Captain Fluellen is an interesting character. He is a firm idealist when it comes to the rules of war and has a romanticized notion of war. Henry, on the other hand, is a realist. In this, Henry is a very effective leader in battle because he does not feel the need to hold up any arbitrary ideals. Henry is not naive when it comes to warfare, he accepts death and expects the worst. Conversely, Fluellen seems to think more from the standpoint of an actual ground soldier, that is, if he were captured he would expect quarter and not to be tortured. If Fluellen kills someone, he feels it must be in a way that is considered honorable, because he would not want to be killed in a dishonorable fashion. This sort of reasoning is logical from a soldiers perspective, that is, reciprocity in warfare.
From a king’s standpoint, not so much. If the king loses, it is not a zero-sum game. The king has the right to ransom himself off, so as not to be taken captive or killed. To Henry, this means he would not lose his kingdom, as he is the agressor and England is not occupied by foreign invaders, however, the war may weaken his forces. The king has much less to lose by playing dirty. If he ransomed himself and chose to fight in mortal combat and was in a losing position, instead of being killed in a fight to the death, the king could opt out of battle. In Fluellen’s case, that is not an option: it is a fight to the death.
Fluellen, however, fights his ideals with as a loyal sycophant of Henry. Fluellen’s ideals are compromised throughout Act 4 because he is enamored with King Henry. Fluellen even questions the king on the means by which the war is being fought, Fluellen: “Kill the poys and the luggage? ‘Tis expressly against the law of arms…” (97).Fluellen: ‘Is it not lawful, and please your majesty to tell how many is killed?’ King: ‘Yes, Captain;but with this acknowledgement that God fought for us.’ Fluellen: ‘Yes, my conscience, he did us great good.’ (108). Harry can weasel his way out of being held accountable to Fluellen by justifying his decisions simply by being the king, the fact Fluellen buys it shows how deep his conviction runs.
John Stossel recently posted, on his blog, a commentary on Democrats: when president Bush was in office, Democrats harshly opposed war. Since Obama has taken office, Democrats have not criticized war efforts. This sort of hypocritical behavior happens often in partisan politics, both sides are the same, but people are too dumb to know it or use subjective justification. Fluellen is able to justify realism, while being an idealist, a true hypocrite.