Claim of Policy

For this, our last draft together ( ! ), I’d like you to compose an essay focusing on an implied claim of policy, that is, an argument about taking some kind of action, in response to the following prompt: One of the central questions in Shakespeare’s Henry V is whether Hal, the title character, is justified in going to war with France. Act one focuses chiefly on some of the different factors motivating Hal, and throughout the play we hear him and those around him offering different arguments about whether the war—including Hal’s preparations and conduct, the conduct of his soldiers, and his treatment of the French—are appropriately righteous and even legal. Hal is surrounded by people who expect him to act like a “Christian” king. In fact, for the two plays preceding this one (Henry IV parts one and two), that’s been the major topic of debate. For good or ill, Hal becomes a king (that is, his father dies and he inherits the job), and manages even to expand his realm to include most of France. He’s plainly a pretty good soldier. The question remains, however: do his own explanations and the attitudes of those around him justify “much fall of blood” (1.2.25)? Is Hal the compassionate, merciful, law-abiding Christian he and others claim he is, or is he a ruffian, a sadist, a Machiavellian pragmatist willing to do what it takes to advance his own and his country’s interests? How, finally, do we feel about the actions he undertakes under the cheerful self-definition of “soldier”? As you evaluate Hal’s actions and decisions I’d like you to synthesize both your own attitudes about his words and deeds and also the attitudes expressed by characters in the play. This will necessitate that you work carefully to explore, adopt, and refute various competing arguments (something you’ve become adept at). Some key characters to look at might include the bishops; Fluellen and Hal’s other soldiers; Pistol, Nym, and Bardolph; the King of France; the Dauphin; the herald; and Katherine of Valois. To evaluate this claim of policy (“We should go to war”) begin by examining relevant supporting claims, like the bishops’ claims about the Salic Law, the questions raised by Hal’s soldiers about the status of their souls, Hal’s own statements about the results of war, and the various assertions made by the Chorus (the voice of the prologues). Balance these several voices against what you yourself perceive to be the results of Hal’s choices and what we’ve learned through our brief study of Just War theory. Do his deeds and their results justify the violence? And again, be sure to entertain relevant counterarguments. Do reasonable voices mount plausible objections to this war? As always, support your claims with carefully-chosen, accurately-quoted, appropriately-cited passages from the text, and, as always, be sure to cite a secondary source and provide a list of works cited in the MLA style..

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