The Character of Falstaff in Henry IV

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The Character of Falstaff in Henry IV

None of Shakespeare's plays are read more than the first and second parts of Henry IV. Particularly in Henry IV Part I, Shakespeare writes chronologically historical and interesting to follow events. The reader follows the chain of events with devotion and content eager to find out what happens next. Even though the hero of the play is Prince Henry, or Hal as we know him, the reader may find themselves more focused on Falstaff, one of the other major characters that Shakespeare created for comical relief. He was a witty, self-conscious, self-centered companion of the Prince. King Henry even criticized his eldest son for keeping company with such a low man. Even though Hal is the hero of the play both in both the tragic and the comic part, Falstaff is a main character to focus on in Shakespeare's Henry IV Part I.

The Prince is a character of many qualities both good and bad. He is a man of great abilities with violent passions as Samuel Johnson had noted in his The Plays of William Shakespeare. Johnson also stated that Hal's actions are wrong and even partially wicked and I would have to agree with him on that.( Johnson 234 ) To prove my point and to justify Johnson's I would have to refer to the scene after the Boar's Head Tavern. The crew decides to play a game of robbers and Hal along with a companion in turn decide to rob Falstaff himself for the fun. They do so and therefore leave the man of his dignity. However, it can be argued that Falstaff set himself up for such a cruel joke, he even boasted about how he fought off the masked robbers who, as he found out later, were no other than the Prince himself along with a companion. Where, as the reader knows, he...

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...eader will enjoy is Falstaff. He is a self-centered man concerned with his own desires with little care or regard for others. Many critics agree that he was put in the play for comical relief and he serves thispurpose nicely. Finally, it can be said that Falstaff highlights the play and gives the viewer the pleasure of following a character of such personality and wit.


Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. H.C. Robinson's Memoranda Henry IV, Signet Classic, pp. 236-237.

Goldman, Michael. Shakespeare and the Energies of Drama Henry IV, Signet Classic, pp. 260-261.

Johnson, Samuel. The Plays of William Shakespeare Henry IV, Signet Classic, pp.234- 235.

Kahn, Coppelia. Man's Estate: Masculine Identity in Shakespeare Henry IV, Signet Classic, pp.262-266.

Wilson, John Dover. The Fortunes of Falstaff Henry IV, Signet Classic, pp.238-243.
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