The legal and moral legitimation of war in Shakespeare’s 'Henry V'


Presentation (Elaboration), 2003
8 Pages

Excerpt

Contents

I. Shakespeare’s Henry V : Glorification or criticism of war?

II. The legitimation of war
II.1. “jus ad bellum”: The medieval concept of the “just war”
II.2 “jus in bello”: Chivalric rules of behaviour in war

III. Critical aspects in Henry V: The atrocity and futility of war

IV. Patriotism and nationals stereotypes

V. Conclusion

VI. Literature

The Legal and Moral Legitimation of War in Shakespeare’s Henry

I. Shakespeare’s Henry V: Glorification or criticism of war?

II. The legitimation of war
II.1. “jus ad bellum”: The medieval concept of the “just war”
II.2 “jus in bello”: Chivalric rules of behaviour in war

III. Critical aspects in Henry V: The atrocity and futility of war

IV. Patriotism and national stereotypes

V. Conclusion

- In the Middle Ages war was, at least concerning political theory and rhetoric, governed by written and unwritten laws and conventions originating in Christian theology, philosophy and chivalric codes of honour.

“jus ad bellum” = criteria deciding on the right to resort to war (e.g. a “just” cause)

“jus in bello” = laws governing the conduct of war (e.g. how to treat prisoners of war)

- Henry, his knights and clergymen classify the campaign against France as a “just war” according to medieval legal and moral standards.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

- Emphasising English patriotism and heroism in the war did not make Shakespeare refrain from offering a critical or sceptical perspective on Henry’s war. Adopting contemporary humanist ideas Shakespeare claims that ethical responsibilities should prevail over power politics. In many scenes the ambiguous and hypocritical character of the “just war” doctrine is revealed. In spite of its chivalrous rhetoric, it obviously fails to humanize warfare effectively. Examples:

Profane political motivations of the Church: I,1.

Henry’s message to the inhabitants of Harfleur: III,3,1-43.

Motivations of the lower ranked knights and soldiers: III,2,10f.; III,2,26-49; IV,4.

Massacre of Agincourt: IV,6,36f.

Futility of war: V. Epilogue

Literature

Meron, Theodor, Bloody Constraint. War and Chivalry in Shakespeare, Oxford: University Press 1998.

Meron, Theodor, Henry’s wars and Shakespeare’s Laws. Perspectives on the Law of War in the Later Middle Ages, Oxford: Clarendon 1993.

Russell, Frederick H., The Just War in the Middle Ages, Cambridge: University Press 1975.

I. Shakespeare’s Henry V: Glorification or criticism of war?

While the first two plays of the Lancaster trilogy deal with domestic problems and power struggle during the War of the Roses (1455- 1485), Henry V is devoted to England’s temporary successes in the Hundred Year’s War (1337- 1453).

There are two opposing ways of interpreting Henry V. Either you can read it as an “affirmative play” (Iser, Shakespeare’s Historien, p. 184.), which means that Shakespeare wanted to portray Henry V as an ideal ruler and to glorify the war against France as just and the victory as a great and heroic achievement. Unsurprisingly Henry V has frequently been used as a wartime propaganda play, esp. in the 20th century World Wars. (referring to the 1943 film version of Laurence Olivier: Holderness, Shakespeare Recycled, pp. 178- 210.) And there are speculations that the play had even been produced for this purpose as there are allusions to the English military expedition to Ireland of 1599 in the play. (V. Chor., 29-34.)

Other critics argue that glorification of war, heroism, and patriotism are only forming a surface which is undermined by a sometimes more, sometimes less obvious critical or, at

least, ambiguous undertone. (e.g. Goddard, The Meaning of Shakespeare, pp. 215- 268.)

First let’s have a look at the affirmative side.

II. The legitimation of war

Henry’s campaign against France (1415) is classified in the play as a “just war” on the basis of medieval religious and legal doctrines, in some cases mixed with Renaissance ideas. These laws and conventions dealing with the question of war can be divided in:

- “jus ad bellum” meaning the right to resort to war on the basis of legitimate moral reasons derived from Christian philosophy and theology.
- “jus in bello” referring to the law governing the conduct of war concerning questions like the treatment of prisoners of war, civilians etc. (Meron, Henry’s wars, pp. 17- 46.)

[...]

Excerpt out of 8 pages

Details

Title
The legal and moral legitimation of war in Shakespeare’s 'Henry V'
College
Bielefeld University  (Fakultät für Linguistik und Literaturwissenschaft)
Course
Shakespeare’s History Plays
Author
Year
2003
Pages
8
Catalog Number
V155127
ISBN (eBook)
9783640673681
ISBN (Book)
9783640673360
File size
548 KB
Language
English
Notes
Das Referat behandelt die rechtliche und moralische Legitimation des Krieges in Shakespeares Henry V, um damit zu klären, ob es sich um ein "affirmative play" oder ein "problem play" handelt.
Tags
Henry V, history play, Shakespeare
Quote paper
Thomas Gräfe (Author), 2003, The legal and moral legitimation of war in Shakespeare’s 'Henry V', Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/155127

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