Comedy in I Henry IV and II Henry IV by William Shakespeare Essay

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Comedy in I Henry IV and II Henry IV

In I Henry IV and II Henry IV, William Shakespeare brings together drama and comedy to create two of the most compelling history plays ever written. Many of Shakespeare's other works are nearly absolute in their adherence to either the comic or tragic traditions, but in the two Henry IV plays Shakespeare combines comedy and drama in ways that seem to bring a certain realism to his characters, and thus the plays. The present essay is an examination of the various and significant effects that Shakespeare's comedic scenes have on I Henry IV and II Henry IV. The Diversity of Society
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(II Henry IV, II. iv. 113-122)

The scene is filled with bawdy references and second meanings, meanings which the audience would undoubtedly find uproarously funny. Hal, too, often speaks this language of the lower classes, especially when chiding Falstaff: "These lies are like the father that begets them--gross as a mountain, open, palpable. Why, thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch--" (I Henry IV, II. iv. 224-227). The language Shakespeare uses in the tavern scenes is certainly different from the more solemn and courtly language found in the plays' more dramatic moments, as in Hal's gallantry towards Hotspur upon the latter's death:

Prince. But let my favors hide thy mangled face;
And, even in thy behalf, I'll thank myself
For doing these fair rites of tenderness
Adieu, and take thy praise with thee to heaven.
Thy ignominy sleep with thee in the grave,
But not remembered in thy epitaph. (I Henry IV, V. iv. 95-100)

The differences in styles of language truly brings alive the plays' various characters, from the lowliest drawer to the noblest knight. The playwright's audience would have been composed of a similarly diverse spectrum of society, from the groundlings at the foot of the stage, to the members of the court in attendance, and these disparate members of the audience might very well have come away from the plays with different interpretations of
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