The Essence of Shakespeare: Henry the IV and Henry the V

Shakespeare has been described as not being of an age, but for all time. This can be seen throughout his thirty-eight plays, one hundred and fifty four sonnets, and two epic narrative poems. When chronologically analyzing each play, the depth of human nature and emotions continually edge closer to much more refined and beautifully constructed pieces of work. The discussion surrounding Shakespeare’s history plays will begin to be diagnosed beginning with Henry the IV. Henry the V will also be discussed in much broader terms in order to show Shakespeare’s work in a chronological order but as well as separate plays and themes.

King Henry the Fourth, like many political leaders during this time era and even to this day have used similiar campaigns (wars on foreign soil) in order to bring about a unification of their kingdom, empire, and/or country. Why? They seek a solution to their internal issues and shortfalls with an external and forceful solution. In this instance especially, King Henry’s motive to create a distraction from the past occurrences that have happened in order to create a new and majoritative support for him and his kingdom he oversees. We have to step back first in order to better understand the state in which England is currently in, one must look back before King Henry the IV actually came into control of the kingdom that he know calls his own. As the story progresses the past becomes ever more important. King Henry the Fourth came into power by seizing the throne from Richard the II (Greenblatt 1147).

This brings up the question of his divine right to be king as compared to others in his similar position and bloodline. However, this is only the beginning of the troubles concerning his country and only the beginning of the obstruction to the path in which he intends to follow. King Henry must persevere through friend and foe and even his own family in order to bring about a crusade to the Holy Land. Henry the Fourth has a dream, yet before he can conquer the Holy Land he must first reconcile and control his own empire. The underlying social construction and interaction that Shakespeare employs are to be analyzed and reflected upon in order to not only understand the writing and lifestyles of his day but as well as an application and discussion into modern day social construction to create a context, in which society can be examined and questioned. King Henry the Fourth “So shaken as we are, so wan with care, find we a time for frighted peace to pant and breathe short-winded accents of new broils to be commenced in strands afar remote.” 1. (HIV 1.1.1-4)

Shakespeare chooses to introduce the beginning of his play with a king’s statement; nothing else would appear to be acceptable to begin the first scene of Henry the IV. Yet this statement made by Henry seems to conceal what will happen later on in the play. The underlying message in this statement is subtle in its tone. What exactly is Henry the Fourth proposing? He is venturing to say that the time for a righteous crusade into the Holy land is at hand (SRC). This holy crusade has been on Henry’s mind since the capture of the throne. King Henry may have to wait to fulfill his agenda until affairs at home come into alignment with his plans. No more the thirsty entrance of this soil Shall daub her lips with her own children’s blood 1. The first passage was kept in its entirety in order to display the actual format in which Shakespeare used in Henry the IV. No more shall trenching war channel her fields. (H.IV, 1.1.5-7)

Day 2: This second passage, taken directly after King Henry’s call for his campaign into the Holy Land, begins to create emotion and a reason to call to arms. Few can argue with a King calling for a stop to bloodshed and unneeded violence. If that means bloodshed will have to be spilt in order to restore order then King Henry the Fourth is up to the challenge. King Henry is gracious to the uprisings and discontent among his people, he consistently offers bountiful forgiveness to the people who seek another ruler. King Henry’s compassion shines through in this play, which is a difficult emotion to master. Although Henry much like many other rulers will not so easily back down to opposition, yet it is his more than fair attitude, that is noticeably more forgiving than many other men that is to be looked upon with favor. He will forsooth have all my prisoners; And when I urged the ransom once again Of my wife’s brother, then his cheek looked pale. (H. IV, 1.3.138-140) Two lines down from this passage, Hotspur ends his statement with a mention of a “trembling at the name of Mortimer” H.IV, 1.3.142.

