Study Guide

Henry V Gender

By William Shakespeare

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When Henry V affectionately calls his troops his "band of brothers," it's pretty clear that Shakespeare is mostly interested in male bonds – particularly the kinds of close-knit relationships that are forged among soldiers on the battlefield. Yet, despite the emphasis on male relationships, <em>Henry V</em>'s triumphant ending hinges on the fact that Henry gets hitched to the French princess, Catherine, a hook-up that's been designed to unite the kingdoms of France and England. Because it's a union that's been negotiated as part of England's peace treaty with France, the value of this male-female relationship is the fact that it forges a political alliance, not an emotional connection based on love or affection.

Questions About Gender

  1. Discuss the play's attitude toward masculinity and warfare.
  2. How are male bonds forged in <em>Henry V</em>?
  3. What is Henry's attitude toward his marriage to Catherine? What's her attitude toward marrying him?
  4. Why do you think the play makes so many references to the relationship between rape and warfare?

Chew on This

Male bonds that have been forged on the battlefield are the most important relationships in the play.

In<em> Henry V</em>, women seen as prizes to be conquered by men, just as towns are conquered by men during times of war.

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