Forgive the hero . . .
—Richard Wilbur, in “Still, Citizen Sparrow”

That Henry V is about the social limitations of heroism is not a point that every produc tion of the play can easily bring to the fore. So intent is Shakespeare on dazzling us with Henry’s charisma, his ability to make other characters in the play fall morally in love with him, that the audience is in danger of falling in love with Henry as well, without noticing some of the more troubling personality traits with which Shakespeare has seen fit to endow the king. For if Hal is a monarch whose way with people enables him to “command all the good lads of Eastcheap” and “drink with any tinker in his own language,” who can ask a tired army to fight a brilliant battle out of good fellowship, enlist the respect and sympathies of an enemy king’s herald, and woo a foreign princess without the benefit of...

 

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