A Comparison of Corrupt Kings in Shakespeare's Henry IV and Richard II

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A successful monarchy relies upon a stable leader who is concerned with the satisfaction of those he rules over. Henry Bolingbroke the IV in Shakespeare's Henry the IV Part I follows a trend set by his predecessor in Richard II of self-indulgence and neglect of his kingdom. These leaders worry about the possibility of losing their kingdom or their soldiers to other nobles who were also concerned more with obtaining a higher position rather than governing. The king must also be wary of his own life, something that was once revered and guarded closely by other nobles. Wars once fought for gaining or protecting land are overshadowed by personal battles fighting for the position of king.

Henry proved himself a powerful and fearless leader …show more content…

Unfortunately, Gaunt would not have been much more satisfied with Richard's replacement, Henry.

Raising a child is always a challenging and time-consuming task, and raising a prince is even more difficult. Henry puts his leadership aside to focus his efforts upon preventing Prince Hal from absolute corruption or even betrayal. Hal enjoys the company of an unruly thief, the drunkard John Falstaff, as well as several other less respectable persons. Henry is more realistic and rational than Richard, and he is able to see that his position is not a good one. He may fear that he is a bad example for his son, for he too was a robber when he stole the throne. He fears that his son will ruin his image as king or even assist in overthrowing him;

"Why, Harry, do I tell thee of my foes, / Which are my nearest and dearest enemy? / Thou that art like enough, through vassal fear, / Base inclination, and the start of the spleen, / To fight against me under Percy's pay, / to dog his hells, and curtys at his frowns, / To show how much thou art degenerate." (Henry, III, ii, 127-133).

When Henry hears Hal's promise to kill Percy as a display of his loyalty and ability to lead with valor, he again puts his responsibilities as king aside to assist his son in battling personal foes. Hal becomes the prodigal son; however, the

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