“Shakespeare may have died over 400 years ago, but he is still very much alive today”

I continue my online learning journey with Bard101x, Shakespeare Matters by University of Adelaide. This is the fifth and last 😦 installment of the course, after studying about:

If you’re interested to join the online course, here’s the link: “Bard101x, Shakespeare Matters“.

Henry V

In a tiny nutshell, the play tells the story of King Henry V of England, with focus on the events before and after the Battle of Agincourt (1415). Henry V goes on an expedition to France and, despite having his army outnumbered, manages to motivate them so deeply that they win against the French army at Agincourt.

henry V illustration meilan solly
Netflix recently launched a movie about Henry V. Image from SmithsonianMag.com

Henry V is a history play – the focus is on the historical events and on the character of King Henry V. According to the course teachers, Henry V is presented as a more mature character compared to the previous plays, when he was a wild young boy. Now Henry V is a strong persuader (and even manipulator?), leading his army to victory.

henry V shakespeare mya gosling

Shakespeare’s history plays

The Bard’s history plays are related to tragedies, but still different. They have a political and nationalist focus and dramatize events from the medieval or early modern past. Shakespeare’s history plays concern only English history.

“Henry V” can be read as stand-alone story, or as part of a series of 8 history plays, as follows:

Richard II > Henry IV parts 1 and 2 > Henry V > Henry VI parts 1, 2 and 3 >  Richard III

Literary insights

The Chorus, a narrative tool used by Shakespeare also in other plays, introduces each of the play’s five acts. However, this Chorus is a bit different compared to other exampels from the course – it is not neutral. The Chorus is vital in terms of manipulating emotions of the audience, and it is mostly biased towards the English and Henry V.

The Chorus also brings in discussion matters of meta-theatre – talking about its own performance (eg. the Chorus laments in the Prologue that the stage is poorly equipped to represent the great actions of the war).

Speak the Speech activities

The Speak the Speech activities focused on …

  • “O for a Muse of fire” – the Prologue of the play, performed by the Chorus
  • “Once more unto the breach” – showing how King Henry inspired his troops to return to fight
  • “Take pity at your town” – showing King Henry threatening a French Governor
  • “But, before God, Kate” – when King Henry tries to win Kate’s heart
Title page of the play. Image from Wikipedia.org

Hamlet and Henry V

Towards the final part of the lesson there was a discussion about the main characters from Hamlet (first play of the course) and Henry V (final play of the course) – how are the two strong characters similar and/or different?

Hamlet is portrayed with a strong inner feelings, showed by his multiple soliloquies. He is more authentic, loyal to his moral compass. However, he is not so much a man of action. 

hamlet shakespeares globe readers high tea
Hamlet during performance at the Kourion Theatre, Cyprus, 2014. Image from facebook.com/ShakespearesGlobe

In contrast, Henry V is portrayed as a man of action, an “action hero”. He does not stay true to one particular core, but changes depending on the needs to manipulate. Also, his approach to love is political, not romantic (as it was encountered in A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

henry V shakespeares globe readers high tea
Henry V during performance at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Image from facebook.com/ShakespearesGlobe

The end of the course

Unfortunately, the end of the lesson about Henry V also brings us to the conclusion of the course 😦

The final videos showed Literature teachers from Australia sharing what are their favourite Shakespeare plays and characters. These videos were very inspiring, seeing the different and passionate answers, ranging from Julius Caesar and MacBeth to Romeo and Juliet.

I will come back with a wrap-up post, sharing my key learnings about Shakespeare’s plays.

‘Till next time … happy reading Shakespeare!


PS: Shakespeare’s Globe, the world-famous cultural center from London, offers free streaming of their shows on Youtube (on rotation every 2 weeks)

PPS: I am writing about this course at my own will. I was not paid to promote the course nor have I received any other compensation.

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