The idea that King Henry the Fourth is afraid of even the mention of Edmund Mortimer’s name seems out of character. Worcester then begins to explain, not necessarily to Hotspur but rather, to the audience, as to why a King would be so fearful of Mortimer. Which on lines 152-54, Hotspur explains the dilemma, But soft I pray you; King Richard then Proclaim my brother Edmund Mortimer Heir to the crown? Whom did Richard the Second choose to be the heir, to the throne of England. According to Hotspur, Dick II named Mortimer as his successor. This is one consequence that King Henry the Fourth is subjected due to his hasty climb to the throne. This is one problem, which must be rectified, at least in Henry’s mind, to ensure that his bloodline will continue to be of the royal order. Why, what a candy deal of courtesy This fawning greyhound then did proffer me! (H.IV,1.3.247) A passage containing Hotspur once voicing his discontent for the ‘illegitimate’ King of England. As with many other plays in Shakespeare “We find a rather curious set of images which play round it. These are: a dog or spaniel, fawning and licking; candy, sugar or sweets, thawing or melting” (Spurgeon 195).

These reoccurring sets of words or phrases used throughout Shakespeare’s works shows that although he may be a literary genius, he is still prone to the duplication of phrases. This return to commonly linked words shows that some images even when duplicated do not seem to lose their intended purpose in different contexts in Shakespearean text. Your money! Villains! (H.IV, 2.3.10-11) Day 3: This point in the play is where Prince Harry and Poins have successfully robbed the robbers; Falstaff, Bardolph, and Peto. The plan that Hal and Poins have concocted is one of much humor. The fact that the three others are caught completely off guard allows a view into the immaturity of these characters or it could possibly be classified as a youthful carelessness and disregard for the laws of the land. I stole all courtesy from heaven, And dressed myself in such humility That I did pluck allegiance from men’s hearts. (H.IV, 3.2.50) Shakespeare in this passage along with many others throughout his life’s work manages to create images that incite emotion.

He continually in this way endows inanimate and motionless objects with a sense of life (51 Spurgeon). Spurgeon along with others claim that although many have done this before, Shakespeare is the individual that continually and elegantly brought imagery into contemporary English that displayed not only his sense of eloquent use of the English language but as well as a better understanding for the readers/viewers to envision and imagine the message that the author was actually trying to describe. I will redeem all this on Percy’s head./And in closing of some glorious day/ Be bold to tell you that I am your son./When I will wear a garment all of blood,/And stain my favors in a bloody mask,/Which wash’d away shall scour my shame with it./And that shall be the day, when e’er it light,/ That this same child of honor/and renown,/ This gallant HotspurâÂ?¦ (H.IV, 3.2.132-40) Willbern states this moment is the vital point in the play in which martial masculine harmony is reached. Avery deep interaction has occurred between father and son.

Masculine identity as displayed in this play enacts itself generally through contest and cooperation among men, and especially through linguistic identifications (63 Willbern). The young Prince has been upgraded in his social and kingly status. It seems that although King Henry the IV has finally decided to look towards his son as a possible suitor for the throne. How? The prince is jack, a sneak-up. ‘Sblood, an he were here I would cudgel him like a Dog if he would say so. (H.IV,3.3.76-78) Upon saying this, Prince Harry and Peto enter into the scene. Where Falstaff concludes that Harry had pick pocketed him and Falstaff has no funds to pay the Hostess. It is here that Falstaff admits he should fear the Lion’s whelp as well as the lion himself. Falstaff concludes that King Henry is an example of the wild and fear-evoking Lion and Harry is still to be feared for he is the lion’s whelp. King Henry at least in Falstaff’s eyes is the king of the jungle, not be messed with. He cannot come, my lord, he is grievous sick/ Zounds, how has he the leisure of being sick./ In such a jostling time? Who leads his power?/ Under whose government come they along?/ His letters bears his mind, not I, my lord. (H.IV, 4.1.16-20) Day 4: A messenger brings word to Hotspur regarding his father.

