"Henry IV" analysis

Essay by tamoose July 2006

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William Shakespeare's "Henry IV" Part I is a play about a King named Henry and his son Prince Harry's changing relationship and a rebellion been plotted against the king to over through him. Many events occur in the play to allow the story to be told. Alongside with these events, references to disease, astronomy are used to allow us to understand important themes of the play and how characters are characterized. Throughout the course of the play, images of disease and astronomy allow us to recognize the symbolic significance of the themes of honor and disorder in the play.

The theme of honor can be displayed throughout the play with the use of astronomical imagery. We can see that honor is one of the main themes of the play by the mentioning of it in the beginning of the play:

"By heaven methinks it were an easy leap

To pluck bright honor from the pale-faced moon,

Or dive into the bottom of the deep,

Where fathom line could never touch the ground,

And pluck up drowned honor by the locks,

So he that doth redeem her thence might wear

Without corrival all her dignities;

But out upon this half-faced fellowship!" (I.iii.201-208)

This is a speech made by Hotspur which he uses the "pale-faced moon" to personify his ability of having the quality of honor within him. This honorability that he possesses is the reason why he must lead this rebellion against King Henry. He believes that the drowned honor must be plucked up from the bottom of the deep. The king's rule had disgraced honor so Hotspur wants to resurrect it. It also emphasizes that Hotspur has a very tangible conception of honor while Falstaff sees honor as being useless and gets you killed: "What is honour? A word.