To Be With Or Without Honour: William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One

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Falstaff and Hotspur have opposing belief systems towards honour. Falstaff holds a practical view of honour, valuing life more then honour (Beveridge 10). Hotspur views honour as life, willing to give up his life for honour (Beveridge 10). Although both beliefs are completely different they share some similarities. Both characters present their beliefs with extreme passion and consistency. Another characteristic shared by the two beliefs of honour is the selfish motive behind them. By dissecting Falstaff’s and Hotspur’s ideas of honour many similarities and differences are presented. Falstaff views honour empirically, as just a word (Beveridge 10). He values life more then he values honour. This theory is evident after reading Falstaff’s soliloquy at the end of Act Five, Scene One “...Can honor set to a leg? No.Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound. No. Honor hath no skill in surgery then? No. What is honor? A word. What is in that word honor? What is that honor? Air...Honor is a mere scutcheon and so ends my catechism” (Henry IV 5.1.131-141). To Falstaff, honour is not tangible and therefore not worth his life. Falstaff compares honour to a scutcheon. A scutcheon is defined as, “A painted shield with coat of arms identifying a dead nobleman”. (Henry IV 5.1.140-141). He believes the dead have honour but they cannot bare witness to it, as it leaves behind only a symbol. In the end we see Falstaff fake his death to prove his point. To Falstaff life is what matters! Hotspur’s idea of honour contradicts that of Falstaff’s. Hotspur would choose to die with honour then live without it. Hotspur’s idea of honour is expressed throughout the play, for example, during a conversation with Worcester, Worcester says, “There ... ... middle of paper ... ...f’s ideas of honour it’s is apparent neither characters have an ideal belief of honour. Falstaff and Hotspur hold contradicting views of honour with both characters holding an extreme view on the concept. Falstaff’s cowardly personality is expressed through his selfish idea of Honour. He will not sacrifice his life for honour but will try and claim credit for honour that is not his. Hotspur holds an irrational view on honour, willing to sacrifice his life in the name of honour. Both Falstaff’s and Hotspur’s views were described as similar in the aspect of selfishness. The two theories are based on the satisfaction of the two individual characters, with no altruistic motive. The two characters present their views of honour compassionately throughout the play. Through analyzing Falstaff’s and Hotspur’s views of honour many similarities and differences are revealed.
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