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English Literature and Composition: Critical Analysis of Henry V by Shakespeare

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AP English Literature and Composition

  • Name: __Carmen Cerrito____________
  • Major Works Data Sheet
  • Title: ___Henry V__________________________
  • Author: __William Shakespeare_________________________
  • Date of Publication: __1600_______________
  • Genre: __Historical__________________________

Biographical information about the author: (Provide information that gives insight into the author’s historical experiences.)

William Shakespeare was born roughly around April 23rd, 1564, and he later became a renowned English poet, playwright, and actor. He was the third child of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. John was an alderman, and bailiff, and held a mayor-type position, and since he was a public official, Shakespeare received free tuition, which he used and attended the King’s New School in Stratford. There he learned reading, writing, and the classics. Eventually, he grew up and got married. His wife, Anne Hathaway, and he had three children together. One of which he wrote a play about, Hamnet.

Historical information about the period of publication: (Address the apparent purpose of the novel or the reason it was written.)

During the 1600 years period, Jamestown was established, Shakespeare passed away, the Thirty Years’ War happened, and Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth. However, the novel is based around the Hundred Years’ War and all the conflicts surrounding it.

Characteristics of the genre: (What specific qualities create this genre and make it unique?)

Henry V is a historical novel, and it took both real-life situations and combined them with slight exaggeration and new plot lines. The majority of the novel is based on the Hundred Years’ War, which makes it rather exciting to read about because the events did in fact happen.

Plot Description: (Provide a 200-word summary of the novel providing details from the beginning, middle, and end. Write enough to make sure that the teacher can grasp your reading experience.)

Henry V takes up after Henry IV ends, and then the Chorus introduces the play and celebrates King Henry V. Henry seeks for evidence for his right to rule over France, and the Archbishop explains the land laws to Henry as well as the court. Then a gift from the Dauphin arrives. He gives King Henry V tennis balls in hopes of humiliating him and reminding him of his youth. Henry responds to this challenge to set the invasion of France in motion. The novel then tells of three of Henry’s former friends who are caught plotting his death, and he condemns them to death. Then Pistol, Nym, and Bardolph, more of Henry’s old friends, join the army, and as they set off for battle, their leader, Falstaff, dies. He is believed to have died from a broken heart caused by King Henry V. Next, the English attack Harfleur, and in this battle, Henry gives an encouraging message to his troops which inspires them to conquer the French. Then the play jumps to a scene with Princess Katherine learning English. After numerous battles, the two armies prepare to battle near Agincourt. The night before, King Henry V disguises himself and visits his soldiers to learn from and comfort them prior to fighting. The next day, he encourages his troops to fight with all they have within them, and then he scorns a French envoy’s invitation to surrender. Again all odds, the English defeated the French with few casualties, and the troops thank God for their victory and return home. King Henry V makes peace with the French King and takes Princess Katherine as his wife in order to form an alliance between the conflicting sides.

Tone: (Describe the overall tone of the novel and provide a quote to support your conclusion.)

Throughout the entire novel, Shakespeare uses the tone of seriousness and elevation to increase the intensity of the plot. In Act 3 scene 1, King Henry says, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead! In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility; but when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger: stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.” He basically tells the troops that when war arises, blood must be shed. He uses an elevated tone to demonstrate his value for such a statement to his men.

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Audience: (Choose one group that the author intended to have read this novel and explain your choice.)

Shakespeare did not necessarily have a specific audience in mind, but he did make this play a historical one which would mean he expected the audience to have an understanding of the Hundred Years’ War. Also, over and over again the Chorus asks the audience to imagine things, so the intended audience very well could be those who dream and imagine various events often.

Purpose: (Describe the author’s purpose for writing this story.)

The battle between Henry V of England and the French army at Agincourt is said to be one of the greatest battles of all time. The English defeated all odds and conquered the much larger French army, and a defeat such as this deserves to be continually heard about. Also, the war shows the fantastic leadership skills of King Henry V. His devotion and encouragement to his army is truly astounding.

