Henry V

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Michael Williams Character Analysis

A common soldier who Henry V argues with while in disguise. The two exchange gloves, swearing to fight in the future. When Henry V eventually reveals himself, he pardons and rewards Williams even though Williams challenged the justness of the war and questioned the king’s right to risk so many soldiers’ lives.

Michael Williams Quotes in Henry V

The Henry V quotes below are all either spoken by Michael Williams or refer to Michael Williams. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Kingship Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Henry V published in 2004.
Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

I think the king is but a man, as I am.

Related Characters: Henry V (speaker), Michael Williams, John Bates, Alexander Court
Related Symbols: Accents
Page Number: 4.1.105-106
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, once again, Henry is acting as something that he's not. Though instead of feigning ignorance as he did when confronting his traitorous English lords in Act 2, Scene 2, here he is pretends to be a common soldier.

He uses his disguise to observe his soldiers' behavior when they are not in the King's presence, to discuss private matters openly, and to test the feelings of his men. He claims to serve under a man who is certain that the English forces are doomed and says that his commander has not told the King this opinion. 

He utters this line in the middle of a debate with John Bates, Alexander Court, and Michael Williams. He humanizes the King (himself) by saying that he is just a man, giving a lengthy prose speech in which he describes the King thinking and feeling like a normal man (note Henry's ability to alter his language to fit in with his soldiers). Henry here shows the vulnerability and humanity he otherwise could not show, since it might dishearten his troops and his country. By altering his appearance, he is able to articulate the private thoughts that plague the public figure of the King.


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But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at such a place.’

Related Characters: Michael Williams (speaker), Henry V
Page Number: 4.1.138-142
Explanation and Analysis:

Michael Williams here continues the discussion while Henry is in disguise. He says that if the King's cause is not just and good, then all of the deaths will be his fault. He lists with gruesome details the limbs that might be dismembered during the battle. These limbs are then given voice, crying "We died at such a place."

This dark imagery demonstrates regular soldiers' visceral experiences during warfare. Williams also suggests that even King Henry will have to answer to God on Judgement day, and that, especially "if the cause be not good," he will face a "heavy reckoning." That the soldiers question the righteousness of the King's cause might suggest that his eloquent, battle-rousing speeches are not as effective as he thinks, and also that England as a whole is not as unified behind him as he thinks.

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Michael Williams Character Timeline in Henry V

The timeline below shows where the character Michael Williams appears in Henry V. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 4, Scene 1
Kingship Theme Icon
Appearances Theme Icon
Three common soldiers - John Bates, Alexander Court, and Michael Williams - enter and ask Henry V who he is. Henry says he is a soldier... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 7
Appearances Theme Icon
Henry V calls in Williams and asks him about the glove in his cap. Williams recounts his oath to fight... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 8
Kingship Theme Icon
Appearances Theme Icon
Williams and Fluellen are in hot dispute over the glove. Gower tries and fails to calm... (full context)