Archive for the King Henry IV Part I Category

Who Is Hal?

Posted in King Henry IV Part I with tags on April 14, 2009 by Saera

Who is Prince Harry/Hal really?

The stately, wise, and seemingly thoughtful ruler of King Henry V is much different from the scheming, crude, less kind, and rowdy Hal in King Henry IV.

But who is the real one?

Is the rudeness, the unrefined manner of Hal simply an act, disguising the true Harry? Or is the  dignified Harry simply an act disguising the true Hal?

I believe that he is really Harry, not Hal.  But I also believe that he is a master of disguise and an excellent actor. Because of this, it is difficult to know when he is really being true to himself. For example, the lines spoken by Harry to Catherine in King Henry V are beautiful, more romantic than those in Romeo and Juliet. But does he really mean them, or is he simply pulling off yet another performance so that he can get what he needs?

He has shown himself to be a very talented and capable actor and performer – he has performed for armies, large crowds, friends, family members, advisors, politicians, clergymen, among others.

He always seems to have the right words to say, and know exactly how to say them.

He is also a highly intelligent man, look at his soliliquy in King Henry IV after tavern scene with Falstaff.  He is calculating, and scheming.

Yet Hal seems more calculating and hypocritical than Harry does. To me, Harry is a completely sympathetic character: he seems to do the right things, cares about people, accepts his humanity, and acknowledges the evils that exist in a fallen world. In effect, Harry seems in balance with his humanity and his political authority and position while Hal seems very unbalanced in that regard. He first tries to live only by satisfying his humanity and the desires associated with that, while denying his political authority and the responsibilities that come with that, but he later abandons his humanity for his political authority and power.

Harry, it is true, still has abandoned Falstaff, which is not commendable because it is traitorous. Even though Falstaff is not the best moral figure in the world, he was still Hal’s friend, and Hal used him quite a lot. So when Hal abandons Falstaff in King Henry IV, part ii, he is a back-stabbing friend. But, he seems to be loyal to his subjects now, especially the soldiers.

One thing philosophical discussion that comes up in King Henry V is that of divine right of kings and the morality of war – whose fault is it when soldiers die? The king’s for sending them to the war? Or the soldiers and opposing army? And when are wars just or injust – and who decides that: God of the king?

Anyway, the true “Hal” seems to be King Harry. He is at his best, both politically and humanely, and he seems most capable in the position of king.

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The Tragic, Comic, and Historic King Henry IV

Posted in King Henry IV Part I with tags , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2009 by Saera

King Henry IV is like its counterpart King Henry V in that it incorporates elements of all three genres of Shakespeare’s drama: tragedy, comedy, and history.  This is done by working plotting, characters and scene arrangements.

The characters are both humorous and serious. King Henry, his court, and the men surrounding Hotspur are very serious. Northumberland, Worcester, and Glyndwr are the serious, authoritative figures of the rebels while King Henry, Blunt, and Lancaster are serious and authoritative figures of court.

In contrast, Falstaff and Hal are humorous characrers who provide comic relief throughout the play. The other tavern-buddies are also humorous, but Falstaff is the main comedian. Hotspur and Hal can both be very serious (as can Falstaff) but they can also be highly comical. Many characters are historical, but several are fictitiously added to the story.

Plotting is important to this play’s combination of tragedy, comedy, ad history as well because through the various added events of the play that did nothappen historically, the audience is shown a more realistic picture of what happened. Instead of focusing on the purely historical perspective (because everyone would have known what happened), Shakespeare adds the whole “tavern” element, and embellishes the characters of Falstaff, Glyndwr, and Prince Harry and Hotspur. The whole incident of the double robbery serves as a very comic element of the play (as well as a rather symbolic foreshadowing of what Hal would do in the future), and the added strife between Hal and King Henry serves at first as a tragedy, then as a more comical element in their reconciliation at the end.

