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December 09, 2019, 04:50:12 pm

Author Topic: English Adv: Module B Essay: King Henry IV Part I  (Read 1113 times)

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English Adv: Module B Essay: King Henry IV Part I
« on: June 24, 2019, 08:26:58 pm »
Thank you in advance!  :) :)
A general essay on King Henry IV Part I. WORD COUNT: 800 (without conclusion)
Through the examination of history, texts explicate the danger of political ideals in hindering our ability as individuals and societies to adapt to new socio-political landscapes. In Henry IV Part I, Shakespeare represents the civil unrest in fifteenth century England due to growing tension between the political paradigms of chivalry and Individualism to highlight humanity’s dependency on social values for self-validation. Through contrasting Hotspur, Falstaff and Prince Hal in their different approaches to honour through characterisation, structure and language, Shakespeare emphasises that individual judgement and political flexibility constitute power. Shakespeare hence articulates a significant message to the Elizabethan audience experiencing turbulent social changes of the Renaissance and to all future audiences in each stage of history – that “nothing can stand as an ultimate value” (Hugh Dickinson). In other words, societal ideals should be critically assessed by individuals and societies in an ever-changing world.

Shakespeare accentuates that the firm adherence to political ideals can eradicate individual thought as it reduces an individual into an object of political ideology. The characterisation of Hotspur is Shakespeare’s means of exploring fifteenth century aristocracy’s obsession with the archaic paradigm of chivalry despite a societal transition towards Individualism. Through the use of high modality language in praises bestowed on Hotspur, the “ever valiant” warrior and “theme of honour’s tongue”, Shakespeare exemplifies that devotion to social values results in public recognition. However, it is Hotspur’s obsession with his honourable image confines him within his political role and restricts his ability to question societal ideals. This is exemplified in his distant relationship with his wife. His wife’s observation of herself as “a banished woman” in their marriage highlights Hotspur’s inability to engage in any activity unrelated to battle. Shakespeare hence shapes Hotspur’s wife as a symbol for private identity, conveying that in the act of “banishing” his wife, Hotspur banishes his individual thought. Hotspur’s entrapment within the dominant values of the past is further reinforced through his reliance on war horses – an emblem of chivalry and “a-horseback” knights. Through Hotspur’s proclamation “that roan shall be my throne” and his dismissal of his wife for his horse, Shakespeare demonstrates Hotspur’s disillusionment as a result of his pursuit of honour, hence conveying the importance of the critical judgement of ideals to his immediate and future audiences.

Voices of the silenced in history often reveal insights into politics by exposing the facade of political ideals. The drunk, disgraced knight Falstaff is a powerful foil to Hotspur as he presents the often overlooked perspective of the common man. Falstaff’s rejection of the ideal of honour is evidenced in his soliloquy “what is honour? A word. What is in that word “honour”? Air.” Shakespeare utilises Falstaff’s self-questioning to invite the Elizabethan audience to similarly question past conventions to adapt to the emergence of Humanism in their society. The structure of the play, which alternates between contrasting settings of the tavern and the battle field, draws further attention to Falstaff’s critical view of honour as opposed to Hotspur’s reliance on it. However, Falstaff’s self-regarding nature prevents him from using his social awareness to transcend his identity as a commoner. Though Hal offers him a position as an infantry leader, his infatuation with instant self-gain restricts him from moving into a different role. Falstaff’s acceptance of bribes so that his soldiers are replaced by “exceedingly poor and bare” untrained men exemplifies his greed. He re,mains the thieving man who “diced not above seven times – a week”. Through the characterisation of Falstaff, Shakespeare informs that critical evaluation of the past without the will to adjust to new roles removes our ability to move forward as individuals and societies.

The key to escaping rigid social ideals and asserting authority despite changing political conditions lies with the ability to learn from the past and the present in order to create a vision for the future. Prince Hal reflects on Hotspur’s fixation with the past and Falstaff’s desire for pleasure in present moments to become a politically flexible leader who transcends his context. Shakespeare contrasts Hal with Hotspur through conveying that Hal, like Falstaff, disregards the ideal of honour in engaging with the lower class. The motif of language in Hal’s words that he can “drink with any tinker in his own language” and “call them all by their… names” displays that he prioritises the understanding of his future subjects over procuring a respectful public image. Yet unlike Falstaff, Hal is able to perform myriad roles based on circumstance. After finding alcohol in Falstaff’s pistol holder during the battle, Shakespeare directs Hal’s response to be ‘He (Hal) throws the bottle at him. Exit’. The stage direction exhibits that Hal is able to shift from his role as one of the tavern men to assume responsibility to protect his kingdom. Shakespeare thus contrasts Hal with Falstaff’s imprisonment within one identity. Hal’s political insight and flexibility is symbolically represented in his appearance in all settings of the play. While Hotspur’s role is confined to the battlefield, and Falstaff’s lifestyle occurs in the tavern, Hal is able to transition between them. Hal’s declaration “I know you all” thus marks him as the first ‘modern’ king as his knowledge extends to not only all people in the play, but his socio-political world at large. In illustrating Hal’s rebellion against the old and his flexibility, Shakespeare presents an example to his immediate audience who are on the brink of new paradigms.