The Prince vs. Henry V
A comparison of attributes
After reading Machiavelli’s The Prince and watching Shakespeare’s Henry V in class, one begins to notice similarities between the authors’ idea of what a “perfect king” should be. The patterns between the ideal ruler of Shakespeare and the ideal ruler of Machiavelli can be seen in numerous instances throughout this story. For the duration of this essay, I will compare the similarities in both pieces to give the reader a better understanding of how Shakespeare devised his view of what a “perfect king” should be. One can see an example while looking back on Henry’s youthful experiences. Before taking oath as king, Henry was involved with some scrupulous characters. He would party, stay out all night, and defile his father’s wishes. But after becoming king, Henry shunned this former lifestyle and become the individual of greatness we know today. As Machiavelli stated, “So a prince should be so prudent that he knows how to escape the evil reputation attached to those vices which could lose him his state, and how to avoid those vices which are not so dangerous, if he possibly can; but, if he cannot, he need not worry so much about the latter. And then, he must not flinch from being blamed for vices which are necessary for safeguarding the state. This is because, taking everything into account, he will find that some of the things that appear to be virtues will, if he practices them, ruin him, and some of the things that appear wicked will bring him security and prosperity.” (Machiavelli) If looked at closely, this is exactly what Henry had done. He used this youthful expression to gain favor with the layperson and look even better when he took the throne. This act of “smoke and mirrors” worked to his advantage and backs up Machiavelli’s claims. As Machiavelli says, “From this arises the following question: Whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse. The answer is that...
Cited: Henry V. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, et al. 1989.
Machiavelli, Niccolo. "Selections from The Prince." Matthews, Roy T and F DeWitt Platt. Readings in the Western Humanities. Vol. II. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. 18-21.
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