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In Search of the True Henry V
Henry V is medieval historical play written by William Shakespeare that is named after England’s most capable king during wartime. Full of charm, Henry V captivated those around him using his past, his youth, and his tongue as constructive guidelines rather than deterrents. King Henry utilized his rhetorical talents not only to motivate his troops into battle, but to playfully woo his future Queen, Catherine, both acts which are featured in Henry V, but each unveiling a unique side with common threads to King Henry’s intricate personality.
To successfully compare and contrast the true facets of King Henry’s speeches found in Act 3 Scene 1 and Act 5 Scene 2, a solid foundation of his personality must be understood. Henry V begins the play by shedding his shady past to prove he is a reputable leader, which is integral to the plot because he ultimately wishes to correct the wrongs that his father had done to receive and maintain the throne. Prior to the battle of Agincourt, Henry pleads with god, “Oh not today, think not upon the fault my father made in compassing the crown” (Shakespeare, Henry V). Henry “must come to terms with what it means to be part of a family line, what it means for one’s career to begin before birth and end long after death” (Maus). King Henry’s ability to speak so influentially, whether it is to his troops or to a French maiden, comes from his internal motivation to prove his family lines, his humility, and his innate love for those he serves. These three factors are the underpinnings of the true Henry; but why then, do we get such different views of him when he is speaking to different people?
King Henry’s valiant speech given to the soldiers immediately before they went into battle is similar to the conversation he has with Catherine because he is diligently trying to convince the receiving party to follow his lead. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English...