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Author Topic: Henry IV Part 1 essay  (Read 2133 times)  Share 

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Henry IV Part 1 essay
« on: October 02, 2012, 09:27:33 pm »
Hey guys, I was wondering if you could read over my piece and give me a few tips/ a mark. Any help is appreciated! Thanks.  :-*

‘In King Henry IV Part 1, nobody is truly what they seem.’ Discuss.

There is no doubt that the characters in William Shakespeare’s King Henry IV Part 1 are often crude predictable, but in many cases there are hidden motives behind their actions that are not completely obvious to the audience. The real motivation behind Prince Hal’s relationships is easily overlooked as he appears to be a confused hoodlum who keeps company with ruffians, all while avoiding his responsibilities to his kingdom as well as his father, but there is a more complex plan driving his actions. Hal’s relationship with Hotspur is also not entirely transparent, especially given the apparent lack of concern for respect and honour that Hal carries within himself, particularly when contrasted with that of Harry Hotspur, however, the value that honour has to both of these characters is often lost amongst their pettiness and apparent impulsiveness. Many of the characters initially seem shallow, but we quickly find through subtle hints in their dialogue that they have ulterior motives for their actions.

As an intelligent, cunning young man, Prince Hal spends the majority of his time manipulating his friends and family in order to satisfy his own desires, and it is really unsurprising when we find that he is only keeping friends with the folks of the Boar’s Head Tavern in order to lower everyone’s expectations of him when he does ascend to the throne. Hal claims that he ‘knows them all’ and ‘will awhile uphold’ his friendship with his associates at the tavern until he can ‘[break] through the foul and ugly mists’ when he becomes king, as a shining beacon of light in an otherwise gloomy kingdom. Although this is contradicts the wishes of his father who is continually baffled by Hal’s decision to keep company with ‘such poor...rude society’, it is all part of the prince’s plan as he wishes to take a different approach to leadership to his father. Hal believes that in order to be a successful ruler, he must hold his people at his ‘level with [his] princely heart’, in order to earn their respect, as his father ruled ‘by being seen’ and is now faced with a civil uprising and threats against his crown. We find towards the end of Act V that as the prince takes up his royal duties in battle he no longer has time for Falstaff’s foolishness, as there is no ‘time to jest and dally’ anymore. Prince Hal also initially leads the audience astray about his true feelings about adulation, as we ‘see riot and dishonour’ as his defining characteristics. His selfishness and carelessness around the tavern lead us to believe that he does not hold the same royal ideas as he would be expected to, those that are held so highly by others in the play such as the king and Hotspur such as glory, respect and honour. We find, however, that The prince is passionate to ‘redeem all’ of his misdeeds and earn the praise of his father and his people. In Act V when he is presented with the opportunity to ‘[wash] away... [his] shame’, he takes it heroically and slays Hotspur with ‘so clear a show of zeal’. Hal shows that he clearly has a great deal of respect for the acts of his arch enemy, and sends ‘praise with [Hotspur] to heaven’. Prince Hal clearly shows that he truly has a desire to be honourable in his actions, even though he hides it through his actions in the beginning of the play.

Much like the wild prince, Hotspur holds honour very highly in his values, or so we are lead to believe. Hotspur appears to be the ‘king of honour’, and seems to base all his decisions around how best to achieve this illustrious honour, but we find that instead what really drives his actions are bloodlust and glory.  Hotspur claims that he would face any danger given that ‘honour cross it’ but when it comes time for him to lead his men to face the danger that presents itself at the battle of Shrewsbury, instead of making a wise and honourable decision to save his men from bloodshed because they are outmatched, he leads them into battle with the promise of ‘great enterprise’, ‘lustre and more great opinion.’ Hotspur has even convinced himself that he lives for honour, but he really just lives for battle, and the glory that comes with it. He even goes as far as to make Lady Percy a ‘banished woman from [his] bed’, all because he has no time for anything except ‘bloody noses and cracked crowns’. Lady Percy not only plays a part in revealing Hotspur’s truths about honour, she also allows us to see another side of him that we do not witness while he is with his family and his soldiers. With Kate, he is not as rash and hot-headed, but instead shows gentile and rather rational characteristics. Hotspur swears that he ‘loves [Lady Percy] infinitely’, and claims that he ‘must leave... gentle Kate’, as though he really does not want to go. This is the only time that Hotspur actually takes heed of the thoughts of others in the play, and it would seem that he is his true self, and not his ego-centric self, only around his wife.

King Henry himself is another of the characters who hides his true nature from those around him. While he is disappointed with the actions that his son carries out, the way he speaks about Hal does not accurately reflect the love and hope he has for the prince. King Henry believes that he his unruly son is to ‘punish [his] mistreadings’, which refers to the way he usurped King Richard II. Henry wishes that ‘some ... fairy had exchanged’ the two Harrys, so King Henry had Hotspur as a son instead of Hal, but this does not seem to be the way he really feels about his son, and is instead said out of frustration for the way that Hal is acting currently. King Henry ultimately gives Hal ‘charge and sovereign trust’ in an attempt to persuade Hal to start taking some responsibility for the realm, and we see that this starts Hals transformation as he takes a lead role in the Battle of Shrewsbury. We see King Henry’s true feelings towards his son after he has proven himself in battle against Douglas, when Henry asks Hal to ‘withdraw thyself’ because he ‘bleed’st too much’. This is one of the few times that we see Henry showing genuine concern for Hal, and expresses his love and respect for Hal after he defeats Hotspur, claiming that Hal ‘hast redeemed thy lost opinion’.

From the beginning of the play we are exposed to the false motivations of Hal and his friends at the tavern. His apparent lack of honour contrasts greatly with how we first perceive Hotspur which, as we see unfold throughout the play, turns out to be completely backwards. We find that Hal is the one who values honour and respect as he matures into the man that will one day be a great ruler of England, and we see Hotspur degenerate into the impulsive, glory driven warlord that meets his and his army’s demise because of his poor decisions. The relationship between Hal and Hotspur is not what we would think, and the same situation arises between the king and the prince as we find that Hal desires to redeem himself in the eyes of his father, and Henry truly wishes for Hal to become the great ruler that he was destined to be.

« Last Edit: October 02, 2012, 09:37:28 pm by cookiexx »