Personal Leadership in Medieval and Essay

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3). He praises the common soldiers of England for their prowess, and rather than talking to the generals and leaders of the field, almost all of his speeches are addressed to ground-level soldiers. He speaks the language of everyday Englishmen and has a sense of humor and popular appeal, as he notes that the men who fight will remember what their feats "with advantages" (4.3). "For he to-day that sheds his blood with me/

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, / This day shall gentle his condition" (4.3).

Henry may not have a legitimate claim upon the throne through his usurper father, but he does understand the mentality of the English soldier, and provides a unifying force for the soldiers in a way that is unique and unlike other English kings before him. This is greater legitimacy than any title, and more meaningful than the prayers for Richard II which he has bought. Henry is able to use his disadvantages and make them into a new style of leadership for an English king. He finds his source of legitimacy in the support of the common people.

Henry also has problems of justifying his legitimacy because of his youth and previous lifestyle. He was known as an undisciplined prince who preferred drinking to leading and fighting. This is one reason why he is so quick to cast off Falstaff's friendship, to show that he has made a break with the past. But his memory of tavern life makes him willing to go amongst the common people helps him understand when people need to be rallied. Without pretending to be a commoner in the night before Agincourt, he would never have known what to say to make his overmatched soldiers fight with such fervor. The Englishmen initially say that the king will be 'ransomed' rather than die by their sides. But Henry, speaking as a soldier in disguise says


I myself heard the king say he would not be ransomed.


Ay, he said so, to make us fight cheerfully: but when our throats are cut, he may be ransomed, and we ne'er the wiser.


If I live to see it, I will never trust his word after (4.1).

Henry understands that what the men resent is the idea that they must die for a cause that they do not really care about, but that the king will not have to suffer. Henry assures the men that they all fight together.

Henry accepts responsibility that as a king, the decision to go to war was his. He calls the responsibility of kingship terrible when speaking to himself: "Not all these, laid in bed majestical, / Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave" (4.1). But he never lets his troops see this side of himself. He knows, from the experiences that cause some people to question his legitimacy, that troops crave a common touch, not complaints about the responsibility of kingship.

Henry's legitimacy derived from a feeling of sympathy with ordinary people is contrasted with the French attitude, as the French see legitimacy deriving from fine horses and armor:


Tut! I have the best armour of the world. Would it were day!


You have an excellent armour; but let my horse have his due.


It is the best horse of Europe (3.7).

The French Dauphin's patronizing attitude towards Henry's love of tennis and drinking reveals his deficits as a leader, and the problematic attitude of the French aristocracy in general. But Henry uses his experiences with common people to rally his troops and to win. This becomes Henry's greatest legacy as an English king: more so than Richard or his father, Henry has the personal qualities needed to govern England as…

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Shakespeare, William. Henry V. December 5, 2009.

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