Henry V…Love and Neglect

“Take up the English short, and let them know
Of what a monarchy you are the head.
Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin
As self-neglecting.”

Henry V II.iv.72–75

Whenever I hear the phrase, my liege, I can’t help but think of Wormtongue from The Two Towers. But that’s another subject.In at least one way, I’m not sure the Dolphin is much different—hoping to turn the king to the Dolphin’s way of doing things.

But his words here are worth pondering. What is the difference between thinking highly of oneself versus thinking soberly of one’s limitations? The king of France is right to ponder the past as he thinks about the future and what war with England would mean. But the prince is not interested in thinking. He knows what Henry is like—at least he thinks he does—and he wants the king to act like a king, stand up to this worthless English monarch and fight.

The real danger in the Dolphin’s words are that his idea of self-neglecting and the king’s actual mood are two different things. The Dolphin sees nothing to worry about; he can’t imagine anything going wrong. The king is weighing the severity of the situation. In this case, the greater sin, indeed, is “self-love” for it fails to consider what could be lost. It fails to consider the men who will die in such a war. The Dolphin is heedless of these things. He is only interested in exalting self. In fact, in failing to consider others and the situation, he has already exalted self. And pride is the greatest sin, the first sin.

The Dolphin is the serpent to France’s Adam.


Henry V and Miracles vs. Means

“…for miracles are ceased;
And therefore we must needs admit the means
How things are perfected.”

Henry V I.ii.67–69

If miracles have indeed ceased, then our means matter. If miracles are ceased, then discovering the means of success and the means to society’s moral standards must occupy our thoughts and time, for we must reproduce them (or force them)—if miracles have ceased.

For if miracles have ceased, can our goal still be heaven? If miracles have ceased and if we still long for a better place, we must admit two courses: 1) Either we deny our depravity is beyond cure and seek the means to improve the inner and outer man to attain to our understanding of heaven’s rules, and thus to heaven, or 2) we deny heaven is attainable at all and seek to improve what is plain before us to build heaven here on earth for ourselves or those that will follow. That is, we are tasked with ushering in the kingdom of God (or culture’s perfect man) on this earth only.

If miracles have ceased.

And they have for all practical purposes. Society does not believe in intervention beyond our technology and science and liberated thought. So technology and science and liberated thought need to save the day. They are the means. But what are the ends to which they lead?