Describe the author’s style: (What creates this unique text? How does the author’s writing differ from other authors? Describe 3 unique characteristics and then quote and cite examples of that style)

  1. Shakespeare uses several different figures of speech throughout this play, and he uses them in order to attract the audience’s attention more. For example, he uses anaphora, a repetition of words at the beginning of phrases, clauses, or sentences, to alert the readers that they must pay attention or that something serious is about to occur. In Act 1 Scene 1, Canterbury is talking to Ely about King Henry’s future decision involving the church and their power. He says, “Hear him but reason in divinity, and, all-admiring, with an inward wish. You would desire the kind were made a prelate: Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs, you would say it hath been all in all his study.”
  2. Although several writers use hyperbole, an exaggeration, throughout their novels, Shakespeare constantly uses this element of writing in each of his playwrights. In Act 2 Scene 4, Exeter says, “Therefore in fierce tempest is he [Henry] coming, In thunder and in earthquake like a Jove.” He exaggerates how Henry is coming.
  3. Shakespeare also provides a combination of poetry and prose, regular everyday language. When the Hostess and Nym are talking, she speaks in regular old prose. In Act 2 Scene 3, she says, “’ How now, Sir John?’ quoth I. ‘what, man, be of good cheer!’ So he cried out ‘God, God, God!’ three or four times. Now I, to comfort him, bid him a’ should not think of God; I hoped there was no need to trouble himself with any such thought yet.”

Memorable Quotes. (Provide three quotes that sum up the author’s themes, tone, and style to create a memorable story. And then carefully describe each of the quotations to demonstrate your understanding of the quote. Please cite the quotations.)

  1. “And tell the pleasant prince this mock of his hath turned his balls to gun stones, and his soul shall stand sore charged for the wasteful vengeance that shall fly from them- for many a thousand widows shall this his mock out of their dear husbands, mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down; But this lies all within the will of God, to whom I do appeal, and in whose name tell you the Dauphin I am coming on to venge me as I may, and to put forth my rightful hand in a well-hallowed cause.” This quotation is from Act 1 Scene 2 right after King Henry received the tennis ball prank from the Dauphin, and then Henry goes on a massive rant to the messenger in his response to the “gift.” In addition, this demonstrates the tone of elevation as previously noted. Elevation meaning his tone was heighted and the scene is tense.
  2. “Then imitate the action of the tiger. Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, and disguise fair nature with hard-favored rage. Then lend the eye a terrible aspect, now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit to his full height. On, on, you noblest English, whose blood is feet from fathers of war-proof, fathers that like so many Alexanders have in these parts from morn till even fought, And sheathed their swords for lack of argument. Dishonor, not your mothers; now attest that those whom you called fathers did beget you. Be copy now to men of grosser blood, and teach them how to war. And you, good yeomen, Whose limbs were made in England, show us here The mettle of your pasture…” This quotation is from Act 3 Scene 1 when King Henry rallies his men to charge once more into the fray at the Battle of Harfleur, and he encourages them to fight as hard as they can. He wants to win so the tone is both serious and elevated within his speech.
  3. “The breath no sooner left his father’s body but that his wildness, mortified in him, seemed to die too.” This passage is from Act 1 Scene 1 when the Archbishop of Canterbury is explaining the sudden transformation of irresponsible Prince Hal to the noble and esteemed King Henry V after the passing of his father. He says that King Henry’s “wildness” died with his father.

Characters

Name and describe at least four major characters in the story. For some books, you might need to describe many more than four. Chose at least five specific adjectives for each character; include literary terms such as static, dynamic, round, and flat. Please write your answers in complete sentences and defend your claims

  1. Henry V- The young, brilliant, focused, fearless, committed, and responsible King of the English throne. In addition, his character is both dynamic and round. He experienced a great amount of change from his youthful ways to his sophisticated King ways, and he has numerous differing traits that make up his complex being. For example, he is a King, soldier, husband, peacemaker, and fighter.
  2. Duke of Exeter- The trusted, honored, ambassador, loyal, and helpful uncle to Henry V throughout his reign. He is a rather flat character, and there is not much to him.
  3. Captain Fluellen- A loyal, humorous, friendly, knowledgeable, and proud leader of the Welsh people within Henry’s troops. He is a static character due to his unchanging nature, and he is only briefly involved with the plot.
  4. Pistol- A commoner, fighter, friend, dramatic, and husband of the Hostess in the novel. A pistol is a flat character because there is not a whole lot to say about him, and he does not do much except fight.

