The play King Henry IV by Shakespeare centers on the daring theme of troth in a time of order and disorder. The troth is brought to the audience’s attention through the functions of umpteen vehicles, which include Hal’s inner conflict, the conflict between the tap house and the appealing world, and the country’s political conflict. However, the central theme of language is prominent throughout the play and it is made ever so alive by prince Hal who is next in line for the throne’s succession after his father King Henry IV. It is through language that Hal can gain the support, trust and admiration of the good lads of Eastcheap, as well as the nation.
The concept of language has been an area of debate on the play, whether it is the main theme or not. However, it is through the actions of Prince Hal that language becomes an essential tool for the survival of the country whose future seems shaky.
Hal’s idea of hanging out in the taverns with his friend Falstaff only leads to the making of a better leader since he is in touch with his subjects without them knowing it.
Moreover, it is through his mastery of language that that he brags that he can learn any language and customs within fifteen minutes and he would not be differentiated from the locals.Harry Percy (Hotspur) on the other hand is the epitome of masculinity and honor. As the Earl of Northumberland’s son, he is a nobleman but he is the leader of the rebellion against the king.
It is through his courage on the battlefield that King Henry admires him and even wishes that he were his son instead of his playful, dishonorable, defiant and drunk son Hal. This is the point that brings out the true qualities of a leader in the Shakespearean times.
However, the very things that make Hotspur an honorable man ultimately lead to his downfall as an unfit leader. He is hot tempered, impetuous and incapable of strategies, while at the same time he often alienates his friends. For example, when his father fails to show up at Shrewsbury, he forges ahead hoping that winning an unlikely victory shall prove him a worthy leader. This is a decision made in haste since Hotspur does not have nearly enough soldiers to battle the king’s army and this decision costs him more than victory.
Hal is seen as a son without any future, without any leadership bone in his body by his father. However, as an effective leader, Hal is trying to make a reformation from the grassroots level by joining with the locals and living as they do.
The act of going to taverns allows him to understand through interaction at what is happening in the kingdom as a leader should be in touch with his subjects. On the other hand, Hal faces his father and promises to redeem himself when he faces the legendary Hotspur, which his father readily agrees.
When Hal kills Hotspur, he makes a speech about honor and proves to the audience that in all his endeavors, in the tavern, he still kept his head straight in knowing his role as royalty. However, the most important aspect of leadership in Hal was the ability to manipulate his subjects into a reformation.
By trying to avoid bloodshed, he proves that he values life and the general well being of his subjects, even as a prince. His mastery of language only helps him associate with the subjects and enable him to convince them to turn from war.
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Lascelles, Mary, and A. R. Humphreys. “The First Part of King Henry IV.” The Modern Language Review 58.2 (1963): 237. Print.
Shakespeare, William, and Philip M. Parker. King Henry IV. Webster’s Thesaurus ed. San Diego, Calif.: ICON Classics, 2005. Print.