Leadership Qualities In Henry V (1989)
Leadership Qualities In Henry V (1989)
Film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s plays have been made ever since the filmmakers, Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the Autochrome color photography process. However, Henry V (1989) is perhaps the finest film adaptation of a Shakespeare play, and Kenneth Branagh, who directed the film, wrote the screenplay and starred in it as King Henry V himself, was critically acclaimed around the world because of the film. Since the film after all is adapted from Shakespeare’s play, so like the play it shows Henry V’s struggles to become a leader after inheriting the throne of England, and win over his subjects. Although most of his subjects still see him as a careless and irresponsible child, the film shows how Henry V’s entire persona changes as he is forced to become a leader. Henry V’s leadership qualities are shown in the film become particularly evident as he asserts a heredity claim to France, preparing his campaign. This paper will analyze certain business management practices and theories that Henry V prominently uses in the film.
Like the play, the plot of the film, which is also divided into Acts, revolves around King Henry V’s plans to enter into war over some disputed titles and lands. His planning of his campaign to conquer France and ultimately executing this campaign successfully reveals his true genius. He begins planning his campaign by building the consent of and uniting his nobles, who are disparate and warring, around the common goal of reclaiming France. King Henry’s ability to plan is also revealed in Act 2 in the film, as King Henry is preparing his armies to sail to France, when he pretends to have no knowledge of the treachery of the Earl of Cambridge, Lord Scroop, and Sir Thomas Grey. He asks them for advice regarding what to do about a drunkard who spoke against him in public. The truth is that King Henry had planned this small ordeal just to find whether they think the drunkard deserves mercy or not, and when the traitors suggest that he punish the man, he takes their advice as a pronouncement of their own sentence, he punishes them instead. Apart from the campaign that he plans, another example of his knack for competent planning is exhibited in the film when he exerts his diplomatic skill, even before hostilities begin, in an attempt to secure the support of the Duke of Burgundy, played by Harold Innocent in the film, or at least to ensure that he is on a neutral stance. Above all, if King Henry was not adept at planning, he would not have been able to achieve an almost miraculous victory in the battle of Agincourt, even though the odds were against him and his army.
King Henry’s ability to make the right decisions at the right time is what makes him a great ruler and an even greater leader. Even though King Henry possesses divine right, and is accountable to no one except God, yet he always tries to make calculated and shrewd decisions so that he may lead his people justly. Branagh’s portrayal of King Henry V in the film shows that he is a good decision maker because, at least outwardly, all of the political decisions he makes seem to be based on what is best for his country. It seems that King Henry has inherited this ability to make sophisticated political decisions form his father Henry IV, and this is one of the traits that make him the ideal ruler of England.
One of the reasons that Branagh’s performance in the film as King Henry was critically acclaimed because of how brilliantly and successfully he delivers Henry’s famous St. Crispan's Day speech. In the process he also reveals King Henry’s exceptional motivational skills. Initially, Branagh presents King Henry’s motivational skills by portraying his charismatic ability to connect with his nobles and subjects, and to motivate them to embrace his goal and support him in achieving it. However, the most notable example of King Henry’s ability to motivate is undoubtedly the incredible speech that he makes to his soldiers just before they go into battle. Branagh, while delivering the speech in the role of Henry V, impressively reveals the power that words can have as far as motivating someone is concerned. One of the reasons that King delivers this speech is because his army gets anxious and demoralized when they see that the French army is significantly larger.
Just like his motivational skills, King Henry’s good communication and persuasion skills also make him a splendid leader. Although the St. Crispan's Day speech is also a portrayal of King Henry’s ability to communicate, however, there are many other examples in the film that reveal his communication skills. He seems to have a knack for communicating with the common class of soldiers, which is the reason they look up to him and why he manages to motivate them. Branagh also demonstrates King Henry’s youthful, carefree tenor, which is the reason he is able to communicate with common soldiers so naturally and well. King Henry’s ability to persuade others through communication and his youthful mannerisms are demonstrated when he plays a practical joke by persuading Fluellen, a Welsh officer in his army, to wear a glove that he claims is from a noble Frenchman but actually belongs to Michael Williams, a soldier in his army, causing the two to almost break into a fight. It also seems that Henry’s ability to communicate effectively is not limited to motivating soldiers, connecting with them, or persuading them, rather he seems to be equally skilled at wooing as well, since he manages to woo Princess Katharine, to get off on the right foot with her.
Based on Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of Henry V in the 1989 film adaption of Shakespeare’s play, it is apparent that all the leadership skills that any greater leader and ruler should possess. In the film, King Henry makes use of several modern business management practices and theories, such as the ones discussed above. In fact, it was King Henry’s leadership skills that prove to be a decisive advantage for the English army even when the odds were against them. If it was not for his planning, his innovative decision making, his ability to motivate and communicate, the English army would not have been able to succeed against the French army.
Branagh, K. (1989). Henry v [DVD]. Available from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097499/