Henry V: ESFP

Henry IV / Henry V, William Shakespeare

Prince Hal ESFP | The Hollow Crown \ Shakespeare MBTI

Extraverted Sensing (Se): As a young man, Prince Hal lives for new experiences. Despite his royalty, he spends his youth drinking, pranking, womanizing and engaging in other instantly gratifying activities. He loves to laugh and poke fun of the foolish, get reactions out of people and lives such a rambunctious life that his father grows sick with worry about him. Hal is a performer and loves to be the center of attention. He mockingly imitates his father in order to entertain his friends and does so with exuberance and quality. Hal doesn’t make long-term plans, but enjoys relishing the moment at all times. Every one of his actions aims toward achieving immediate results and he has little patience to devote toward long-term projects or strategizing. He is in sync with his environment and decent in his swordsmanship skills. Hal doesn’t dwell on the past at all –he only once mentions his mother and following his father’s death, he quickly moves past his mourning, rejecting everything about his former life (including Falstaff). Hal is very physical –he often speaks with his hands and doesn’t hesitate to touch people or invade their personal space (which includes kissing Kate upon their first meeting).

Prince Hal ESFP | The Hollow Crown \ Shakespeare MBTI

Introverted Feeling (Fi): Hal’s morals are internally based and as a young Prince, he does not hesitate to violate his father’s orders by behaving wildly and ignoring his princely obligations. He has a strong desire to be true to his beliefs and desires. As a result, he deliberately gives himself a bad reputation with the hopes of avoiding his inheritance to the throne. He recognizes other people’s motives, easily discerning Falstaff’s sycophantism and the disapproval of his soldiers when he goes to agincourt. Where possible, he avoids expressing or talking about his emotions, which is why he puts on a false reputation in hopes of losing rights to the throne, rather than talking it through with his father. He does not need to consult with anyone else to understand his feelings and expresses them through action rather than words. Instead of scolding France for not honoring his agreement, he executes the necessary punishment by going to war against them. Hal’s decisions are strictly emotion based and in the moment, thus his quickness to fall in love with Kate, as well as his firmness in asserting political decisions.

Prince Hal ESFP | The Hollow Crown \ Shakespeare MBTI

Extraverted Thinking (Te): Hal is quite assertive in his ability to stand up for what he believes and when the need arrises, he is perfectly capable of explaining the reasoning for his decisions. Hal makes decisions in the moment and acts on them immediately, taking the most obvious direct route toward the most immediate solution (France won’t honor our agreement? Ok, I’ll go to war with them). He is well equipped to organize others into needful action, even when many stand in disagreement with him. Hal needs factual evidence to believe people’s statements and as a Prince, he pays close attention to and is able to use external facts to discredit Falstaffs tall-tales.

Prince Hal ESFP | The Hollow Crown \ Shakespeare MBTI

Introverted Intuition (Ni): Although his focus is primarily in the present, Hal also wants his future to be enjoyable, which is another motivation for his attempts to avoid gaining the throne. Even so, Hal is mature enough to put aside his dreams when he can see that something grander and more pressing is at hand. When he learns of Hotspur’s threat against his father, Hal accepts the fact that he will have to rule England and goes to work helping his father defend the kingdom. Hal is typically optimistic about the future, even when faced with the seeming impossible. He does not get discouraged by the fact that his army is half the size of France’s at Agincourt, nor does he lose hope when his men decide to hate him.

11 thoughts on “Henry V: ESFP

  1. This is a very interesting take!

    What do you think about Hal being an ENTJ?

    “…Like bright metal on a sullen ground/my reformation, glittering o’er my fault/shall show more goodly and attract more eyes/than that which hath no foil to set it off.”

    The theory is that he planned his entire course, from debauchery to nobility, in a way that would stage a dramatic turn-around and win every heart in the country. He knew exactly what he would say and do for maximum shock at every turn, leading to massive adoration when he “decided” to “reform”. It worked swimmingly, too!

    I’m inclined towards this theory, but I like them both and don’t think there’s really a right or wrong answer.

    Have you encountered this view before? What do you think about it? :)


    • I haven’t encountered this view before, purely because I don’t meet many people who are familiar enough with the play to make that kind of judgement.