It appears as though the expected ally forces will not be joining them to strengthen the rebel army. On top of that, Glyndwrs forces will take at least two weeks to mobilize their forces. In line 48 in scene 4.1, Westmoreland offers up his advice and knowledge. Faith Sir John, ’tis more than time that I were There, and you too; but my powers are there already. The King, I can tell you, looks for us all. We must away all night. The fact is, that the rebels are vastly outnumbered and King Henry is in supposed knowledge of their plan to attack. Yet this does not stop the rebels from scheming, to come up with new ideas concerning the manner in which to conquer King Henry the Fourth. How bloodily the sun begins to peer Above you busky hill: the day looks pale At his distemperature. (H.IV,5.1.1) Attempting to say in any other words what this passage says is difficult which once again exhibits Shakespeare’s distinct ability to use simple words in order to describe the ordinary or the uneventful. The term bloody used to describe a sun rising on the horizon gives life to the sun as if it is rising from the dead and the cold to peer upon what is in it’s domain.

Rebellion in this land shall lose his sway,/Meeting the check of such another day;/And since this business so fair is done,/Let us not leave till our own be won. (H.IV, 5.5.42-45) King Henry the Fourth may not possess the ultimate divine right to be King compared to others however as evidenced by this last final saying coming from his own mouth. It truly becomes clear that at the very least he commands his country and he ultimately has the capability to be King and Ruler of England. This is only the first part of the two-part story of King Henry the IV. There is still more to this intriguing story. The basis to proper interpretation of this play is the idea of power, not only power but the capability in order to perform much needed control and protection of law from the ones who deem themselves as ones who are responsible for it. King Henry the Fifth Day 5: Annabel Patterson describes Henry the Fifth as a “political thriller.” And on the 1st of March 1991 Anthony Lewis begins with a passage from the end of the battle Agincourt This note doth tell me often thousand French/That in the field slain./Where is the number of our English dead?/Edward the duke of York, the Earl of Suffolk,/Sir Richard Ketley, Davy Gam, esquire;/None else of name;/and of all other men/but five and twenty. O God, thy arm was there. Victory in the war with Iraq leaves us with such feelings of awe. With half a million soldiers on each side, the United States and its coalition partners with only 40 killedâÂ?¦The casualties are as disproportionate as they were at Agincourt. Estimates of the number of Iraqi soldiers killed approach 50,000 (222 McIver).

This prime example, as if history has not repeated itself but is similar is one that can be seen throughout Shakespeare’s plays with a comparison to the post-modern era. There are differences of course as with any historical object of significance, such as the Holocaust. Few if any instances can compare to its massive ethnic cleansing and merciless killing. However in regard to Shakespeare and his written works as to where and why certain events have occurred and what resulted from them can be used in order to educate youth of not only the negatives of war but as well as the possible positive actions that can result from them. These connections to the past and present are ever more important in this technological world that has dramatically made this world much smaller than it has ever been. Teaching Shakespeare The ultimate satisfaction is not learning subject matter but in retaining that information and building upon that base of knowledge in order to hopefully teach others what knowledge you possess and vice-versa. It may be difficult to get others to listen to what you have to say, that is when the question of application, participation, and creating an environment that is easy to gain knowledge without fear or much worse falling asleep. That last question is the most difficult one for me.

When preparing to write this paper and thinking about how to teach an actual group of students, even more questions begin to pour in. The final strategy I chose was to do a work by Shakespeare that can be more easily grasped in modern times. This paper also serves as a teaching aid. Several passages were taken out of Henry the IV. The importance of these passages can be anything from minimal to passages that affect the entire outcome of the play. The attempted strategy was to capture enough information to provide the general outline of the story and sections that would exhibit Shakespeare’s versatility and eloquence. Hopefully with the varied amount of passages this will allow students to see that Shakespeare does not consist entirely of ‘to be or not to be.’ The general outline for teaching this particular play is stated below: Day 1: Introduction to story, background, and first page of play; questions/discussion. Attempt to get the student’s into the story as soon as possible Day 2: The second day will consist of in-depth discussion of the characters and plot in scenes I and II, as well as an assignment to be turned in the next class period. Assignments are listed below this outline.

