Notes on Henry V

Notes on Henry V
Written during English Renaissance, which flourished in the second half of the
16 century and the first part of the 17th. During this time there a move from a religious
view of life to a more secular view that paid much more attention to the things of this
world ("other wordly" perspective of the medieval mindset versus things from this world
of the Renaissance). This started in all of Europe somewhat earlier in the 15th century and
eventually affected all areas of intellectual endeavor.
For Englishmen this transformation exemplified geographic exploration (Drake
and Raleigh); in science (Bacon and Newton); in all the arts, (Shakespeare); even in
theology (Protestant Reformation.) The medieval world tended to be other-worldly,
seeing the earthly life as preparation for eternal life and seeing material objects as moral
indicators of the divine will. With Renaissance, worldly and earthly things and life took
on new importance and intrinsic interest. The emerging humanism of the age looked at
humanities’ strengths and weaknesses and to their potential strengths. Individuals
assumed an importance and dignity they did not have in the medieval world, a change
reflected in the Protestant emphasis on the individual.
Royal relations: Important to Henry's claim on the throne. Salic Law prohibited
succession to the throne through the female line and the French had invoked this to bar
the English from ascending to the throne.
It’s helpful to understand relations among the royal families in order to understand
Henry’s claim to the throne of France:
Edward II had married Isabella, the daughter of Phillip IV, who was the king of France.
Phillip’s three sons had ruled in succession but when the last of the three sons died in
1328, the choice for king of France was between Edward III, the son of Isabella and
Edward II, or someone from a parallel line of descent. To bar the English from ascending
to the throne, the French invoked Salic Law, which prohibited succession to the throne
thorough the female line.
Edward III was only a minor then, so he did not press his claim to be King of France.
However, in 1337 he used the claim as an excuse to fight with France. Edward III
defeated a numerically superior French army through the use of clever tactics and
because of special circumstances regarding the use of mercenaries and the technology of
Edward III begat Edward (the Black Prince), who died before his father, and John of
Gaunt, among others. The Black Prince begat Richard II, who inherited the throne in
1377 and who was King when Henry V was born. John of Gaunt had Henry of Derby
(Henry IV), previously known as Duke of Hereford. Thus, the Black Prince and John of
Gaunt were brothers. John of Gaunt was Henry of Derby's (Henry IV and also Duke of
Hereford) father and Henry V's grandfather.
Richard II was deposed by Henry IV, who was Henry’s father, in 1399. Henry V
ascended to; the throne upon the death of his father and Henry V could also trace his past
to Edward III. John Duke of Lancaster was also one of Edward III’s sons. His oldest son
was Henry IV, who after deposing Richard II, ruled until 1413. Thus, Henry V also had a
claim to the throne of France.
Possible questions:
1. How effective is Henry in getting his followers to subordinate their own selfinterest to the greater interest of the whole group?
Successful: They followed him into battle twice and beat superior forces. Had
momentum that should carry over to managing the new realm, especially since they seem
to have divine help.
Somewhat successful: Not all the mean eagerly followed, as evidenced by the
traitors and by Pistil near the end. Without the speech at Agincourt, unclear whether his
men would stay and fight. How many times can he come up with such inspiration?
No successful: Created only temporary unities of interest. When fight with
France is over at end of the play, Henry no longer has a common enemy that unites them.
So maybe the conflict with the clergy and the other estates, and that between the Welsh,
Scots, Irish, and between the nobles and the commoners will re-emerge.
2. What are the various sources of Henry’s power? Which source is most
important and why?
Legitimate power (leader has the right to make the request and the
follower has obligation to comply. The leader makes a legitimate request, either orally
or verbally. Followers are more likely to comply is the request is seen to be within the
leader’s authority.) Henry’s father usurped the throne from Richard II so Henry’s power
at some level is questionable. He assumed the throne in accordance to the rights of
succession, so there may be some legitimacy to his claim as king. But there is some
question about whether he had the right to wage war with France. The priests assured
him he had a legitimate right to wage war, that the use of Salic Law by the French was
not correct or legal.
But he also realizes that legitimate power is not the only kind of power that a ruler
should use to rule. In terms of the medieval conception of authority, each person sphere
of actin was delegated to him by God. This is why the Dauphin’s mockery with the
tennis balls is taken so seriously by Henry, because his claim to France is legitimate and
because this mockery prevents form acting like the King that God wishes him to be. It
mocks the notion of a lawful order.
His wild youth, alluded to in the video, is left behind and he puts his kingly duties
ahead of his private, personal interests. He denies Falstaff, and hangs Bardolph. At
Agincourt, he lies on the ground like everyone else, thus showing again that he doesn’t
put private interests above kingly duty.
He makes use of coercive power (follower complies in order to avoid punishment
that the leader controls; causes anxiety and resentment, and its use should be restricted
to actions considered highly detrimental to the organization), in his war with France, in
his treatment of the traitors and with his treatment of Bardolph. It is apparent from the
video that certain people can only be controlled by coercion.
He makes use of what is called referent power (follower complies because he
admires or identifies with the leader and wants to gain the leader’s approval; leaders
who use must not ask too much or they will lose respect of followers; role modeling is
another use referent power since followers tend to imitate behaviors). At Agincourt, he
says all men wish to be noble gentlemen, and that the nobles should serve as exemplary
models and that all men can become noble if they do so.
Expert power ( leader has special knowledge about the best way to do
something; if presented in arrogant or condescending manner it is often resisted or
ignored) and reward power (follower complies to obtain rewards controlled by the
leader) are last two types of power and Henry uses them as well. His victories in battle
made his followers more willing to follow him, and his speeches at Harfleur made use of
a detailed knowledge of war, which further illustrates his expertise. Near the end, his
wooing of Katherine, he shows how reward power can be used to cement relationships.
3. What is the most important technique Henry uses to make his group
perform beyond what they thought possible?
Henry’s respect for his subordinates and careful attention to their needs and
abilities is how he does it. He knows what the common people could do, how they work
together, and what they value. He does not over-manage them, and uses his time to learn
about them, about himself, and about how he will lead them when he becomes king. His
knowledge of their character enables him to exhort them brilliantly.