      I could see that theory working, although having read the play many times, Hal strikes me as someone who is spontaneous and adaptable even though he has an underlying plan. This was most particularly apparent to me after he was crowned King, because his decisions are often made based on such limited information (and without a clear view of the future). He tends to put the moral before the information when he makes decisions, meaning that he acts based on what he feels is right, rather than based on what information he has to support his decisions.

      Yes, he seeks after information, but usually the information he seeks has some connection to how others perceive him. In other words, when he seeks information, it’s not to help inform his decisions, its to make sure that his people are loyal to him.



      • I can definitely see that. However, especially regarding your comments on ‘lack of information/clear vision of the future’, I think the historical context favors a more strategic interpretation. (I hope you don’t mind the length…this is a favorite topic of mine :) )
        Firstly, we get an entirely new dimension when we consider the history off which the play was based–history with which Shakespeare’s audience likely would have been familiar.
        Hal was born in/around 1387. It wasn’t mentioned in the plays, but he spent much of his childhood in the court of Richard II, as Bolingbroke had been close with the king. He was crowned Prince of Wales following Bolingbroke’s ascension to the throne as Henry IV. Hal would have been raised with a close-up view of court machinations and what would have been expected of a king, and one of these expectations would have revolved around France. The Hundred Years’ War had been raging since 1337. While the last battle had ended in favor of the English, hostilities remained at large.
        In 1392, French king Charles VI suffers his first fit of insanity. His decreasing mental health led to the outbreak of a French civil war in 1407—and even then, Hal was watching like a hawk. In 1412, acting on behalf of his dying father, he formed a treaty with the Argmanac party of the war. The treaty said that he wouldn’t ally with their rivals, the Burgundians, in exchange for ownership of one province and suzerainty over 3 others. In 1413 Henry took the throne and began assembling an army, and in 1414 began making demands: first for the return of the English-owned province of Aquitaine in fulfillment of a 1360 treaty, then for a 2-million-crown payment, then for the hand of princess Catharine in marriage.
        These demands sparked the tennis-balls incident seen in Henry V, and in 1415 Hal renewed hostilites. Upon thus breaking the treaty Hal sided with the Burgundians. The grateful Burgundians then stayed out of the way during the battle of Agincourt, allowing Hal the upper hand over the largely Argmanac army. Henry then pressed his attack through France, correctly calculating that the rivalry between Burgundians and Armagnacs would prevent either French party from assisting the vulnerable cities he attacked.
        The page “Hundred Years War” at BBC history said this next part so well that I’m going to borrow from them:

        “After the fall of Rouen, the Norman capital, in January 1419, the English were able to bring the whole duchy under their control, and the way to Paris lay open before them.
        At this dire pass, the French parties at last agreed to meet at Montereau to coordinate resistance to the English. But when they met on the bridge there on 19 September 1419, John, Duke of Burgundy, was struck down by the Armagnac followers of the dauphin Charles, thereby avenging Louis of Orléans [whose death had been the spark of the civil war]. (I find this so funny…)
        Rather than ally with his father’s assassins, John’s heir, Philip, agreed to ally with the English, and to broker an agreement with the ailing Charles VI whereby Henry should marry Charles’s daughter.” (#AnyonebuttheArmagnacs1419)

        This agreement was called the Treaty of Troyes, and was concluded in 1420. It allowed for Henry and Catherine’s marriage, for Henry’s heir to be king of France, and for Henry to act as regent for king Charles while he lived and then take the throne upon the king’s death. Shakespeare condensed five years into two scenes! I think historical context shows the wealth of information Hal sourced from, and the years-long vision he had for the war.
        We find another interesting facet when examining the time in which Shakespeare wrote. Henry IV pt. 1 was written around 1596/97; Niccolo Machiavelli’s handbook on power, “The Prince”, had been published 1532. It was wildly popular, especially in an age where things like divine right/inheritance versus capability to lead were hot topics. Much of that controversy stemmed from uneasiness about the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, whose gender and shaky political background made her the center of the conflict. Many scholars affirm that in that time of uncertain politics, Shakespeare created Hal to be an example of the ultimate Machiavellian prince.
        In conclusion, history shows that Henry’s conquest of France was years in the planning—years of ambition and pressure as a child, of having his hand on the enemy’s pulse as he grew, of laying plans as favorable terms began to ripen and of finally reaping the success of his calculations. His priming for war was stated explicitly in Henry IV pt. 2 by Henry IV: “Be it thy course, to busy giddy minds/With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out/May waste the memory of the former days.” Finally we consider the fascination in Shakespeare’s day over Machiavellian ideals.
        All of these factors combine to prove the tactical genius of a brilliant, ruthless and charismatic war machine. The portrait offers a combination of leadership, focused long-range planning and a grasp of both language and human tendencies. In my mind at least, that image looks like an ENTJ :) What do you think?

