Henry Iv What Is Honour Essay

926 WordsAug 28, 20134 Pages
What is in that word honour? Ventured by Falstaff, this query underpins that many philosophical, physical and internal battles in Henry IV Part one. Be it through the baseness of the scoundrels at Eastcheap, the schemes of the rebels, or the regality of the royal court, Shakespeare’s characters exemplify humanities contrasting interpretation of honour. This dichotomy is encapsulated by King Henry and Sir John Falstaff, and the divide between royalty and commonage leaves Prince Hal torn between two influential, albeit flawed father figures. Yet, it is ultimately within this struggle that Hal manages to harmonize their conflicting ideologies. Amidst a cacophony of extreme personas, it is Hal’s ability to balance leadership with conviviality that reconciles for these contradictory ideals, providing the epitome of true honour. In utter contradistinction to Hal, the ‘hare-brained’ Hotspur represents the traditionalist view of honour, where victory on the battlefield defines an individual’s ability to govern. Shakespeare vindicates that this type of honour is inextricably linked to violence and self-aggrandizement, leading to a meaningless and futile existence. As the play opens we witness the storm of turpitude that has embroiled England, the deposition of the ‘sweet, lovely rose’ King Richard has given birth to the darker rule of the ‘thorn,’ Henry, steeping the nation into disorder and disarray. The once powerful English nation has been submerged in ‘days of villainy’ and ‘frightened peace,’ a time in which people ‘steal as in a castle.’ Indeed, this debauchery provides a haven to Prince Hal, who abandons his true place on the throne for a hedonistic lifestyle at Eastcheap. Here, “the greatness of [his] blood” is polluted by “riot and dishonour” at the hands of his iniquitous mentor: Falstaff. Living a criminal, carefree lifestyle, Falstaff introduces Hal to a world

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