Essay on William Shakespeare's Henry IV

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William Shakespeare's Henry IV

In Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 2, the brilliant playwright introduces us to several complex and intricate themes, clever language, and a fascinating cast of multifaceted characters, including the thief Jack Falstaff, who may be as wise as his belly is big, and the young Prince Hal, who conceals his shrewd mind and physical prowess beneath a soiled reputation for “unthrifty” behavior. Perhaps the most dynamic character of the play is Hotspur, or Henry Percy, the idealistic rebel warrior, and Hal’s rival for power, glory, and the throne. Although the public perceives him to be just an intense, hotheaded he-man, Hotspur actually has many different dimensions to his personality. Hotspur shows,
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However, negative qualities such as these were often seen as feminine qualities, and Hotspur’s own father deems them as weaknesses in his son. At the end of Act I, Scene III Hotspur erupts in a fit of rage, making foolish and rampant claims that “All studies here I solemnly defy, / Save how to pinch and gall this Bullingbrook”, and as for Prince Hal “I would have him poisoned with a pot of ale.” (I.iii.228-233). To this Northumberland, Hotspur’s father, replies “Why, what a wasp-stung and impatient fool / Art thou to break into this woman’s mood, / Tying thine ear to no tongue but thine own!”(I.iii.236-238). The content of Hotspur’s raving reflects the masculine preoccupation with battle and revenge, but Hotspur’s father refers to his attitude, his rashness and inability to listen, as “this woman’s mood”. This indicates that Hotspur may not precisely fit the mold of the stereotypical warrior man. Prince Hal’s opinion of Hotspur, and thus of his macho image, takes the idea of masculinity to its extreme. Hal sees him as a skilled warrior, yet also one who is too intense, serious, and arrogant, and who seems to care primarily about himself, the very epitome of masculinity in its negative form. Hal projects this public image he has of Hotspur onto the man’s home-life, and mocks the
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