The ambiguities of honour are exposed through three immediately contrasting principles of honour, which are shown in the characters of Hotspur, Hal and Falstaff. From the major protagonists Hotspur increases honour through physical deeds and titles, opposing Hal who obtains it through moral value. Juxtaposing both is the loveable yet corrupt Falstaff, who humorously displays honour as "only scutcheon", an outward trapping hiding the true emptiness within, like the drapery at a funeral. Honour fickly morphs to each individual's beliefs and values, Helen Morris noting "Shakespeare leaves it to the audience to decide which valuation to simply accept".
Shakespeare's later 1590s audience presented honour with great respect, boiling over with national pride after having won the 1588 Spanish Armada. Mores records that Great britain "had defeated the best and wealthiest electric power in European countries"; he further goes on clarify how this got produced for the 16th Century audience a greater interest in British background. Hence it is unsurprising Shakespeare wrote a chronology of 6 has focused on their kings.
Shakespeare, furthermore, includes several historical inaccuracies throughout the play. Lowers points out that "Shakespeare made Hotspur the young modern of Prince Hal, however the rebel innovator was actually relatively elderly then Henry IV". But also for dramatic purposes Hal and Hotspur are been shown to be the same age; in reality they were 23 years aside. Perhaps designed for theatrical purposes or one may consider that hotheadedness and valiant, physical ideas of honour are associated with young ones. On top of this the space of the play is a shortening of actual historical accounts and the talk about toward a Crusade to Jerusalem "chase these pagans in those holy areas" actually occurred after the rebellion. However these were added only for audience entertainment rather than precisely in depth history analysis. Perhaps Shakespeare acquired political motives and therefore portrays heroes with bias; the second option was dangerous in the 16th Century, hence why overseas settings were often popular. Nevertheless, despite intentions, the play's inaccuracies eventually provide a heightened sense of crisis and compare to the audience.
Hotspur is the epitome of honour, "the theme of honour's tongue", warmly noted by Henry IV. His name is a good sign of his character, for he's indeed 'hot going', vivid, battle loving, courageous and fearless; reminding Henry IV for his previous do it yourself. Hotspur's honour is outlined with a juxtaposition with Hal, who's an embarrassment, residing in the shadows as a lazy fool who hangs around with drunkards. Ashamed to be of Harry's kin the Ruler observes that "riot and dishonour stain the brow / Of my young Harry" arranging him as a lazy, personal indulgent coward. This starkly contrasts the finish of the play when Hal will eventually surpass Hotspur seeing the fantastic value of his fearless, heroic features. However, astonishingly, we never see Hal participate in truly immoral activity, the accusations posed are unjust. In contrast Hotspur's portrayal as hot going and fight loving is steady, being both his ideal strength and tragic flaw.
Temperamental Hotspur needs glory and military greatness, "He that doth redeem her thence might wear / Without corrival all her dignities" implying it is something to shoot for, to deal with and get through large bravery. His speech demonstrates his personality and desire for glory and is designed to incite his father and uncle, attractive to their 'honour', in the context of family delight suggesting their reputation may be redeemed and "banished honours" restored. Conversely Shakespeare unveils Hotspur's egocentricity through this. Personifying honour as a female we see his pursuit for glory as he chases ideals. His concept of honour is straight linked to courage and reputation, "out after this 1 / 2 fac'd fellowship!" disclosing his desire to harbour honour's glory. Towards the contemporary audience, most likely, this was viewed as selfish and vile trait; such narcissism is condemning toward Hotspur whose vain honour is portrayed in considerable flaw.
After all, as a man of action, he's influenced by his primeval need of honour; he must "sink or swim" an indication he will make an effort to the death to obtain the latter. His judgment is extremely dark and white showing his ease of head which is easily manipulated by his uncle Worchester. However as Mosely notes "his concept of honour, however glamorous, is sterile" and "grows out of anger, of damage pride". Hotspur's talk reflects a natural personality, without tact, that needs glory, a view that would have been shared by Shakespeare's modern-day audience. He grieves the loss of "those proud headings" more than the increased loss of "brittle life". Hal's valiant beat of Hotspur, showing he's not intimidated, shows the latter's passionate sense about his powerful reputation. Nevertheless Hotspur's concept of honour is portrayed to the contemporary audience as small minded, based mostly almost exclusively on physical courage and reputation whilst Hal's is much wider ranging and moral.
The humility of death contrasts Hotspur's vigour and passion in life whilst Hal responds with passivity to fatality, thus shows the latter's commendable tribute.