By including the fighting scenes, Shakespeare successfully incorporates historically accurate and embellished events which certainly seem tragic to the one sympathetic character of Hotspur and comic for the other sympathetic character Prince Henry. The fight between the two is charged with emotion and the audience is torn between who they will sympathize with the most. By giving equal development to Hotspur and Hal, Shakespeare gives the audience that tension: it knows someone will be the loser, but both Hal and Hotspur are now sympathetic to them. So when Hotspur dies, it is tragic, because we liked him. On the other hand, we rejoice when Hal wins because we liked him also. Both men are portrayed well; they are shown in their familiar surroundings and their comic natures make them endearing. So by using plotting to successfully develop these two most important characters, Shakespeare incorporates comedy, tragedy, and the historic elements of the story.

Some arrangement is also used to make elements of comedy, tragedy, and history combine. The battle scene, by being placed at the end of the play, makes this tragic because the finality of Hotspur’s death is emphasized. Audiences had earlier seen him joke with his wife, brag about his strength, attempt to compile a rebellion army, and then, after following his pursuits so closely, they see him die in the last act. Although, as previously mentioned, the “comedy” of Hal’s victory is also felt, it is marred significantly by the finality of Hotspur’s death. His death is the more tragice because it follows after the scene in which he learns that his reinforcement help (with his father and others) have basically deserted him and left him on his own. With Hal, his assumption of the “royal” role almost seems tragic as well. he turns his back on Falstaff and abandons his drinking parties at the tavern to become the serious prince and fighter his father desired him to be.  While this change in morality seems positive, it also is rather tragic because we have seen the fun times, the tavern has become familiar to us, so by turning his back on it, Hal seems to die to a certain aspect that we liked about him and with which we were well acquainted.

Class Notes on King Henry IV, Part I (taken from Shakespeare and His Age class)

Posted in King Henry IV Part I with tags , on April 9, 2009 by Saera

“Strong man” concept of rule versus Divine Right? Which is right? God is still in control of both – although man seems to get credit for the first…Look at the history of nations…

Does Falstaff really love Prince Hal?

Honor is keyword of play, according to Dr. Gurney. Time and history are also major themes.

Prince Hal is caught between two characters which represent the two sides of himself or his attitudes: Hotspur (representing the part of Hal that wants political power/has ambition, and desires honor) and Falstaff (representing the part of Hal that simply wants to live and enjoy life).

The Greek word for grace is charisma. Falstaff has lots of Charisma…although it doesn’t seem he has much grace.

Is Falstaff a combination of both Puck and Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Does Falstaff represent humanity, in how not everyone is on the road of politics?

Dr. Gurney sees these two sides as being fundamentally incompatible – how can one maintain personality, a sense of right and wrong, when they are involved in politics? He believes that politics force people to abandon themselves in a sense, and become forced to be a slave to power.

It is very obscene when religion is used for political advancement. God isn’t fooled, though. And yet, that does not mean that all “religion” in politics is wrong, does it? What does Christ say about following him? Humbleness, care for others, care for God, not allowing people to pressure you into anything, yet being incredibly aware of others’ interests and well being – more so than one’s own. SO this is compatible with politics only when it is done truly for the people, not the politicians.

But, in order to gain  following, a politician must play himself up as well as become controlled by those in power, even if he does effect positive change or help the people.  Sell your soul, basically…is that why Christ was so concerned with the individual? Personally helping the widow across the street instead of trying to eliminate hunger for all widows? We don’t need politics to enable us to help others, but can we still be in politics?

Daniel was, and he maintained purity of heart and integrity. Paul was, in a sense. David certainly was, but it often got him into trouble. All the Israelite judges (and Moses) were…

Is Hal a deceptive hypocrite? Or “politically accurate?”

Does he have a split personality? Or is he merely assuming his “political ruler” role? Is Hal’s soliloquy representative of his full/complete idea about his rule/ political intentions? Or is this just a part of Hal, which is later abandoned with his abandonment to revelry?

Is Hotspur incapable of disguising his motives in front of others in order to achieve his goals, as Dr. Gurney says? How do he and Hal compare? He has almost no control over himself and his emotions, while Hal has too much control, not only of himself, but also of others.

Line 15-20 of 2.2: The Percy’s/Northumberland and Bolingbroke are thieves of the throne and now are not true to each other…