How did Henry V portray the themes of heroism and honor?

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But if it be a sin to covet honor,

I am the most offending soul alive. [Henry, in Henry V, 4.3.31-32]

Honor is of the utmost importance to King Henry V in Shakespeare's Henry V. Henry views honor as something to be won but not something to be won for himself. He believes that honor must be won on behalf of something that is larger than himself. For Henry, achieving honor is the result of achieving glory for England.

Henry learned about honor from his companion Sir John Falstaff in an earlier play, Henry IV, Part 1. Falstaff considered the pursuit of personal honor, glory, and recognition as pure vanity and ultimately worthless.

FALSTAFF: Therefore

I’ll none of it. Honor is a mere scutcheon [Henry IV, Part 1, 5.1.140-141]

Falstaff believed that honor was not something a person sought, or fought, to attain but that honor was something that came to a person as a result of their unselfish heroic deeds.


not such grinning honor as Sir Walter hath: give me

life: which if I can save, so; if not, honor comes

unlooked for, and there's an end. [Henry IV, Part 1, 5.3.62-65]

On the battlefield before the Battle of Agincourt, one of Henry's military leaders, Westmoreland, wishes aloud that England had more soldiers for the battle. Henry explains to him how honor is more important than victory in the battle, or ultimate victory for England.

WESTMORELAND: O, that we now had here

But one ten thousand of those men in England

That do no work today.

KING HENRY: . . . No, my fair cousin.

If we are marked to die, we are enough

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honor. . . .

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God's peace! I would not lose so great an honor

As one man more, methinks, would share from me [4.3.18-25, 33-35]

The word "hero" doesn't appears in Henry V, but heroism, like honor, is always on Henry's mind. For Henry, honor comes to a person, and glory comes to England, as a result of heroism. You can't have honor without behaving heroically.

Henry demonstrates to his army exactly what heroism is. Henry rouses his troops to bravely charge back into battle, and, despite overwhelming odds against military success, and against even emerging alive, Henry heroically charges into the battle himself.

KING HENRY: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once

more . . .

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry “God for Harry, England, and Saint George!” [3.1.1-2, 36-37]

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"Prince Hal" from Henry IV has matured into the brave and honorable King Henry in Henry V. In fact, the "wild" days of his youth prepared him for his finest hour: the Battle of Agincourt.

Henry lays the groundwork for this heroic victory by disguising himself and visiting his troops the night before the battle in order to get a feel for what his common soldiers are really feeling. This ability to...

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interact with commoners, which he began back in the days when he drank and caroused with Falstaff, now helps him to be a compassionate leader.

He then inspires his troops with brave words:

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-favoured rage.

He heeds his own advice and doesn't hold back or try to save himself. He fights beside his troops valiantly. In fact, he is so caught up in the fighting that he doesn't even know at first that his army has won.

As the chorus expresses, Henry is an exemplary king. He shows heroism on the battlefield and honor in his mercy to the French. He also marries a French princess in order to unite the kingdoms.

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Henry V, one of Shakespeare's history plays, centers on the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years' War, in which the English, led by King Henry V, fight and defeat the French army against all odds—despite having much smaller numbers. As both a monarch and a military leader, the character of Henry V demonstrates courage, heroism, and honor throughout the play. These character traits are also themes of the play, which is primarily a celebration of the British victory, and Henry is the embodiment of these virtues.

For evidence, look at Henry's famous monologue in act 3, scene 1, which begins, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more," and The Saint Crispin's Day speech in act 4, scene 3. Both of these rousing speeches, spoken to restore morale to his disheartened troops, make Henry's heroism and honor plainly apparent. That he can embolden his troops to action through his words and deeds, because they aspire to be like him and to be praised by him, prove that he is a great leader and a noble man.

Henry also demonstrates his heroism and honor in the mercy that he shows to his enemies. After the battle at Harfleur early on in the play, he spares the inhabitants of the town in a generous and honorable move.

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