William Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” Part One Characters



In this essay, I would like to talk about Shakespeare’s Henry IV part one characters.  Most probably the play was written and first performed around 1600’s. The play is a sequel to Richard the II, but in fact these two plays are very different from each other though they are telling parts of one story. Henry IV talks are written in the prose and poetry. It is a good example, when Shakespeare takes historical facts and turns them into fiction, whereas Richard II is written in verse and is very close to real historical events including mostly aristocracy.

As usually in his plays Shakespeare is brilliant. The primary source of information that the author used in his play was Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, but he managed to assemble this information in the way that we would be sure that he also used John Stow’s Annales, Samuel Daniel’s epic poem about the Wars of the Roses, and two anonymous, humourous plays–Woodstock and The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth.
The above sources had given him the idea that Hotspur and Hal were the same age and that Hal hanged out in taverns most of his free time with half the riffraff of London, but in fact Hospur was 2 years older than Hal’s father. However, the frolicsome prince who joins that disreputable old con man, Falstaff, in the tavern is not much like the religiously bigoted, politically adept young man who, in plain historical fact, led troops in Wales while he was still in his teens and ran the country when his father’s illness incapacitated him mentally as well as physically.
However there is no doubt that the way Shakespeare presented the events is much more interesting and dramatic. We see the two young rivals fighting for the throne of England. We also see a detailed picture of England of that time, jumping from taverns to palace and events involving kings and highway robbers. Shakespeare also presents us the true relations between Henry the king and his son despite of the false history it is based on.
Mostly the play talks about the two young Harry’s, Harry that was a prince of Wales by the name Hal and Harry Percy known as Hotspur, that helped king Henry in his war against Richard II. Hotspur is in fact everything that a king could desire to see in his son, whereas Hal is everything he would not like to see. Henry says in public that he would be happy if those were switched at birth. Hotspur is in the War Room with the king and other military advisors. He would not turn in the prisoners that he took in Scotland before Henry repatriates Mortimer that was chosen to be Richard’s successor, and he was Hotspurs’ brother in law. These event lead eventually to a rebellion against Henry by Lords of England, which were on the side of Hotspur, Northumberland, his father, and Owen Glendower, Mortimer’s host in exile and father-in-law, along with the Scottish Douglas.
The way Hal is depicted is quite different. His entrance is accompanied by the loud rock music. He wakens his buddy Falstaff, asleep on a park bench and gives him a six-pack, which Sir John proceeds to drink in it’s entirety without even separating the cans from the plastic holder. John Pribyl’s Falstaff is blustery, rude, and insolent. He’s stuffed with a couple of pillows and dressed in this garish, predominantly yellow patchwork outfit with scraggly beard and long, ratty hair. When he and his cohorts rob the travelers he puts on a mask to the howls of the audience.
This play and its sequel bear the name Henry IV, but the main character is the king’s adolescent son, Prince Hal and future Henry V.  The problem is that Hal spends all his time with a band of ruffians and pickpockets, most especially the incorrigible rogue old Sir John Falstaff.  This fat rogue serves as a mentor, friend, and all-around bad influence on Hal.  As a dark undertone, Falstaff several times hints at concern for what might become of their relationship when Hal actually becomes king.  The prince evades the issue each time.  To the reader, Hal claims his lifestyle is a foil for his pending transformation into a proper king.  Even his father is afraid to trust him, until the climax, in the battle against the Percys, when Hal proves himself by saving his father’s life and slaying the flamboyant Hotspur.  Other participants include Douglas the Scot, fighting for the rebels, and, with the king, sturdy Sir Walter Blunt, plus Hal’s courageous younger brother, John of Lancaster, and even old Falstaff shows up for the fighting.  Though the king’s forces win the day, threats are still scattered across the land.  Equally unresolved, Hal has yet to determine the future of his relationship with Falstaff and the other rogues.  Favourite scenes include those with the bantering between Hal, Falstaff, and the witty Ned Poins, especially the double robbery at Gad’s Hill (2.2) and Falstaff’s inflated version those events.

In envy that my Lord Northumberland
Should be the father to so blest a son,–
A son who is the theme of honour’s tongue;
Amongst a grove, the very straightest plant;
Who is sweet Fortune’s minion and her pride:
Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him,
See riot and dishonour stain the brow
Of my young Harry…
(I, i)

King Henry expresses his frustration at his son Hal, the first Bolingbrook prince, at the outset of the play. Because King Henry is a usurper, he cannot fill the gap in the monarchy, which is why he looks to Hal. The play’s dominant conflict — whether Prince Hal is fit to be king — is established early on.
The East Cheap brothel is as seedy a scene and I’m certain is exactly what Shakespeare had in mind. Inspite of this debauchery, Hal is never far from the realization that he is to be King, and this life is temporary. We see this especially in his disgust following his and Falstaff’s interrogation of him as first Sir John plays the King, then Hal is Henry and he knocks over the makeshift throne to the strains of loud, persistent rock music. We hear “London Calling” by the Clash, as he is called to war.
Meanwhile, Hal’s transformation to military leader is complete as he leads his forces into battle. This is not a war of hand-to-hand combat, but aerial bombings, gunfire, smoke, and crumbling buildings on the Elizabethan stage. This is modern warfare, and it starkly shows the destruction that we inflict with our 20th century weapons. This is where Hal reveals himself as a master of his experiences. Although nothing can transform Falstaff he has learned how to turn a rag-tag band like Peto, Bardolph, and Poins into a fighting army, a skill that will serve him well at Agincourt as Henry V. When he kills Hotspur, it is with great sorrow at the realization that he has felled a valiant man, and he then grants Douglas mercy.
I think that Henry IV Part One is one of the best play by Shakespeare, I personally enjoyed very much. The uniqueness of the play, it is that he has made his imagination very natural and they way he uses it in the play is also very realistic. We can make a conclusion after reading or watching the play that Shakespeare has lived the lives of all his character and been in the situations he describes.


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