In the course of the play Henry V, we see the King adopting various roles and masking a variety of characters to fit the occasion; with such convincing tones as to move the audience who are watching his performance, to place their allegiance to his majestic leadership: to be fully behind him in his actions and judgments. Edward Hall summarized Henry as the ideal king who 'was merciful to offenders, charitable to the needy, indifferent to all men, faithful to his friends, and fierce to his enemies, toward God most devout, toward the world moderate, and to his realm a very father' (Hall, E. 1548, The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancaster and York, Henry V course text, p.9). Henry's Machiavel skill in dealing with his subjects, enemies and commoners is supremely displayed in his well-crafted rhetoric. His language is adroitly executed to maximize the support of his listeners while, at the same time, used to intimidate his opponents into submission. The play, however, is not without some disturbing undertones. Upon closer reading of the text, one is forced to consider the morality of his actions in some scenes and the contradictory remarks of his soldiers and enemies that provided some contrasting opinions of the King as a 'star'. Is Henry the Fifth the consummate hero-king of English history? Or is he the ultimate theatrical Pipe-piper to one of England's greatest victories at Agincourt? Finding the answers requires us to engage our imaginative minds as we consider the play in performance and how it can enrich perceptions of the king's character beyond reading the text.
In Act II, scene 2, the king displays his clever handling of his conspirators, revealing himself as an astute and just leader who is acutely aware of human behaviour. He plays the same game of innocence as Scroop, Cambridge and Grey (the said traitors) in their disguises by asking them what punishment a minor offender of the king deserves.