Macbeth vs. Henry V

Essay by samyslk230 March 2007

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Shakespeare's play Macbeth shows the roots of all evil, our own human nature. The play is centered on the coexistence of good and evil. Macbeth, unlike any other Shakespeare play has the protagonist convert to evil. In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is shown as a hero in the Scottish army, that is ironic because Macbeth defeats a traitor and he himself becomes one later. Macbeth knows his place in the world. He is fully capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Macbeth purposely disregards his own moral judgment to rise to power which is again ironic and goes against his own beliefs. Macbeth stands as a symbol for Satan's sin of ambition. Like Satan, Macbeth's thirst for power and ambition drives him to commit evil. Contrary to the theory of supernatural forces he is responsible for his own actions. The Three Witches and Lady Macbeth were only influencing factors in Macbeth's demise.

Macbeth was pressured to do a horrible deed which was driven by evil. The beginning of the evil was rooted in his wife and the witch's but quickly spread into his mind and heart. The Three played a part in predicting the evilness of Macbeth which is known as the prophecy and Macbeth receives it from them. After receiving this prophecy, Macbeth starts to transform into an evil man who will not let anything stand in his way. For instance, when Macbeth is questioning whether or not he should murder Duncan, Lady Macbeth fools Macbeth into thinking about how any real man would commit the murder. She quotes "What beast was't/ then, / that made you break this enterprise to me? / When you durst do it, then you were a man; / and to be more than what you were, you would/ be so much more the man" (Act 1 scene vii lines 53-58).she sees the opportunity to kill Duncan and make Macbeth king. She knows Macbeth's ambitions, but says he lacks the ruthlessness, and although Macbeth will take an opportunity, he wants to earn his honours honestly. He also knows the murder would be wrong and he would end up paying for it. Macbeth makes a firm statement saying that "We will proceed no further in this business"(I.vii.32). But after speaking with Lady Macbeth he counter decides and proclaims, "I am settled, and bend up/Each corporal agent to this terrible feat". Macbeth now proclaims himself king, fore-filling his ambition. Macbeth's guilt is recognized after the killing of the king; when he is unable to answer himself. Macbeth's final words in this scene tell us he has committed himself to the path of evil. "I am in blood, stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning was as tedious as go o'er." He acknowledges his torturous pain and knows there is no way of stopping it. He has ruined his life forever. Macbeth now doesn't have a place among the others. He became enraged as he knew that that was true but later accepted it by going to meet with his own evil kind, the witches. Macbeth becomes ruthless and kills at will without feeling guilt. He is now a tyrant, ruling with fear until the bitter end. The thought that one can use language, rather than the conventional brute strength exemplified by Hercules and Beowulf, to achieve a beneficial outcome can be supported by Henry's character in William Shakespeare's Henry V. King Henry V assumes his role as king after the death of his father, Henry IV. Prior to ascending the throne, Harry, as his friends call him, was known for his debauchery. Harry was an immature prince, but as the King of England, he suddenly becomes mature and wise. Henry's bishops convince him of his right and duty to acquire the throne of France. Soon, Britain is preparing for war and fully supporting their king in his pursuit of the French crown.

Henry's powerful words prove his ability to rouse his troops and frighten the enemy. Unlike more traditional heroes, Henry's heroism is not shown in battle, but rather before the battle. Because Henry is able to put fear into the enemy with his threatening messages, the opposing army may not fight as well as one might expect. As seen at Harfleur, the governor surrenders to save the lives of the citizens.The speech that Henry makes demonstrates Henry's clever tactics with his enemies. The king does this so that the governor will surrender and Henry can conquer Harfleur without a bloody battle. Although his speech sounds menacing, a quality not found in the characteristics of a hero, it is only a tactic Henry uses to achieve the outcome he wants. Henry's reluctance to make good on his promise of this massacre is proven when he states, "use mercy to them all" (III.3. 54). Henry is not the monster he appears to be; instead, he is a leader using any method he can to gain land while keeping his troops out of harm's way. At the final Battle of Agincourt, Henry's ragged army expresses concern about their odds against the French; the British are outnumbered five to one. Henry's Cousin Westmoreland. Henry, being the talented rhetorician that he is, soothes the army's fears by delivering the inspirational speech: "[...] If we are marked to die, we are now To do our country loss; and if to live, The fewer men, the greater share of honor. [...]But if it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive." (IV.3. 21-30). Henry explains that there is a certain amount of honor to go around once the British defeat the French. It is fortunate of those soldiers that are at the battle that they do not have to share that honor with men who are fearful and therefore unworthy of honor. Henry says that honor is most important to him and that it should also be important to his army. The soldiers, feeling a renewed sense of purpose, will go into battle and claim that honor - not just for their king, but for England as well Henry explains what the British do Will stand a-tiptoe when this day is named this day, and comes safe home, on this day will be with them for the rest of their lives: He that outlives And rouse him at the name of Crispian [...]The he will strip his sleeve and show his scars, [And say, 'These wounds I had on Crispian's Day.']…. (IV.3. 42-52). What feats he did that day." Henry somewhat shows his softer side by expressing concern for his troops. Henry tells them he knows some will die, but those who survive will be well respected for the rest of their lives. With the reward of greatness being dangled in front of him, a speech like this can sway even the most fearful soldier into becoming the fiercest fighter. It can be argued that Henry is not a hero at all because he is fighting a meaningless war and that lives are being lost for no reason. While that might be true in one's opinion, Henry's opinion is quite different. Henry believes this war is for the greater good. If the British win the war, they gain land and Henry attains the crown of France he believes he deserves. Henry and the British people believe this war is justified; they cannot be faulted for doing what they believe in.

Henry satisfies the qualities in the definition of a hero in using his masterful rhetoric. Henry has fought an impossible war against the French. In the final battle, the British were greatly outnumbered, but managed to escape with minimal casualties. The French, however, were not as fortunate and lost a total of ten thousand. This embarrassing defeat of the French proves just how effective Henry's speech was in improving the morale of his doubtful army. Henry's coldness and ruthlessness are masks that hide a man who would do anything to protect his countrymen. He uses scare tactics in his rhetoric to belittle the enemy while at the same time inspiring his men. Remember, the definition of a hero states that bravery and firmness in any course of action qualifies one for the classification as a hero. Henry's bravery and firmness are represented in his words, rather than his sword, therefore proving him to be a rhetorical hero.

Of the two heroes Henry the V and Macbeth the more intelligent and ruthless is Henry because Macbeth was always cautious about making his decisions and needed the help[ of his wife who played the leading role in taking decisions be it to murder someone or to plot plans to get the throne. She was the more stronger person therefore she took the decisions as to what to do. Henry on the other hand did everything on his own and never liked the interference of anyone in his plotting.