William Shakespeare’s Henry V

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Henry V was one of the greatest kings in British History. His epic rise to power was captured for posterity in the writings of William Shakespeare in the play named for the king. Although a play, the story as told by Shakespeare was remarkably close to being historically accurate (Pilkington, 1997). This play was brought to the modern world in the film Henry V, which was written, directed by, and starred Kenneth Branagh in the title role as the young king (Branagh, 1989). Through the course of the movie, Branagh painted a powerful picture of the evolution of Henry from a young and perhaps rambunctious boy into the man who would be known as a powerful and fair monarch. The film took the viewer from the time shortly after Henry assumed power, upon the death of his father Henry IV, through to the end of what can be argued as his greatest achievement, victory over France. The film was rich with emotion and designed to touch viewers at the core. The fact that the film was based on historical fact, that Henry was a “real” man who lived these experiences, made the content that much more poignant. Having watched the film and examined both the setbacks and triumphs of the king there were countless opportunities to have viewed leadership in action. What follows is an examination of some of the more evident examples of leadership provided by the film along with a discussion of their application to the leadership principles that we have studied thus far.Having viewed the film it would be hard for one to think of Henry in any way other than as a charismatic leader. Through reading The Art and Science of Leadership: Explorations into the Classics, we learned that charisma was the quality or power that was possessed by an individual that gave them the ability to influence or inspire a larger group of people (Bratton, Grint, and Nelson, 2004). In the film, Branagh presented compelling examples of Henry’s charismatic leadership. The Saint Crispian’s day speech epitomized this charismatic leadership. Tired and hungry, sick with dysentery and in the middle of a retreat to England, Henry’s army was encountered by the French at Agincourt. The British were vastly outnumbered, by some accounts five to one. Encouraged to retreat or surrender by his cousin Westmoreland, Henry gave an inspiring speech, relying on his charisma, which challenged the men to run headlong into certain death.

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