Language is a human communication device that is sophisticated enough to allow people to express infinite thoughts and emotions. In it's most basic written or spoken form, language can present ideas in a deliberate and straightforward manner. However, the flexibility of language allows the writer or speaker to express ideas that are more complicated than what the fundamental connotation of his or her statement seems to be. Much of William Shakespeare's work exemplifies the careful use of language to express complex ideas that have significance beyond the surface meanings of the chosen words. An example of this technique can be found in Henry V, where Shakespeare builds a connection between rhetorical and poetic structures and the authoritative power of Henry V. Through a close reading of Shakespeare's figurative tropes and literary structures, it becomes evident that Shakespeare employs specific uses of language to present a dichotic view of Henry V's relationship with power.

In certain areas of the play, it seems that Shakespeare uses language to illustrate Henry's ability to turn situations in his favor, thereby enhancing the King's commanding power over his adversaries. This is first seen in Henry V's defiance of the Dolphin. When Henry receives an insulting gift of tennis balls from the Dolphin, he immediately employs ambiguous language to turn the Dolphin's insult into an insult against the Dolphin himself. For instance, when Henry comments, "all the courts of France will be disturb'd with chaces," he is making a pun on tennis terminology (I.ii.265-266). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "courts" can refer to royal governing bodies as well as tennis playing grounds. Likewise, the word "chace" (currently written as "chase") literally means pursuit, but can also refer to a missed return in the game of tennis. Thus, Henry is using language to exert his power of wit over the offense of the French monarchy. Later in the same rant, Henry uses repetition of language to further exert his power over the French. He declares, "many a thousand widows shall this mock mock out of their dear husbands; Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down" (I.ii.284-286). Henry V turns the insult of the Dolphin around by repeating the word "mock," but each time assigning different meanings to it. By taking the words of the French and assigning his own meanings to them, Henry is not only exercising his power to turn situations in his favor, but he is also displaying his desire to exert control over the French crown.

Another situation that illustrates a connection between language and power for Henry V is when he condemns Lord Scroop, the Earl of Cambridge, and Thomas Grey for their treachery to the state of England. Henry uses forms of literary repetition to violently strip these traitors of their power and influence within the English armed forces. "What shall I say to thee, Lord Scroop, thou cruel, ingrateful, savage, and inhuman creature" (II.ii.94-95). The use of consecutive adjectives takes on the form of a literary crescendo upon each offensive word, thereby inflating the intensity and influence of Henry's condemnation. Later in the same monologue Henry V uses the repetitive poetic structure of anaphora to further lower the esteem of the three traitors. Lines 128 through 131 comment on the seemingly virtuous qualities of the conspirators, and they all begin with the phrase, "Why, so didst thou" (II.ii.128-131). By repeating this phrase at the beginning of each line of this pseudo-quatrain, Henry V brings attention to the attempts of these men to deceive him. Henry feels that his power as a King has been contested, and he uses reproachful language to remove all power and dignity from his betrayers.

In addition to punishing disloyalty to his throne, Henry uses language to build patriotism among his troops in hopes of inflating the power of the English army. In his famous St. Crispian's Day speech, Henry addresses his soldiers as "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" (IV.iii.60). Again, Henry segments his statement such that each phrase builds on the one before it. The increasing intensity of Henry's beckon illustrates his desire to rouse his troops and augment the power of his army. Throughout the St. Crispian's Day speech Henry also makes crafty use of the word Crispian. By repeating a religiously-connotated word throughout a speech regarding the secular matter of war, Henry reassigns the meaning of a religious holiday to suit his own secular need to enthuse his army. In doing this, Henry V once again displays his ability to boost the effectiveness of his command through language.

While Shakespeare uses Henry's language to illustrate the King's authoritative cunning, language is also used to expose weaknesses in Henry's power and in some cases a lack thereof. This is evident as soon as Henry enters into the play. Following the grand entrance of the King and his group of attendants, Henry's first words are "Where is my gracious Lord of Canterbury?" (I.ii.1). This immediate reference to one of the lower decision makers of the court draws attention away from the King's individual power. As these are the first words that come out of the King's mouth, they impact the reader or audience member with a first impression of the King as a person who is dependent upon his underlings. This impression is reinforced when Henry warns the Duke of Canterbury to "take heed how you impawn our person, how you awake our sleeping sword of war" (I.ii.21-22). By warning the Duke to be careful when advising him, Henry seems to be displacing his responsibility, and ultimately his power over England onto the shoulders of the Duke. In addition, Shakespeare forms a copulatio structure by presenting repeated framings of different verbs by the words "you" and "our." This poetic structure singles out the Duke of Canterbury from the entire rest of the English state, thereby emphasizing the magnitude of the burden that Henry transfers to him.

Apart from the King's excessive delegation of power, a close reading of Henry V's Act I speech in defiance of the Dolphin reveals that the passage alludes to the King's total lack of power. Henry V promises to the ambassador that he will "be like a king, and show his sail of greatness" (I.ii.274-275). The phrase "like a king" implies that Henry himself is not a king; he merely assumes the role of one. In regards to power, the passage suggests that Henry V is not an inherently forceful ruler. It shows instead that he is an ordinary, powerless man who has stepped into a position where command is accredited to him. When Henry V makes reference to displaying his "sail of greatness," speculation can be made concerning the true source of Henry's power. While this passage can be read as a threat to unleash the formidable English naval fleets onto the French, an alternative interpretation of the word "sail" shows an image of Henry as hollow dictator-a king who possesses no true power as a single person. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "sail" can be applied to something that uses the wind to generate propulsion. This image of a sail is analogous to Henry V, who must rely on the forceful winds of his advisors if he is to generate any sort of authoritative thrust.

Linguistic ambiguities bring further doubt to Henry V's legitimacy as a King when he confronts a group of English soldiers while he is disguised as a Welsh soldier named Harry le Roy. Henry tells the soldiers, "the King is but a man," (IV.i.101-102) and that, "his ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man" (IV.1.104-105). The Oxford English Dictionary presents different definitions of the word "appear," one being to "display one's self acting as a character," and another being to "come forth from concealment." A surface reading of the passage indicates that Henry is using the first definition-he implies that when the King removes his decorative garb (as Henry has done in this scene) he is merely acting as if he were a common man. However, a close reading of this passage causes the reader to entertain Henry V's use of the latter connotation. In this sense of the word "appear," Henry's statement indicates that the King's impressive attire is merely a fa├žade and he is coming forth from concealment to show his true self when he removes his robes. These opposing ideas bring to question whether the King's control lies inherently, or in his elaborate attire. Thus, Shakespeare uses ambiguous language to question the ruling power of Henry V, as well as question the legitimacy of kings in general.

Shakespeare uses language in Henry V to present opposing views of Henry V's relationship with power. Language illustrates Henry's uncanny ability to turn hostile situations in his favor, showing the reader and audience that Henry derives his ruling power from his own craftiness. Through repetitive linguistic structures, Henry intensifies his manner of communicating with others, allowing him to exert greater control over his soldiers. Shakespeare also employs certain literary techniques to portray Henry V's weaknesses, or lack of power. For instance, language emphasizes the King's dependence on his advisors, thus creating a weakened view of the King himself. Also, Shakespeare's use of words with multiple connotations brings into suspicion the true nature Henry's power. By using different forms of poetic and rhetorical structures, Shakespeare creates a synthesis between language and power, form and meaning. Therefore, he roots the main themes of Henry V in the elementary fabric of the play itself.


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