Words of Wisdom:

"Be who you are not who you want to be" - Diane


  • Date Submitted: 09/25/2011 07:07 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 58.6 
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Henry IV has been called Shakespeare's greatest history play. Its flawlessly constructed characters and overt political message have been the subjects of countless scholarly books. Two worlds collide in the play: the world of the recently elected King Henry IV and his advisors, and the world of thieving revelers who spend their days at the pub in Eastcheap. Bridging the gap between the two is Hal, the King's son, who travels in the company of Falstaff and the other commoners at the Boar's Head Tavern, but who really does so as part of his unique and unorthodox plan to prepare for the throne. Although the title of the play is Henry IV, he is but a minor character in the drama. King Henry's primary role in the play is to illustrate the fate of one who takes a crown that is not rightfully his by divine ordinance. King Henry is politically shrewd; in this respect he is the antithesis of his predecessor, Richard II. King Henry has all the characteristics of a great Machiavellian despot, and were this enough, he would be the consummate ruler and have a peaceful reign. But, unfortunately, Henry IV comes to the throne as a usurper and an illegitimate monarch. He does not have the Divine Right of Kings and, moreover, he is responsible for the death of God's anointed Richard. Because of these factors, Henry's ability to rule is diminished, and instability plagues England. For a very detailed analysis of this aspect of the play, please click here.

Prince Hal is the true focus and hero of the drama. While the colorful Falstaff and valiant Hotspur are entertaining in their own right, they exist to highlight Hal's strengths. Falstaff, a cowardly man with little ambition, lives in the world that Hal must experience if he is to understand his future subjects. After his first on-stage meeting with Falstaff, Hal makes his view of the rotund petty criminal and his cohorts very clear: "I know you all, and will awhile uphold/The unyok'd humour of your idleness" (2.2). The cowardly...


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