Henry V Themes

Themes

Kingship
Henry establishes his right to kingship by fulfilling the qualities required of a true king in several different ways. He focuses on both securing his right to the English crown and capturing the French throne. He follows the advice given to him by his father at the end of Henry IV, Part Two, to "busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels." He accomplishes this task by waging war on France and asserting his claim to the French throne, which was denied his great-great-grandmother because of the Salic law which made succession through the female line illegal. The war against France establishes both Henry's legal and moral right to the throne: by discrediting the Salic law and defeating the French army, Henry captures the crown; and by accepting responsibility and showing concern for his subjects, he earns the ethical right to kingship as well.

Henry's moral growth and acceptance of his role as king is seen throughout the play. Some of the characteristics of kingship include the king's relationship to his counselors, his divinity, his valid succession, and the burden of kingship. As king, Henry serves as the link between personal order and political unity and is required to show complete dedication to his office. He cannot allow selfishness or weakness to interfere with his duties as king. Most critics agree that although Henry struggles to achieve a balance between the demands of the crown and his own personal desires, by the end of the play he accepts his role and learns to integrate his humanity.

Language and Imagery
While analysis of the language in Henry V has yielded a variety of critical interpretations, most scholars concur that the kind of rhetoric used makes a significant contribution to the play's theme, tone, and meaning. Some critics point to the strenuous effort that the language requires of its speaker and requests of its audience and how this effort relates to the atmosphere of activity found in the play. Still others focus on the disputative tone of the language and its parallel to the dominant theme of war. This mode of speech can be traced throughout the play, as it...

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