What is Shakespeare's attitude of war in Henry V?

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shaketeach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In order to truly understand Shakespeare's attitude to war is, one must look at this play, Henry V in context.  In the eight plays from Richard II-Richard III, Shakespeare explores war, from Henry IV usurping the throne from Richard II and his fight to keep the throne, to the Hundred Years War with Henry V and Henry VI, to the War of the Roses with Henry VI to the end of the war with the defeat of Richard III.

He shows the many faces of war from the heroic to the cowardly and from patriotism to horrors of war for everybody concerned.  War effects everybody and it isn't pretty.

As a character we...

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clstockdale80 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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deftone | Student

To add to previous answers,

I think that Shakespeare could be on both sides. Initially, the surface reader will see that Shakespeare sees war as a glorious and patriotic endeavor in this play.  His use of rhetorical blackmail robs the army of their manlyhood if they refuse to fight. In Act IV Scene 3, Henry says that if a man was not with him, he was not a man.

On the other hand, that fact that Henry used rhetoric could suggest he was manipulative and that soldiers are brainwashed to fight.

 

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