Setting (What is the setting and why is it significant?)

The story takes place in England and France between 1415 and 1420, and the Hundred Years’ War was in these places which is the main premise of the play and naturally explains why the novel was set in England and France.

Significance of the opening scene (What is important about the opening? What themes are already being created through the opening scene?)

The Chorus opens by saying that it would be an outstanding play if they had divine inspiration to the highest level of imagination, and they continue to say that if they had a stage as big as a kingdom, real kings and queens, playing kings and queens, then it would be truly amazing. This is ironic because that is exactly what Henry V is. The story is playing out the Hundred Year’s War, and the English and French lands are their stages. Then they have various kings and queens playing royalty too.

Significance of the closing scene (What is important about the ending? What themes are resolved? Are these significant loose ends to the story?))

The ending basically was to show how great of a warrior King Henry was. He defeated the French army, and then he became the French King. However, the success at Agincourt is a brief glimpse into Henry’s life. Katherine and Henry later have a child, Henry VI, and he will eventually lose France.

Symbols (Find three of the most important symbols and elaborate on what they symbolize. Be sure you know what a symbol is—an object that represents a more complex idea.)

  1. Tennis balls- These were to taunt King Henry and remind him of his childish past, and they were to say that he does not actually fight. Instead, he just plays games, which simply is not true.
  2. Mars- Henry V is sometimes compared in the play to the Greek god of war, Mars. This would suggest that he is a warrior, and this is accurate because he won many battles by being such a fighter.
  3. Sir Thomas’s Cloak- The night before the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V borrows Sir Thomas Erpingham’s cloak. He uses it to disguise himself as we walk among his men. The cloak is functional, allowing Henry V to talk to his men without the usual barriers of social class. It is also symbolic, as it represents Henry’s incomparable ability to change his outward appearance and behavior to achieve his goals.

Possible Themes (List three themes developed from the story and explain why they are important to the story – utilize the historical aspects and any other information to describe the themes. Remember that a theme is a reoccurring element that develops a significant point. Themes often involve an editorial idea.)

  1. Language- The power of language to persuade, invent, inspire, intimidate, unite, differentiate, woo, and bring to life a story is a reoccurring theme in Henry V. The Chorus introduces this theme, and they tell the audience to help the actors tell the story by using their imagination to “see” the characters and events. Henry V intimidates the people of Harfleur with his detailed descriptions of the suffering they will endure if they were to resist him. He then inspires men to have courage and patriotism in the face of terrible odds.
  2. Conquest- Henry’s actions and the actions of other characters in the play are often driven by a desire for conquest and the establishment of power. For example, Henry’s need to prove himself pushes the conquest of France.
  3. Kingship- Henry V’s father ruled uneasily during a time of civil war and general unrest. So Henry V bends all of his energy to proving his own fitness to be a king, in the eye of God, his citizens, and himself.

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English Literature and Composition: Critical Analysis of Henry V by Shakespeare. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/english-literature-and-composition-critical-analysis-of-henry-v-by-shakespeare/
“English Literature and Composition: Critical Analysis of Henry V by Shakespeare.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/english-literature-and-composition-critical-analysis-of-henry-v-by-shakespeare/
English Literature and Composition: Critical Analysis of Henry V by Shakespeare. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/english-literature-and-composition-critical-analysis-of-henry-v-by-shakespeare/> [Accessed 2 Feb. 2023].
English Literature and Composition: Critical Analysis of Henry V by Shakespeare [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/english-literature-and-composition-critical-analysis-of-henry-v-by-shakespeare/
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