"When a body did contain a spirit
A kingdom for it was too small a bound
But now two paces of the vilest earth
Is enough room" [V. Iv. 88 - 91]
Hal's honour is portrayed by his insufficient gloating over success, discovering Hotspur's virtue whilst separating from the rebellion. Yet it is further still a comic irony his reaction to Falstaff's pragmatic death, lightening the feelings. A traditional closure, with orders restoration, grades the play's end yet unusually there's a sense of incompleteness for Henry IV Part 2 to answer. Hal however has transported generosity to the end, describing his competitors as Noble Scot" and "noble Percy" thus acknowledging their merits, admiring their honour, and commitment amongst foes.
Falstaff's conversation on honour is likely an antidote to Hotspur's beliefs. He notes how honour should "prick" or spur him on but he would somewhat reject Hotspur's idealism for practicality and personal preservation. Shakespeare uses rhetorical questions to show honour as having little sensible value, convincing himself it cannot "stake away the grief of an wound". His cynical view follows a logical design as he argues it "a expression" and bit more than "air". Falstaff feedback "I like not such grinning honour as Sir Walter hath" implying his incapability to act similarly due to his instinct for do it yourself preservation; he views life and honour as opposites and for that reason will not seek it less it comes unlooked for. Falstaff's idea of honour is juxtaposed with Hotspur's, providing a clear counterbalance to Hotspur's restless quest for honour at any cost. Shakespeare awakens the audience to the complexity of the topic, providing the modern-day audience with arguably an equilibrium in views on what honour truly is. Falstaff is nearly a comic hero, defying regulation and order, adding life above honour, and open public reputation. As for his attempt to gain honour, it is an amusing irony because of the total dishonourable behaviour it involves. Falstaff does not have any true sense of honour, unlike other encounters; his logic labels a full time income coward better than a inactive hero.
Hal is between Hotspur and Falstaff, being daring however, not reckless. The latter two shown to emphasize Hal's durability and well founded honour. Scene three, from Media Res, is made up of Hal's pledge to "redeem all of this on Percy's head" thus we visit a link with physical courage. Reputation is both lost and acquired. Here he vows to succeed Hotspur's honour, obtaining it through loss of life, whilst acknowledging his virtues and demonstrating admiration for his challenger. The oxymoronic saying "valiant rebel of that name" shows the acknowledgment of Hotspur's courage and virtue.
Both Hal and his catalyst Hotspur regard each other in various light. "Two stars keep not
their motion in one sphere" shows Hal's new found sense of dignity and knowledge of why they can not co-exist whilst acknowledging and not underestimating the skill Hotspur harnesses. Whilst Hal begins as an echo of Richard III he eventually surpasses all targets, seeing the worthiness of Hotspur's fearless and courageous attributes. On the other hand the latter lacking theory ruthlessly undervalues Hal "sword-and-buckler Prince of Wales" the dismissive remark implying Hal is a common playboy, without honour. It pieces an ominous mood; he would be more than happy to see him lifeless. However this insufficient humility and admiration unties to be Hotspur's downfall. In the long run he lacks the courtesy and credibility, which Hal has, to see his opposition in clear eyesight.
Hal's plan, written in soliloquy, with the simile to be "like the sun", discovered from behind the clouds to be liked all the more, shows his tact, worldly cynicism and political genius, whilst hinting egocentricity. However the cost is a bargain to his honour and morality; Hal's cunning Machiavellian strategy lacks honesty despite keeping his private, interior integrity. Perhaps he regards honour not as a title to obtain but a real truth at heart to carry. Hal's honour to the audience is less exciting or dramatic which missing courageous value must be learnt from his pantomimic and fiery arch nemesis. Possibly Shakespeare's choice to cause Hotspur's death, by Hal, is purposely so to emphasise the perception in the divine right of kings (i. e. to revolt against the King is sacrilegious, implying a revolt against God, due to his being chosen by the last mentioned) and so Hal is aware of general population responsibility.
However Shakespeare does not only explore honour through the protagonist. Blunt's honour, like Hotspur and Henry IV, is related to physical courage "What honour doth thou seek / Upon my head?" this idea is within the strategy to defend Henry IV with many "marching in his coats". But when Hotspur reveals the truth to Douglas it is seen as foolish; "fool pick thy spirit".
The majority of characters make some type of moral assertion on honour whether physical, principle or cynical. Shakespeare pulls the audience toward Hal for the truth; despite this they might have emotionally been more willing to Hotspur's brute energetic way of thinking whilst Falstaff would rest as the clear favourite. The play itself became so popular Mabillard mentioned "Following the recovery of the ruler in 1660, Henry IV Part 1 was one of the first works to be staged". Nonetheless it would have broadened the ambiguity of honour and called to question many commonly accepted views and beliefs.
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