I am not sure as to whether or not Dr. Maloney highlighted this point in class last Tuesday, as I was not there, but the line that stuck out to me the most was: “I cannot be confined within the weak list of a country’s fashion: we are the makers of manners…” (5.2, 123). Contextually, this passage is referring to customs regarding physical expressions of love, however, one could apply this to Henry’s style of ruling altogether. That is, exercising political realism.
Henry, as a ruler, is not bound by social customs or precedence in his ruling. This makes him phenomenal at exercising power, however, one could argue the power is arbitrary in the end, that is, not legitimate. Although political legitimacy is a liberal theory, not maintaining legitimacy has adverse implications when applied to any type of political power. Because Henry decides to rule arbitrarily, that is, rule without taking into account the implications of his actions, his subjects could easily point out his hypocrisies and, if taken to the extreme, depose him.
As seen in the Arab Spring, that is, the various uprising across the Middle East, leaders can only operate without legitimacy for so long as the subjects allow. Obviously 500 years ago was a very different time and this sort of ruling was more common than today, although, leaders could still potentially be held accountable by their subjects.
King Henry makes the rules and, if he decides to act not in accordance with them, his subjects may very well decide to do the same. Henry, however, has the power to evade accountability, whereas his subjects are not. As seen with Henry’s former friends throughout the story, they act in a manner in which the king himself did at one point, however, they are punished for it.
Political realism can be a great tool in acquiring power and land, however, after power and land are achieved, it may be wise for a king or ruler to adopt a better theory in maintaining legitimacy of the people.