The image of Prince Henry is very complex, which was noted by the nineteenth-century Shakespeareans; some of them even thought that, in complexity and versatility, Prince Henry followed Hamlet directly or even inferior to him. There may be a certain amount of exaggeration in such statements, but the complexity of the prince’s character is beyond doubt. This is indirectly but very convincingly evidenced by differences in the prince’s assessment, sometimes growing into directly contradictory judgments; some researchers call the prince unconditionally – not only as ruler, but also as a person – the embodiment of Shakespeare’s positive ideal; others just as strongly condemn him as human.
In many works, including the studies of Soviet Shakespeareans, one can notice a tendency towards a certain simplification of the image of the prince. Such simplification arises inevitably when the material of the Prince is predominantly used by the material of Henry V, and the analysis of the development of this image in Henry IV is reduced to mentioning the patter that his communication with the lower classes of society has had a beneficial effect.
Both parts of Henry IV are grandiose prologues for the image of Henry V, which turned out to be a much richer and more interesting ending. But, of course, when analyzing the image of Prince Henry, one should not forget about his further development in “Henry V”. The prince gradually grows into an absolute and ideal monarch.
In the final of Henry IV, he remains the only initiative figure; the rest of the protagonists – both the King, Hotsper, and Falstaff – free up for the prince a field of activity on which he can carry out his will without serious obstacles.
Compositively, in both parts of Henry IV, Prince Harry plays the role of a link between all the play plans; with this technique, Shakespeare seeks to enhance the artistic conviction of the image of the ideal monarch, which is an artistic projection of Shakespeare’s political ideals. In “Henry V”, the episodes of the Chronicle are united by the fact that they are all meant to serve the king’s character.
The credible historical accounts of Henry V’s life give no reason to believe that the prince’s youth was flowing in rampant and wicked slavery, as Shakespeare’s tradition portrays. On the contrary, from historical sources, Prince Harry – the future Henry V – appears as a cunning, insidious politician, a cruel and ambitious adventurer.
Henry V was born in 1387 in Monmouth, near the border of Wales. He received his education at Queen’s College, Oxford, under the guidance of his uncle, Cardinal Henry Beaufort. When Bollipgbrok was exiled, Henry Monmouth remained at the court of Richard II and was ordained a knight by kings.
Shortly after the landing of his father in Ravensperg, Henry joined him, and at the ascension of Henry IV, received the title of Prince of Wales, Duke of Lancaster and Aquitaine. Already in 1400 he took part in the campaign of Henry IV against the Welsh, and for a number of subsequent years fought with Owen Glendaur. At the end of the reign of Henry IV (1410-1411), Prince Henry was the actual ruler of the state.
In those same years he tried to start his foreign policy adventures by supporting the Duke of Burgundy against the Armagnacs.
Henry V’s independent policy is also characterized by extreme adventurism. Despite the fact that the military actions against France during the reign of Henry V brought considerable success to the British, which was explained primarily by the far-reaching decay in the circles of French feudal nobility, Henry V’s conquest policy was doomed to failure. He calls the wars of Henry V and his predecessors Engkels “quixotic” and points out that if they lasted longer, England would “bleed out” in them.
Marx in the Chronological Statements indignantly emphasizes the cruelty of the crowned “careerist”, his infidelity towards his former friend, the head of Lollards, Lord Cobgem (Sir John Oldcastle). During the reign of Henry IV, the prince, in opposition to his father, was very close to the Viclefites, against whom Henry IV fiercely “because they were dangerous to the state (antimonarchists).” And when he came to the throne, Henry V in 1454 “eventually attracted to his side the papal and aristocratic aristocracy with their meanness towards these” radical reformers “(by the way, in St. Giles in London) and the brutal execution of Lord Cobge.
That was the first appearance of the knighted Henry V on the stage. ”
The “conversion” of Henry V, that is, his betrayal of his former friends and the beginning of the brutal persecution of the Lollards – the democratic opposition to Catholicism – was met with clerical enthusiasm. The Catholic Church, interested in discrediting its adversaries and, above all, the leader of the Oldcastle Lollards, tried to present it in the eyes of ordinary people in the most disadvantageous light.
Some of the personal qualities of Henry V contributed to this idealization – his unconditional courage, as well as a certain care for the soldiers; Realizing that they were the main and decisive force in the context of changing tactics, Henry V took all measures to secure the army, without stopping to lay personal jewelry, including his crown, for this purpose.