Kin Henry IV Part I and the Motif of Robbery and Rebellion
Shakespeare proved himself to be one of the world’s most famous playwrights. As an English author he focused on writings about the history of kingdoms in England and wrote about its rulers and kings. King Henry IV Part I is just a part of his work called as “tetralogy” or four part series of narrations on rulers and succession by the known royal families in England. Shakespeare used the real people in his drama but there were some that are fictional being used to enhance the story.
He tried to depict their life stories in his novels or plays.
King Henry IV Part I narrated his struggles during his reign after he ousted Richard II. The play featured all the problems and challenges that he encountered in order to establish himself as a king. He was considered as the first Lancastrian king of England. He ruled from 1399 to 1413.
Particular characters are mentioned in the novel and each one played an important role in the story. Of course the main character here was King Henry IV also known as Bolingbroke. He had a son named Henry V also known as Prince Hal who also played a major part in the story. He also had another son and its name was Prince John of Lancaster. Another important personality in the story was Sir John Falstaff, a fictitious character, a person with bad reputation and became a company to Prince Henry. Sir Henry Percy or more commonly known as Hotspur was the brave soldier that led the revolt against King Henry IV. Other important personas include Owen Glendower, Edmund Mortimer and other characters mentioned many times in the play. The play is characterized by themes or motif of robbery and revolt, honor and courage as well as wholeness in both the individual and the national aspect.
Robbery and Rebellion
Robbery was committed usually by those people found in the lower level of the society. Usually they victimize the rich ones. Robbery was rampant and done by others to support themselves and make a living. These were done by people who are not afraid of law and have no regard for other people. Indeed they are the problem in the society of King Henry IV during those early times. People were greedy and covetous of others possessions. It was a criminal offense but they were not punished easily and they succeed in many of their operations.
One time John Falstaff and company planned to rob some travelers on their journey. They heard news of material goods they can steal from them. Prince Hal even participates in the activity but only to play a trick for Falstaff. But later on he returned the stolen items to the real owners to save them from trouble. Poins and Hal made a fool of Falstaff during one of their stealing by doing robbery to Falstaff after the operation. Certainly they were trying to inject fear in other people and boast of their evil ways. Falstaff and company included persons like Poins, Bardolph, and Peto.
In a conversation Prince Hal said “Who, I rob? I a thief? Not I, by my faith.”Falstaff then replied: “There’s neither honesty, manhood, nor good fellowship in Thee, nor thou cam’st not of the blood royal if thou darest not stand for ten shillings. (Act I, Scene II).
Based on this quotes in the play, Prince Hal was being convinced by his company to steal, but of course Prince Hal was not that really serious to participate in such activity. The Prince just hangs out with them in the tavern to have good times and also to drink. Falstaff even said something to convince Prince Hal in order for him to participate in stealing.
Prince Hal associated with robbers and accepted their deal. Mingling with such people brought bad influences to Prince Hal. This made the Prince to suffer from scorn in his family and a bad image. His father will certainly get even mad of Hal once he got to know that he joined such evil doings and committed a crime in the society.
Robbery was evident in the first part of the story. It highlighted the fact that it was a common problem in the society. The rich ones are the main victims by the idle people. They were not secured and unprotected. Falstaff and his friends were described as rouge, rascals and crooked bunch of people.
From the start rebellious people are always a threat to leaders and kings. They were not satisfied of their king’s decisions. Sometimes they want to take revenge against the king. Maybe they want other king to rule them or they want to replace the king. There are certain people who work their way to revolt against the king. Those groups of people mentioned in the story were Welsh leader Owen Glendower, the Percy family, Douglas and Mortimer to name a few of them.
In the beginning of these play the king envisioned England to be a land free from civil wars. He dreamed of a peaceful kingdom meaning no civil wars, battles or bloodshed.
They have many reasons why they became one of the enemies of the king. They were threat to King Henry IV. One of the reasons as explain by Percy was that King Henry has placed unreasonable demands on them, even if they help him to acquire his position as a king.
