Henry V and Richard III depicted how two very different men rose to power and assumed the throne of England. Henry was an intelligent, driven young man who sought to reconstruct the civil war ravaged kingdom after the death of his father. Shakespeare presented Richard as a corrupt, sadistic villain who cared nothing for the English people except that they knew and feared his absolute authority. Both men, though, possessed the same focus and determination, which made the comparison and contrast of these two plays that much more drastic.
When Henry V came to power, he knew he was responsible for gaining the trust and respect of both the English court and the common man. In order to end wars within the country and regain political stability, Henry decided to lay claim to his land in France. In response to this, the French prince Dauphin snubbed Henry, which launched him into action. With the support of the English people behind him, Henry gathered his troops and planned to invade France.
Henry did away with those who plotted against him and his mission and set sail for France. With his tremendous resolve and leadership, the English victoriously fought their way through France despite terrible odds.
The English forces were urged to remain focused on the task at hand, and all those who disgraced the kingdom were severely punished. Looting, spying and the like all resulted in death at Henry’s command. With the same dedication, however, he took into consideration the concerns of the common soldier and in prayer he gained the power to fulfill his leadership responsibilities and rally his troops.
After the English forces defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt, while outnumbered five-to-one, the opposition finally surrendered. Henry was able to secure peace negotiations and meanwhile married Catherine, the daughter of the French king. Thus, Henry had successfully united two kingdoms.
The reign of King Richard III differed greatly. In order to reach the throne, he secretly plotted to usurp the kingship from his brother Edward and, likewise, to destroy anyone else who posed a threat.
Shakespeare described Richard as evil and manipulative, but also brilliant, cunning, and persistent. He was born physically deformed and as a result was very bitter toward those around him, and greatly resented their normalcy and happiness. This hatred translated into tremendous drive and served as motivation as well as justification for most everything he did.
Richard began his journey to the throne by marrying a noblewoman, Lady Anne, simply for political reasons. He then took every opportunity that arose to speed Edward’s illness and death, including the execution of another brother solely to cause grief and clear the path to the title.
When Edward finally died, Richard was temporarily rewarded control of the kingdom until Edward’s sons were of age to rule. Richard then searched out and executed those noblemen who had remained loyal to the princes, along with the boys’ powerful relatives on their mother’s side. The heirs and Queen Elizabeth, their mother, were left unprotected and vulnerable. After Richard campaigned and all but assumed his role as king, the boys were murdered.
The people of England already despised Richard and feared his tyrannical rule. When Richard found himself without support and facing a possible challenger to the throne, he decided to murder his wife in order to marry his niece Elizabeth. This marriage to Edward’s daughter would cement his position as king. Queen Elizabeth, however, had sided with the French challenger, Richmond, and had secretly given him her daughter’s hand in marriage.
When Richmond and his forces invaded England, Richard was killed, just as he had been warned in dreams the night before by the ghosts of all those he had murdered. Richmond was the crowned King Henry VII and vowed peace in the restless kingdom.
Both Henry V and Richard III possessed the determination to reach the throne and rule England. Henry introduced himself to the kingdom as a relenting force, in power to protect and provide for the common man. He took his role very seriously and thus became a hero in his kingdom, while instilling fear in the hearts of the opposition. Richard, though, saw his dreams crumble before him as he selfishly and insanely used all those around him as a sort of tool for his acquisition of power. England as a whole rejected him as a leader, and saw no promise for the kingdom under the reign of a power-hungry tyrant.
Henry sought to rebuild and England and bring back to it prosperity, and therefore gained the love and respect of the English people. Richard cared only to tend to his own selfish interests and was, as a result, overthrown by his enemies. The fate of there two men seemed to have been determined by what motivated them and with which characteristics they utilized in ruling the kingdom of England.