Text Commentary – Outside the Walls of Harfleur

Topics: William Shakespeare, Henry V of England, Henry V Pages: 2 (638 words) Published: September 25, 2005
We are about to analyze Henry V's speech to the Governor of Harfleur just before the battle of Harfleur. Our study of the text will focus on: Henry's strategy, his way to convince the Governor to surrender, description of the cynical soldiers and the innocent inhabitants, and Shakespeares' use of many rhetorical devices.

The setting of the text is outside Harfleur where Henry asks if the Governor is ready to give in. Henry describes the horror that will appear if there will be a fight. The battle of Harfleur is one of the last in the long lasting war. After capturing Harfleur Henry and his sick army prepare to march to Calais. Why will Henry V use verbal battery instead of physical battery? Henry obviously doesn't want more war, fighting, and blood. Henry would probably have won the battle of Harflur, but his soldiers are tired, not motivated for more fighting, so why strike when sickness growing upon soldiers and the winter was coming on. Henry's strategy was to convince the Governor through verbal battle instead of using arms. His technique is to ask a lot of questions, not giving orders. He is trying to make the Governor responsible for eventually choosing a physical battery. Henry tells some of the consequences if the people of Harfleur don't surrender and comes with a lot of threats. Henry's speech is aiming at the inhabitants of Harfleur and what he is trying to achieve is making a pressure on the Governor, from the people, to give up. If the Governor chooses the hard way, he will be held responsible for the results of the battle. I think this is both a very intelligent and an effective way of using the inhabitants to make his strategy come through. In Henry's speech he characterises his soldiers in this manner: "men proud of destruction", "fleshed soldier, rough and hard of heart" and "bloody-hunting slaughtermen". Referring to the text Shakespeare uses both adjectives and abundant imagery to describe the soldiers. By using this technique...
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