Reading Journal

What I'm reading

Sunday, September 21, 2008

King Henry V, by Shakespeare

King Henry V attacked France in order to get a dukedom that was (supposedly) rightfully his. However, the real reason behind his attack was likely to follow the advice of his father - better to unite England in a foreign war than to allow it to slip into civil war again.

After an unlikely victory at Agincourt, Henry ended up conquering France, marrying King Charles' daughter, and ruling both countries.

Henry threatens the French city Harfleur which he has under siege. He was not exactly a nice person, was he?
If we begin the battery once again,
I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur
Till in her ashes she lie buried.
The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,
And the flesh'd soldier, rough and hard of heart,
In liberty of bloody hand, shall range
With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass
Your fresh fair virgins, and your flowering infants
What is it then to me, if impious war,
Array'd in flames like to the prince of fiends,
Do, with his smirch'd complexion, all fell feats
Enlink'd to waste and desolation?
What is 't to me, when you yourselves are cause,
If your pure maidens fall into the had
Of hot and forcing violation?....

If not; why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dash'd to the walls:
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers, with their howls confus'd,
Do break the clouds

Henry reflects upon the unhappiness that comes with power. The pomp is all pretty useless when it really matters.
Wherin thou art less happy, being fear'd,
Than they in fearing.
What drink'st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,
But poison'd flattery? O, be sick, great greatness,
And bid thy ceremony give thee cure!
Think'st thou the fiery fever will go out
With titles blown from adulation?
Will it give place to flexure and low bending?
Canst thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee,
Command the health of it?


Post a Comment

<< Home