Power and politics is a complex interaction of political motives each competing to sway and impact the people and politics of their time. The keynote to understanding the power of politics is to examine the power of persuasion and representation; the impact of political acts on people and society; a well as how individuals are driven by their personal political motives. H4P1 by W.S (Date) is a fine example of a text that demonstrates this dynamic interaction between representation, competing perspectives of the legitimacy of sovereignty, and the political motives that drive each character to become King. In the same manner, a contemporary example of this is Obama’s speech “Change has come”, in which he outlines the competing political realities of the USA, and advocates the American Dream as a continued pursuit of the American creed. Therefore, through such analysis of representation of power, we are able to see the complexity of politics.
Through the representation of characters with competing roles and demonstrations of leadership, Shakespeare examines the legitimacy of power between Hal, King Henry IV and Hotspur by juxtaposing Hal’s leadership qualities against that of his contemporaries. Shakespeare represents Hotspur as having martial leadership during times of war, as an archaic knight and a warrior prince. This is illustrated in I.i where King Henry states enviously that “My Lord Northumberland is blest with / A son who is the theme of honour’s tongue.” This is a setup, a foreshadowing of the qualities which Hal will assume as he moves closer to his predestined role as King Henry V. Likewise, Henry IV is represented as a shrewd politician, whose observation of power and his role as a King highlights his ability to control and manipulate others. The synecdoche, “By being seldom seen / That I did pluck allegiance from men’s hearts.” Demonstrates an awareness of the impact of his political narrative as an ‘aloof’ and ‘high’ Sovereign. Shakespeare’s purpose is to elevate Hal, and his qualities as a reflection of the qualities of a sovereign relevant to a turbulent context of political strife and civil war. Consequently, Shakespeare is able to elevate the quality of Hal’s leadership qualities as a sovereign who is politically savvy, and aware of the ramifications of his political actions. The aside, in which Hal, through a soliloquy, confesses to the audience, “My reformation, glittering o’er my fault, Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes.” Drawing upon the dramatic irony of his earlier tomfoolery to elevate his debut and demonstrate his ability to play politics, manipulate his image, and influence the nobles and his own reputation. Therefore Shakespeare has clearly represented that in the contest of legitimacy, Hal is the most capable in assuming the position of a King that will lead England to prosperity.
Obama is the first African American President of the US during a contextually unstable period post the GFC. Similar to King Henry IV Part 1, there is upheaval in the state and the hope for the continuation of the American Dream is dashed by economic reality. Like Hal, Obama’s speech seeks to use manipulation and representation to create empathy with the audience. He plays upon the contextual acknowledgement that American people had never imagined they would so quickly gain an African American president. His initial assertion on his victory speech that “I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements,” creates a humble character, whose aporia elevates the successes and achievements which are now self evident. As such, his election signals his troubled audience to the rhetoric that the American Dream is still alive. The reality of the GFC is present in the anecdote, “Mothers and fathers who will lie awake… and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough.” Obama creates empathy and relates to his citizens had through using high pathos to create sympathy and resonance, therefore cementing his role as a capable and compassionate leader. His extensive inclusion, “I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you,” furthermore creates a sense of democratic will, stipulating the ‘creed’ of the American democratic political system. Therefore, like Shakespeare, Obama’s speech has promoted to his own political motive, which is to celebrate and renew the hope of the American Dream and create the Obama brand.
In both the play and the speech, Prince Hal and Obama’s political acts have significant impact on people and their society. In Henry IV, Hal has gained loyalty from his people through asserting himself in a humanist and endearing manner. He addresses the first names for his men, as seen in the anecdote, “Tom, Dick, and Francis,” which indicates a sense of acknowledge that his troops and his citizens are human beings rather than a faceless throng. His evaluation of these men, “when I am king of England, I shall command all the good lads in Eastcheap.” It is furthermore a demonstration of his political knowledge, and the Machiavellian, pragmatic political practices that make Hal so suitable for a leader in a time of turmoil. Similarly, Obama’s purpose of advocating the “American Dream” is captured in the anecdotal, biographical life of “Ann Nixon Cooper” a 106 years old African American woman who has survived through the periods of The Great Depression, Racial Segregation, and Civil Rights Struggles. He draws attention to the great changes brought about by politics in American through the symbolism of her, “touching her finger to a screen, and casting her vote.” where an African American woman previous denied the most basic of rights, is now implementing her democratic will. She is the living proof that America “can change”. Through Cooper, Obama has created the undoubtable logos that “America can change” and that “Yes, we can.” It represents his political perspective of an enduring American Dream, and impacts his audience by selling the political perspective that he is the continuation of that legacy. Therefore, both texts demonstrates to us, the impact of political representation on people and their societies.
Therefore, both Shakespeare and Obama, have demonstrated their political acts and representations of ideologies that will shape their audience’s perspectives. Both Shakespeare and Obama have significantly engaged with the Question Keywords through their persuasive forms.