Henry V: The Life of (Signet Classics)

Henry V: The Life of (Signet Classic Shakespeare ) - John Russell Brown, William Shakespeare With nationalistic fervor and hero worship, Shakespeare appeals to some of the basest qualities in the audience. But that doesn‘t prevent it from being a great play. Henry V fulfills the transformation of the wayward Prince Hal seen in Henry IV into warrior king and champion of Agincourt. The rejection of Falstaff is cemented and his punishment of Bardolph leaves no ambiguity that the boyish Hal has cast aside his boyish ways and is now a monarch.

Absolutely, the St. Crispin Day's speech is the highlight and climax of the play. But there are gems throughout. In Henry’s dealing with Montjoy, the French herald, there is subtle, predatory threatening in the first act to unwavering and indignant rage before the battle of Agincourt. There is noble stirring as he urges his troops “to the breach” at Harfluer as well as calculated madness as he later threatens the governor of the terrors that will befall his people if the town does not yield. Finally, there is the self-proclaimed awkward, yet elegant, wooing of Katherine in the final act. An act which seems so out of place in this war story.

Shakespeare does not necessarily make Henry an admirable character. He is in many ways manipulative and bloodthirsty. But his speeches and conversations have unrelenting power. Shakespeare is a wordsmith for kings.