Henry V Act IV Summary Essay

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In most of Shakespeare’s history plays, warfare is a mode major characters use to establish their legitimacy and power. More specifically, violence and battles solidifies a King’s leadership qualities and his right to sit on the throne. In Henry V Act IV, Shakespeare gives a voice to Michael Williams, a common soldier that is skeptical about the phenomenon of war and its ties to the devastation common people experience as a result. By hiding his identity, Henry V is able to have an unfiltered dialogue with Williams regarding warfare and the monarchy. In this short essay I will analyze the language lines 125-229 and its significance in to the central theme of warfare and power. Evidently, Shakespeare demonstrates this dialogue to criticize warfare …show more content…
“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 a battle, shall join together at the latter day, and cry all, “We died at such a place” (Act IV Scene 1). During this time, common soldiers did as they were told and risked their lives for the agenda of a King. Williams describes his uncertainty and provides a vivid and grotesque imagery to further prove the devastations of war. Shakespeare’s choice to include these details is significant because it speaks to the reality of medieval warfare. More often then not, warfare is romanticized and is seen as an honorable mode to achieve power. However, Shakespeare includes Williams argument to shed a light on the consequences of war and its effect on the commonwealth. For commoners like Williams, they have a lot to lose when they go to war. With the prospect of not making it back home to their families, they risk providing for their children, leaving their wives widows with the debt they owe. Next, he references God and the immorality of killing. “For how can they charitably dispose of anything, when the blood is their argument?” (Act IV Scene 1). This line is significant because it appeals to God and the immorality of killing in war. In Williams’ argument, it is impossible to resolve anything in a Christian manner when they have spent their lives killing

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