Henry’s Moral Growth from Boy to Man
William Shakespeare is well-known for creating characters that begin as admirable heroes yet eventually cause their own downfall. In Henry V, this role is reversed. Henry, known as Prince Hal in his younger years, learns after his father’s death what it means to be a leader. Henry V shows Henry’s continuing growth from a boy to a man. Even after his partying days have passed, Henry continues to grow into a responsible and caring man. The responsibility of leadership and the safety of his people earn Henry respect from his people and from himself.
Henry was a wild prince who enjoyed nothing more than spending his time in local taverns. It was hard to believe that Henry could become a suitable king for “the curses of his youth promis’d it not” (I, i, 24). The turning point in Henry’s life was the death of his father. At this moment, Henry knew his people were now his responsibility. The Archbishop of Canterbury claims:
“The breath no sooner left his father’s body but that his wildness, mortified in him, seemed to die too. Yea, at that very moment
consideration like an angel came and whipp’d th' offending Adam out of him, leaving his body as a paradise t' envelop and contain celestial spirits. Never was such a sudden scholar made” (I, i, 25-32).
This sudden change snaps Henry into reality. From this moment on, he begins to live as a better man.
Rather than being the spontaneous prince he once was, he makes all of his choices very cautiously. Henry is well aware that France should rightfully be his according to Salic law. However, he is not keen on the idea of war with France. He cautions Canterbury to “take heed how you impawn our person, how you awake our sleeping sword of war. We charge you in the name of God, take heed, for never two such kingdoms did contend without much fall of blood” (I, ii, 21-25). Henry says he worries for his people because “God doth know how many now in health shall...