Henry V


William Shakespeare

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Henry V Themes

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Themes and Colors
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LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Henry V, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


Above all else, Henry V investigates the relationship between a monarch and his people. By exploring the life of the particular king Henry V, the play also explores the role of a king in general. Throughout the play, Henry wears many hats, each representing a facet of his role as monarch. Aside from being absolute ruler, Henry is also a merciful Christian, a fierce war general, a loyal patriot, a tireless optimist, an inspirational…

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Warfare constitutes the entire dramatic arc of Henry V, which begins in preparations for battle, continues onto the battlefield itself, and ends with a post-war peace treaty. Yet while the whole play focuses on warfare, it doesn’t limit itself to one perspective. Instead, the play illuminates different elements of battle in different scenes, assembling a complex vision of war. This vision includes views from every strata of England’s class hierarchy. The play opens on the…

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Just as Henry V presents a multifaceted perspective on warfare, it also portrays a diverse portrait of England. Throughout the play, England is understood as a royal line, a malleable geography, a multicultural melting pot, and a source of patriotic pride. Faith in England’s royal line and indignation at France’s attempt to truncate that line spurs the action of the play. Henry V goes to war, he believes, to claim a monarchic right over France…

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In Henry V, appearances are easily shifted and generally untrustworthy. Again and again, people or situations are not what they seem to be to other characters onstage. Henry V’s first entrance onstage is preceded by discussion of his changed demeanor and the false assumptions made based on his former appearance as a reckless young prince. Once on stage, one of Henry’s first actions involves exposing and punishing the duplicitous traitors Cambridge, Scroop

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As it acts out a war between armies of different mother tongues, Henry V exposes the powers and limitations of language. The most obvious representation of that limit is the non-English portion of the play itself: large chunks of lines are spoken in French, barring the understanding of any non-French-speakers in the audience. The play’s characters themselves struggle with this language barrier, as the French Katherine strains to learn English and Pistol butchers French words…

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