be acknowledging that the bravery and courage summoned up will be faked, acted, performed, rather than real. What then, is usually read as jingoistic, is revealed as far more desperate: Henry knows that his men don't want to return to the battle, but he tries to help them to physically perform bravery even if they feel terrified. And all that comes from the imagery!

ermcbean's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #2)

Could you give me a few examples of Henry's negative side?

cuyler's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #3)

Negative side for Henry V can be seen in Henry IV when Henry's father was in power. Henry V is shown in that play to be a immature reckless person, seen drinking with the common people (one of witch asked him if he would execute him when Henry became king if he was caught stealing, to witch Henry said yes and did execute him in Henry V). In Henry V the young king has matured into a great leader however his past gnaws at him every now and again in Henry V for example when the Duaphin sends tennis balls and says that he is a child and should not rule because he is not capable.

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