Discussing Honour in Henry IV Essay

Published: 2020-02-16 02:00:19
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Category: Falstaff

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There are differing concepts of honour throughout the play of Henry IV shown by different characters. There are two characters that depict extremes on each end of the scale, Hotspur (Henry Percy) and Falstaff. This essay will demonstrate the different types of opinions towards what honour is from each character and also give a comparison with examples for each. Hostpur, or Henry Percy, is the son of Northumberland and is a very fiery character with a short temperament and who is quick to jump to conclusions.

His idea of honour lies purely on the battlefield and he believes that the only possible way honour can be measured is with the amount of battles won and opponents conquered. He certainly believes himself to be more honourable than any man and this may explain two things. Firstly it will explain his confidence about his fighting and military knowledge as well as his concept that his idea is always the right one. Secondly it may also explain his rudeness, brashness and sometimes complete disrespect when addressing others, especially those in royalty.

He gives a good speech when talking to Worcester and Northumberland about his honour and how he has claimed it. By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap To pluck bright honour from the pale faced moon, Or dive into the bottom of the deep, Where fathomline could never touch the ground, And pluck up drowned honour by the locks, So that he doth redeem her thence might wear, Without corrival, all her dignities. (209-15, I, iii) This is a great speech that clearly shows two things. Firstly it shows his disrespect when addressing others and his arrogance that comes with it.

More importantly it shows that he believes honour can only be earned by doing an act of some kind of bravery. He gives an example of such a deed in the lines To pluck bright honour from a pale faced moon and also dive into the bottom of the deep. He is stating that in situations where there is a problem or where conditions are hard it takes an exceptional kind of man to go into these situations, conquer them and come out with respect and honour. The action of coming from such a situation with honour is depicted in the line pluck up drowned honour by the locks, so that he doth redeem her thence might wear.

He is giving an analogy for two things; first the kind of situation at which bravery and courage is required and secondly the kind of person that will go into that situation and come out earning respect and honour. As he refers to these conditions as being battles he is clearly showing that only a man that can use the sword with skill is worthy of being honourable. Another quote from Hotspur underlines the fact that he feels honour can only be taken from situations where there is danger and risk. Send danger from the east unto the west,

So honour cross it from the north to south, And let them grapple! O, the blood more stirs To rouse a lion than to start a hare! (203-6, I, iii) This shows once again the conflict between two sides, this time denoted by positions on the compass, meeting and he feels there is more honour to be won with a great battle than a smaller one. Hence why he states the blood more stirs to rouse a lion than to start a hare! This again shows exactly how Hotspur feels about honour and the way in which it can be won.

Another person who can be compared to being like Hotspur in this way is Douglas. He, just before the battle in the rebel camp, goes to the allies camp and gives them a call for battle as such by defying them in a ploy to start the confrontation. Finally, when Hotspur has fought Prince Hal and is dying, he states that he is more mortified and distraught about losing the titles and honour to his slayer than he is about dying in the physical sense. I better brook the loss of brittle life Than those proud titles thou hast won of me.

They wound my thoughts worse than they sword my flesh. (78-80, V, vi) This shows that Hotspur has little respect for Hal as he is more hurt by losing the titles and honour he has won to someone of his nature than dying in itself. Hotspur is so self-contained in the idea of honour that he truly feels great pain in losing a battle to Hal, who he considers not to be as worthy as himself. This shows that although Hotspur has a very hard and manly idea of honour, it is not for attraction and he actually believes in what he says and fights for.

He can almost be pitied for being so brave as his courage could sometimes be foolhardy. However, it would be interesting to ask Hotspur himself that why, as he considered himself so honourable, he chose to oppose the king, because that in itself is a crime against the country in treason and those that commit treason are punishable by the worst penalties and could be deemed as the people with the lowest amount of honour and most amount of shame. In a complete contrast, Falstaff, a drunken lout and thief, is on the other end of the range.

He shows complete distaste and is dishonourable in his ways. He condemns the word of honour in his soliloquy at the end of Act V scene i. To summarise his speech he states that honour cannot heal a wound, nor pay back for a dismembered limb and is simply a word that carries no weight for the living nor the dead. He therefore disassociates himself from the concept and seems to do so with some pride and belief. This small but quite hard-hitting speech can account for his ways throughout his life.

He lies continually, exaggerates stories to boast to his friends and is even caught out in his ways when Hal tricks him after he has robbed some people. All these acts and his way of life does not compare to perhaps his lowest and dirtiest manipulation of the situation when he acclaims responsibility for slaying Hotspur. Before this incident, when Hal and Hotspur are fighting, Douglas comes in and fights Falstaff. He falls down and pretends to play dead, which is a despicable piece of behaviour in itself that shows nothing but cowardice and lack of self-esteem and morale as well as a lack of honour.

This leaves Douglas to go elsewhere and the Prince (Hal) and Hotspur to fight. Once Hostpur has died Hal goes off to find the King and show him what he has finally done, Falstaff arises and when the King returns he claims to have battled Hotspur after the Prince had gone and it was he himself who had killed the man. This is the height of ignorance and dishonour. It shows what a coward and scheming kind of person Falstaff really is and does a huge injustice to Prince Hal. It shows he is also a liar. His statement to the king reads:

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