Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 August 2021
Shakespeare’s canon includes many military figures, but arguably none is more successful than Henry V. In the play, the key to success is shown to lie in the king’s ability to instrumentalize the vehement emotions necessary to wage war. Shakespeare presents anger in Aristotelian terms as a hierarchical emotion reserved for elite men tasked with military leadership. The king’s deft use of anger demonstrates his self-discipline from his decision to invade France until his overwhelming victory there. This self-discipline distinguishes him from the quarrelsome soldiers (like the choleric Fluellen) who serve under him. The efficacy of Henry’s anger becomes evident when juxtaposed with the contrast in 1 Henry IV between his father’s ineffectual coldness and the reckless tempestuousness of Hotspur. In Henry V, the cool performance of hot emotions makes Henry a modern man of wrath.