Shakespeare’s approach to war in Henry V is multi-faceted. While the play does deal in some detail with the political motivations for the war, what sets it apart is its concern for the human costs of warfare, both in terms of lives lost and in terms of lives transformed. In this way, Agincourt is seen less as a military victory than as a personal rite of passage for Henry; through it, he emerges as a full-fledged Monarch.
Any evaluation of Henry in “Henry V” has to begin with consideration of Prince Hal in Henry IV. King Henry is shown to be a matured version of his carousing younger self; his embrace of war in France is in part a petulant reaction to his image as “playboy,” as reflected by the gift of tennis balls, and a testament to his emergence into adulthood and his assumption of the responsibilities of the monarch. Although Henry is, to a certain extent, manipulated into war in part by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who wants to reclaim church lands in France, Henry’s execution of the war, his loyalty to his troops, and his valor on the field show that he has fully matured.