Henry V

Henry V: Pious or Practical?

In Henry V, Shakespeare presents the king as a man who is exceptionally deft with his use of language and politics. Henry conquers France in a relatively short amount of time with a small army, and after his victory he declares, "Let there be sung Non nobis and Te Deum," (IV.viii.123) which indicates his desire to give God all of the credit for defeating the French. Given Henry's Machiavellian mode of kingship, however, his actual religious conviction can be called into question. Since his power as the King of England is derivative of the Divine Right of Kings, he needs God to be on his side to maintain legitimacy, and this concept is all the more important in his case because of the fact that he inherited the crown from a deposer. In order to fortify his legitimacy, Henry poses as a pious king and through his language presents the idea that God fights for England, but he only calls upon the deity when it suits his purpose.

From the beginning of the play, Henry uses religion as a foundation for his desired conquest as he questions the clergy about the legality of his claims in France. When he asks, "May I with right and conscience make this claim?" (I.ii.96) the Archbishop gives him a biblical reference...

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