We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Honour in King Henry the Fourth Essay Sample

essay
  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1,307
  • Rewriting Possibility: 99% (excellent)
  • Category: king

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all help you need with your essay and educational issues.

Get Access

Introduction of TOPIC

Indeed, the notion of honour in King Henry IV is portrayed through multiple characters within the play. It is understood that Falstaff and hotspur’s interpretations of honour act as a character foil to validate Hal’s modern and compassionate form of honour, although, in Shakespeare’s world of deceit and blind ambition, he suggests that extreme forms of honour without the ability to adapt to the climate around them will ultimately fail. Falstaff proclaims that honour itself is just “a word” – “air”; this brings forth the audiences capacity to validate what he says and ultimately contextualize with him which further brings forth the question “what is honour?” Falstaff delivers this diatribe against honour during the battle at Shrewsbury, just before the climax of the play. Linking honour to violence, Falstaff, who is about to go into battle, says that honour “pricks him on” to fight, meaning that honour motivates him; he then asks what he will do if honour “pricks him off,” that is, kills or injures him. He says that honour is useless when one is wounded: it cannot set an arm or a leg, or take away the “grief of a wound,” and it has “no skill in surgery.”

In fact, being merely a word, honour is nothing but thin air—that is, the breath that one exhales in saying a word. He says that the only people who have honour are the dead, and it does them no good, for they cannot feel or hear it. Furthermore, honour doesn’t “live with the living” because honour is gained through death. Falstaff therefore concludes that honour is worthless, “a mere scutcheon,” and that he wants nothing to do with it. Henceforth it is realized that the polar opposite of Falstaff is Hotspur, who’s concept of honour comes in the form of praise from the king himself, declaring Hotspur to be “the theme of honour’s tongue”. Indeed, Hotspur is committed to honour. The pursuit of this grand ideal consumes all his energy and shapes his every thought. But throughout the course of the play we see that this obligation to honour is detrimental and obsessive. The king’s words about Hotspur’s form of honour remain true, but the irony of those words becomes increasingly apparent as the audience begins to see how irrational Hotspur’s concept of honour is. The moments Hotspur shares with his wife, Lady Percy, illustrate clearly his excessive passion for honour.

His preoccupation with his chivalric duties has made him unable to think of or discuss anything other than “sallies and retires, of trenches, tents, of palisades and frontiers”. It is henceforth seen that Hotspur’s cult like quest for honour clouds his judgment and allows him to be manipulated by others which ultimately disallows the success of his almost egotistically fuelled up rise against the King. The way Hotspur totally disregards Lady Percy’s concern exemplifies how honour to him is seen as a cult like

notion. Instead of Hotspur acknowledging her concern, he begins to speak to a servant that has just

Sorry, but full essay samples are available only for registered users

Choose a Membership Plan
passed by about more pressing military matters, although, when he does finally acknowledge her, it is only to tell her that “this is no world to play mammets and to tilt with lips”. Hotspur’s belief that everyone must have “bloody noses and crack’d crowns” is highly favoured by King Henry. He gloats that “thrice Hotspur, Mars in swaddling-clothes” had “discomfited great Douglas”, thus portraying how King Henry condones Hotspur’s lust for honour. Through the actions of King Henry, it is evident that he is keen to repair his image of a dishonourable King.

The neglect and slander shown to Hal is due to him being a “stain on the brow” because he adding to the burden and dishonour of Henry’s kingship. Accordingly, the King admires Hotspur as “the theme on honour’s tongue” and wished his son would possess the same characteristics, even giving mention to the fact that he wished Hotspur and Hal where “exchanged in cradle” so he could call “Percy” his son instead of Hal. Hence it shows that the King’s quest to regain his honour is being denatured by his frivolous son. Contrastingly, King Henry’s dishonour is vividly portrayed within act 5 scene 2 when the rebels are giving the audience insight into why he cannot be trusted, Worcester insists to Vernon that his “nephew must not know” of the Kings “kind offer” due to the fact he believes Henry cannot be trusted and that, while hotspur may be forgiven on grounds of youth, the King would “suspect” Worcester and Vernon “and find a time to punish this offence in other faults”.

