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One Verse Every Week 'THE HERO ARCHETYPE'

Updated: Apr 24, 2022

The Hero Archetype

There are twelve main literary archetypes derived from Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung's findings. The Hero is one of the twelve:

Hero, typically, is a symbol of courage and is a saviour of sorts. A hero can destroy any enemy and go into the jaws of death and still come out triumphantly and deliver inspiring speeches, too. Shakespeare's plays don't typically demonstrate heroism because his characters are very human and real. Therefore the plays expose their many flaws. However, if pushed, Henry V could be an example of a Hero character, only if his actions in plays I & II of Henry IV are not taken into account.

King Henry V, amidst a siege delivers this speech where he encourages his soldiers to rise to the challenge and fight without giving up:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there's nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger; Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage; Then lend the eye a terrible aspect; Let pry through the portage of the head Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it As fearfully as doth a galled rock O'erhang and jutty his confounded base, Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean. Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit To his full height. On, on, you noblest English. Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof! Fathers that, like so many Alexanders, Have in these parts from morn till even fought And sheathed their swords for lack of argument: Dishonour not your mothers; now attest That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you. Be copy now to men of grosser blood, And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman, Whose limbs were made in England, show us here The mettle of your pasture; let us swear That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not; For there is none of you so mean and base, That hath not noble lustre in your eyes. I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game's afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'


The play ends with the chorus eulogising King Henry V as the star of England:

Chorus ... Small time, but in that small most greatly lived This star of England: Fortune made his sword; By which the world's best garden be achieved, And of it left his son imperial lord. ...


Shakespeare portrays King Henry V as a perfect monarch in the play Henry V, but in plays I & II of Henry IV the young prince referred to as Prince Hal can be seen lost in the underbelly of London, frequenting brothels, socialising and drinking with thieves and prostitutes. Prince Hal shows no interest in administration, military or state affairs and leaves matters of the court to his younger brother John of Lacaster, but upon succeeding his father he is quick to transform into the courageous, wise, benevolent and just King of England.



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