        “Henry V” http://www.history.com/topics/british-history/henry-v-england
        Keen, Maurice. “The Hundred Years War” http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/middle_ages/hundred_years_war_01.shtml
        “Henry V: The Cruel King” http://www.historyextra.com/feature/henry-v-cruel-king


        • You’ve got me. I originally typed him solely based off the play (as part of my ongoing Shakespeare characters series), but after looking at the historical context you provide, I can see you’re absolutely right. I’ll do a re-analysis when I have time.


      • What about ISFP? Despite the fact that Hal does mingle with peasants and enjoy their company in a very Se way, he always has in the back of his mind his own Fi principles and desires; every now and then they pop up and bother his friends (for example: he goes along with Poins’ prank, but returns the money they steal from the pilgrims after embarrassing Falstaff to a satisfactory degree — and later he vents to one of the peasants (again Poins) passionately about his worry over his father’s illness); and like Hamlet he retires at times to introspect (for example: the scene in which he takes the crown from his father’s bedside, and sits upon the throne with it, thinking), though his thought process very clearly takes a different path.
        That his Fi leads before his Se might also be suggested by his actions before the Battle of Agincourt in King Henry V and after the battle in King Henry IV Part I: he manages to maintain his disguise even when insulted by one of his soldiers, and he lets Falstaff claim the glory for killing Harry Percy. In both these instances, his Fi desires subdue his more impulsive and attention-seeking Se (though we see his Se-Ni come roaring to life after the Agincourt battle when he confronts that same soldier in the glove scene — and it is splendid).
        Furthermore, that Ni is higher in his function stack would explain his success in bringing his entire story arc through King Henry IV Part I-II to completion with such determination. It would also explain some of his high-minded and highly symbolic speeches, such as the tennis-balls speech in King Henry V — it seems to me that Ni influences him there more than Te. I believe Arvid once said something to the effect that Ni gets exponentially more intense the higher up it is in a person’s function stack — and I think Hal’s personality is too Ni-coloured for it to be his inferior function.


        • The noticeable Fi is kind of confusing when trying to type Hal. When he appeals to his enemies, his arguments are emotional in their context, but only in the sense that he justifies their bad or fearful opinions of him because of his past behavior – which, yes, it’s humble and touching, but oddly self-aware.

          Actually, he’s extremely perceptive about what’s going on around him: he’s going to be king, and so will be leaving his old life behind (Ni); he knows what important people (like his enemies and father) think about him (Ni); he’s not blatantly bossy, but he’s not shy about telling people what to do (Te). He didn’t even call Falstaff out for lying about killing Percy, because there was no physical evidence to prove it (Te); and he’s pretty quick to cut the chaff from his old life once he becomes king (Te).

          I think what makes it difficult to really type him is the fact that the audience can see him feel deeper emotions than plain happiness. But if you look at the context, his father doesn’t even know that Hal actually cares about him dying until Hal TELLS him. What the characters see and what the audience sees are different.

          I think, in the play, Hal is an ENTJ with a well-developed Fi. That also might be Shakespeare’s influence, since most of his serious characters are put into emotionally-trying situations… Which makes for compelling entertainment (btw, during the battle against Henry Percy, the real Henry V got an arrow STUCK IN HIS FACE. Shakespeare dropped the ball on that one, people would’ve loved to see that!).

          C Loh, I think you nailed his type. My only disagreement is the idea that he contrived this image of Bad Boy to Model King to earn the love of his people. It’s a little unnecessary when he knew, a) he was going to be king, and b) he could be just as popular being a typical war-fighting prince (look at Percy’s popularity in the beginning).

          Hal is certainly aware about how the majority of people think and the course his life will take – I do not disagree with you on that. But the fact is, he’s a fun-loving character who cares about people. Even though this is a shallow interpretation, I genuinely believe he just wanted to enjoy the moment before destiny dropped his father’s heavy mantle over his shoulders – and I don’t care what your personality type is, that’s intimidating. And that’s also why I disagree with the theory, even though it led to a better understanding of his personality.



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