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Honor in Henry IV, Part One Essay

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Honor in Henry IV, Part One  

 
In Henry IV, Part One Shakespeare revels in the opportunity to suggest the idiosyncracy of character through his command of a wide range of both verse and prose. As a result the play is full of rich and different character parts (Wells 141). Two in particular, Falstaff and Hotspur, hold diverse beliefs concerning the main theme of the drama, honor. In Shakespeare’s time, honor was defined as the special virtues which distinguish those of the nobility in the exercise of their vocation–gallantry in combat with a worthy foe, adherence to the accepted code of arms, and individual loyalty to friends, family, and comrades in arms (Prior 14). Throughout the play, honor plays an important role in differentiating characters, yet, ultimately the reader ponders what place can honor have in a world in which subjects rebel against a usurper king whom they placed in office, the prince plays at robbery with a dissolute knight, and the contending parties in government seem guided by "policy" rather than "principle"? (Prior 14). The reader is invited to think about the concept of honor in a variety of contexts as it pertains to the different views of Falstaff and Hotspur. The pursuit of honor is Hotspur’s chief motivation and goal, yet his obsessive commitment becomes dangerous as the quest for honor blinds him from all else. Falstaff’s concept of honor directly contrasts that of Hotspur: to Falstaff, honor is rejected due to its limitations of life and seen as empty and valueless. To Hotspur, honor is more important than life itself, and his blind pursuit of honor ultimately drives him to his death. While he stands for images and ideals, Falstaff hacks at the meaning of honor until he has stripped it to almo...


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...wed as the first satirist, poking fun at not only commoners and rebels, but also the institution of monarchy. Shakespeare’s fascination with the various idiosyncracies of Hotspur and Falstaff allows him to portray diversity concerning the perception of honor.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Henry IV, Part One: Bloom’s Notes. New York: Chelsea House, 1996.

Cruttwell,Patrick. Hernry IV. Shakespeare For Students, Vol. II. Detroit: Gale Publishing, 1999.

Kantor, Andrea. Henry IV, Part One. London: Baron’s Education Series, Inc, 1984.

Princiss, G.M. Henry IV Criticism. Shakespeare For Students, Vol.II. Detroit: Gale Publishing, 1999.

Prior, Moody E. The Drama of Power: Study in Shakespeare’s History Plays. Shakespeare For Students, Vol. II. Detroit: Gale Publishing, 1999.

Wells, Stanley. Shakespeare: Life in Drama. New York: Norton & Company, 1995.


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