“Hotspur: Why, it cannot choose but be a noble plot. And then the power of Scotland and of York To join with Mortimer, ha?- Worcester: And so they shall.- Hotspur: In faith, it is exceedingly well aim’d.-Worcester: And ’tis no little reason bids us speed,To save our heads by raising of a head;For, bear ourselves as even as we can, The King will always think him in our debt, And think we think ourselves unsatisfied, Till he hath found a time to pay us home.And see already how he doth begin To make us strangers to his looks of love.-Hotspur: He does, he does! We’ll be reveng’d on him. (Act I, Scene III). This dialogue mentioned the desires they want to achieve if they could won in the revolt.
Rebellion stirred up around different side of the kingdom. England was foremost desired by Mortimer knowing he would reign after Richard II if King Henry didn’t crown himself king. The Scotland would go to Hotspur while Wales would go to Glendower. These three are uniting to overthrow the throne of King Henry IV. Each one of them has grievances against the king.
King Henry had mentioned to Worcester, -“get thee gone; for I do see Danger and disobedience in thine eye. O, sir, your presence is too bold and peremptory, And majesty might never yet endure The moody frontier of a servant brow. Tou have good leave to leave us. When we need ‘Your use and counsel, we shall send for you.” (Act I, Scene III) Worcester was Hotspur’s representative. In this scene the king recognized that some of his people were disobedient and dangerous in his presence. This indicate that the king sense Hotspur opposition on his rules and commands.
There were many underlying reasons why some groups of people seek the downfall of their ruler. They were reluctant to show support to their king and eager to look for opportunities to ensure the kings defeat. Rebellion exists out of revenge and also the greed for power.
Near the end of the story the rebels encountered problems and delays in their attack. They are aware of the danger but they are determined to reach their goal. The rebels got some character differences that affected their joint effort together to attack the king. For example Hotspur was found to be impatient; Glendower on the other hand was people full of pride, Mortimer on the other hand was his passion on a Welsh woman.
Because of some of the problems they encountered they were unprepared to face their battle making them prone to defeat.
The rebels camped themselves together in Shrewsbury. The king on the other hand was ready to made peace with the rebels. But Worcester lied to Hotspur about the king’s offer and told him to pursue the battle. Because of these Hotspur lost in the battle and was slain by Prince Hal. The king’s son becomes motivated to get rid of Hotspur. The rebellion didn’t succeed after Hotspur died. But the threat of rebellion was still around preparing themselves for future revolts to oust the king.
Surely because of their dissatisfaction and complain against the king they pushed themselves to rebellion. The problem they had, was that their rebellion didn’t became successful. It was clear that king Henry IV had been successful and fortunate enough to overcome the threats to his kingdom.
The king’s son, Prince Hal played a major role in the success of his father. He proved that he has the right to be a successor to his father.
Rebellion will always be a part of their kingdoms history. The people that lose will not stop to obtain the justice they need. The king needs to accept that to keep his kingdom peaceful war and battles are the solution. The rebels were continuously planning and doing ways to improve their army and military skills. They were serious on looking for supporters and when they think they are ready again they will again challenge their king for battle.
In the end Falstaff mentioned that,” the better part of valour is discretion” (act V, scene IV). In the story being brave enough to pursue rebellion was not enough. Having the right ideals was not enough. The king would not let himself easily be defeated. He will surely defend himself. Not all rebellion were successful some became useless and a meaningless attempt.
The First Part of King Henry the Fourth. The Complete Works by William Shakespeare by World Library, Inc. (1997) (EText #1115). Retrieved August 18, 2008.
Henry IV, Part I: Summary and Analysis. GradeSaver- Free Online Study Guide.(2008) Retrieved August 19, 2008. http://www.gradesaver.com/classicnotes/title/henryiv/fullsumm.html
Henry IV, Part I: Synopsis. The Shakespeare Resource Center (2008).
Retrieved August 19, 2008. http://www.bardweb.net/henryiv,part i.html
Spencer, Diana. “Shakespearean History 101” Insights (2004). Utah Shakespearean Festival, Retrieved August 19, 2008
http:www.bard.org/shakespearean history 101.html
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