I have been given the task of showing the similarities and differences between The Charge of the Light Brigade, a poem, and the speech at Harfleur, taken from the play Henry V. Both of these, though different styles of writing, represent images of war.
The first comparison I can see is repetition. In The Charge of the Light Brigade,
“Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them”
is used to put emphasis on the situation. It is effective because it helps the reader to understand that they were completely surrounded. Repetition is also used in Henry V’s speech, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more”. This is used to make the soldiers unite in friendship, it is effective because it urges the soldiers on and grabs their attention.
The first contrast I can see is that they were written about different wars. The Charge of the Light Brigade was where soldiers were going to fight at the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War, responding to a mistaken command. This poem was written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson after the war. Whereas in Henry V the soldiers were going back to fight the French at Harfleur. This was spoken out loud to inspire the English soldiers to go back into battle.
A similarity in the two pieces of writing is alliteration. In The Charge of the Light Brigade, Tennyson writes,
“Stormed at with shot and shell”
This is used to have a greater effect on the reader, because it describes the bullets as “stormed”, which is much better than simply saying lots of bullets. In Henry V’s speech, Shakespeare writes, “Stiffen the sinews”. This is used to push the soldiers to their full potential. It is effective because it is said in a way that grabs the soldier’s attention and makes them think; it is also much better than simply saying “tense your muscles”.
A difference in the two pieces of writing is the different audience it is for and therefore the different styles of writing used. The Charge of the Light Brigade is written as a report for a magazine and is written to appeal to the readers. However Henry V’s speech is an inspirational piece from a play, urging his men to fight and is spoken for his men, not for a reader.
Another comparison occurs when we consider Onomatopoeia. In The Charge of the Light Brigade, Tennyson writes, “volleyed and thundered”. This is used to describe the scene in an interesting way, it is much more effective than saying it was loud, scary and the noise rumbled on, as this is basically what the quote is saying. In Henry V’s speech, Shakespeare writes, “blast of war blows”. This is used to encourage the soldiers and to try to make them unafraid of war, it is effective because not only does it describe the scene well, but it also motivates the soldiers in with its strong words such as “blast”.
Another contrast is that Tennyson had time to plan and prepare his poem, whereas Henry V’s speech had to be more direct and impulsive. In The Charge of the Light Brigade the poem has structure and it rhymes. The poem is also written in verses, which adds to the structure. We can see that in the last two lines of each verse there are many similarities such as “Into the valley of death” and “Into the mouth of Hell”. On the last line in every verse there is “six hundred”, these show that Tennyson had plenty of time to plan his poem. Whereas Henry V’s speech was spoken at the time of the battle therefore was seen to be unplanned and thought of ‘on the spot’.
We find a similarity when we look at imagery in the two pieces of writing. Personification is used in The Charge of the Light Brigade. “Into the jaws of death”, suggests they are going into the unknown and will be trapped. Another example of personification is, “Into the mouth of hell”, which suggests its going to be terrible and they will not return. In Henry V’s speech a simile is used, “imitate the action of a tiger”, this suggests that Henry wanted his soldiers to be fearless.
We find a difference when we look at the way the soldiers were spoken to. In The Charge of the Light Brigade the soldiers just responded to whatever orders they were given without question. They did not need motivation because it was their job,
“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die”
However in Henry V’s speech his men were spoken to in a very personal way, “dear friends”. This was because these soldiers volunteered to fight so they needed a lot of persuasion to go back into battle.
Finally there is a comparison in the effective vocabulary used. In The Charge of the Light Brigade there are effective verbs used, “flashed” and “charge”; these are used to describe the scene in an effective way. They show us how in war you had to act quickly; “flashed” gives me the image of men thrashing their swords around. In Henry V’s speech there are effective adjectives used, “noblest”, this means proud and brave. A great quote with effective adjectives is used in the speech,
“Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage”.
The two effective contrasting adjectives here are “fair” and “hard-favoured”. I have chosen these because I think these words capture what Henry V’s speech is all about; which is pride, honour and courage. By using these two adjectives we see how Henry wants the men to change their appearance, so they can overcome the enemy.
As I conclude I understand that because the two pieces of writing are written for different audiences, there are bound to be differences. However, both writers are successful in providing vivid images of the horror of war.