"Why was unity such an important issue at the time the play was written? Does your reading of the first act of the play leave you with an impression of unity?"

Essay by victoria_is_drunkA-, May 2004

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In the first act of the play, we start in an antechamber in King Henry's palace. The bishop's are discussing the change in Henry's character from a wild man to a model king. Canterbury hopes to persuade Henry against the new law by giving him Church money and supporting England's claim to France. Unity was an important issue at the time this play was written because of the battles being fought. Strength in numbers was one of the most important virtues when fighting a battle, as there is a united front, but trusting the people who are with you is also important.

It was a time of difficulty and they were lacking in peace, which suggests there were different groups of people taking different sides. This shows us a lack of unity.

The fact that the Bishop's were talking together in secret, in the first act of "King Henry V" portrays them as detached.

When Ely says "a true lover of the Church", he is referring to Henry, but the fact that they are talking in secret about him gives us an impression that they are not united completely as they would be able to talk more freely otherwise.

In Shakespeare's time, there was a great chain of organised power. Men were organised in a fixed order from King to serf. As you went up the chain, each 'link' had power over the link below. Those who were in positions of power wanted everyone else to know their rightful place. This seems like a separated was to live and does not give the impression of unity. Every person is portrayed as disconnected from the next.

In the line "Oh, let their bodies follow, my dear liege", we see the leaders of the Church and state join in...