Henceforth, Henry does prove himself and his honour in act 5 scene 4 as he suggests that his sons prance Hal and Lancaster “withdraw” from the fighting, which shows his bravery in a battle situation. Additionally, Douglas is seen to almost kill the King, until the Prince slays him, this not only shows the Kings bravery, engaging in a one on one fight, but also depicts the reunification between father and son. Henry thus proclaims that Hal “hast redeemed thy lost opinion”, cementing their newly found appreciation of one another. Prince Hal thinks of honour as something that related to virtuous behaviour: he works on redeeming his own image by striving to achieve honour through his behaviour. Hal is aware he needs to change, he can no longer partake in his “loose behaviour” and must “throw [it] off”. Through his previous bad behaviour, he will attempt to restabilise his image via “pay[ing] back the debt [he] never promised”. Hal knows that there is great honour and virtue in being understood and respected by the poor people in the tavern. He realizes that his ability to relate to the men while he is their drinking buddy will enable the men to relate to Hal better if the time comes when he must lead them into battle.

Furthermore, Hal can maintain a rapport with the Boar’s Head crowd without lowering his own definite and innate honourable standards by participating in any criminal activity. He proclaims to Falstaff, ‘Who, I rob? I a thief? Not I, by my faith.’ Hal’s fraternizing with Falstaff and his companions is also a reaction to Hotspur’s strict, pointless code of honour. Hal finds the rigid, honour-bound universe of Hotspur deplorable and destructive I am not yet of Percy’s mind, the Hotspur of the North; he that kills me some six or seven dozen of Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, ‘Fie upon this quiet life! I want work.’ Instead of searching for people to challenge to duels or engaging in fights that end in certain death, Hal looks for honour in another way, through his association with Falstaff.

When Hal finally does ‘pay the debt he never promised’ and discards his seemingly dishonourable facade to let his true, virtuous self show, he will be a more admired and therefore more successful ruler, and he will not have used Hotspur’s code of honour to achieve his goal. Although Hotspur’s obsession with honour and Falstaff’s apparent lack of honour deserve examination for their own sake, it becomes evident that their primary function in the play is to show how Prince Hal balances the two extremes and creates his own complex concept of honour which enables him to become the perfect example of a valiant man. Thus, Falstaff’s damned view of honour can be perceived by many to be more than a “word” or “air”, but indeed, something worth fighting and dying for.

We can write a custom essay on

Honour in King Henry the Fourth Essay Sample ...
According to Your Specific Requirements.

Order an essay

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

King Tutankhamun

King Tutankhamun was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt at 9 years old. He was buried in the valley of kings, located in Thebes. Tutankhamun and his tomb were studied by various number of historians, such as Howard Carter. He wasn’t important when he was the ruler although thirty-two centuries after his death is when he became most famous. This was after Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun in 1922. Due to his short reign and the change of religion his father had made, Tut spent much of his reign repairing the damage and restoring the old religion. He was also trained by the memory of his father’s change. He was also thought to be either sick or he had died form an injury at the age of 19, further limiting his chances of having a long, important reign. However, the discovery of his tomb made him significant and important in the modern...

Snow White

A cold mist had settled above the woods as the first frost of winter took its hold. It was whilst the shimmering light of the moon gazed upon the forest, when each leaf was taken and a layer of shimmer was rested upon its surface. Soon the ground was embellished with and sheen of glitter, nature's ability to transform became magnificently apparent. A watchful eye was cast over the forest that night. Her long dangling curls glistened just as the ground, a dark robe upon her shoulders, a cruel and callous woman by the name of, "Lady Muriel", stared intensely through the tower's window. She thought of the day ahead, and with a sinister laugh she called on her servant for breakfast. One day she had hoped that a King or Prince would ask her hand in marriage and she would then live in the prosperity and wealth of he....

The Forces at Work in Act 1...

Shakespeare's MacBeth is a story of a hero turned villain and I will be analysing the events and circumstances in which this tremendous change of character happens and whether MacBeth is to blame or if he is a victim of circumstance. The witches had the biggest influence on MacBeth in my opinion because they effectively seeded his mind with the idea that he actually could become king. Not that he hadn't thought of it before, but that he could actually achieve it with in his own life time and it is this single idea that begins to worp his courageous and honourable mind into and scheming and treacherous one. Also the fact that Shakespeare makes Macbeth echo the witches riddle "foul is fair and fair is foul" in his opening line when he says "so foul and fair a day I have not seen." This to me implicates that MacBeth...

Popular Essays

logo

Emma Taylor

online

Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?