Day 3: SHORT ASSIGNMENT #1 DUE. After receiving paper assignments, scene III will be discussed in an open discussion with questions and answers led primarily by students.

Day 4: Chapters IV and V will be discussed, overall feel of the play will be discussed. Things people liked, things they didn’tâÂ?¦only regarding the play. Paper assignment sheet handed out.

Day 5: A further discussion into the plot and events that occurred after the play as well as during, Groups can form in order to discuss papers and play. The last paper will be turned in at the beginning of class on the following week. The two assignments I have set into the week long discussion will not be overwhelming but they will be taken seriously. The first assignment will be a short yet concise summary or discussion into what character/s that the student liked, disliked or found interesting in the manner in which the character is represented and why is that person the student’s choice, what makes that character different? The Second Assignment will be a longer paper, at least two pages to roughly four pages, In which underlying themes or examples of human nature are at it’s best/worst etc, and lastly how is this representation of characters directly or indirectly reflect upon our society today.

This particular play, or another history play similar to this, would be the first play to be taught, hopefully with the assignments early on and quick pace throughout the week will motivate the students to come to class on time and keep up on their reading, instead of cramming at the end of the week, causing a headache for everyone. Throughout a semester long Shakespeare course many other plays will be read and analyzed, each play receiving different types of assignments to keep things from becoming dull. Mid-semester an optional long paper or exam consisting of the course material presented so far will be assigned. The second measure of the information either learned or crammed for will be presented in a non-cumulative Exam consisting of multiple choice, fill in the blanks (from a list), and two of five essay questions that could possibly be asked. Few substitutions will be allowed for those who wish to write a longer paper, however it will not be advertised as an option. I also think it would be a much needed break from Shakespeare to have a day to bring in other pieces of literature from the same time era as the next play that is going to be discussed, in order to get a feeling of what other literature from that time era was like and to have a comparison to draw more intelligent discussions from.

Conclusion:Throughout this paper examples of text have been given that represent a society, a culture and one man’s vision and voice. During this paper the thesis was attempting to display not only a teaching outline/guide but as well as presenting the play of Henry the IV in a manner which would not be dated and misunderstood in today’s modern world. The ability is one thing that will not be questioned in the terms of Shakespeare writing plays, sonnets, poems, etc. Many people become to get too tied up in the mystery or literal correctness of Shakespeare instead of stepping back and realizing that William Shakespeare was not only trying to provide entertainment, he was also exhibiting his biased view on not only high society but as well as lower classes and everything in between. He was also probably collecting a nice check. Many recurring themes have been presented in even the earlier works of Shakespeare. Power is a huge one. Who has it and who wants it and who should really have control is in almost constant question with Shakespeare. Reoccurring connected words are again used consistently throughout Shakespeare such as the example discussed earlier in this paper, regarding candy, dogs and thawing or other similar objects or actions.

The power of these plays to create life out of inanimate objects with only the use of an uncommonly used adjective placed before; usually dull words and uneventful occurrences. The power of these words, Shakespeare’s words bring vibrant imagery into all of his plays. The last statement that Henry the IV recites is one statement that should be pondered upon once again, Rebellion in this land shall lose his sway,/Meeting the check of such another day;/And since this business so fair is done,/Let us not leave till our own be won. (H.IV,5.5.42-45)The calm and collective manner in which this speech could be performed is amazing to believe that these same words can be expressed in a fiercely resentful manner. This is one capability that television at least at this time cannot compete for entertainment. To have one story, that has been copied, edited and passed around for over four hundred years and is still to this day being acted and performed and being taught in our schools and universities in completely different yet still valid manners is hard to take in. That being said, the conclusion is this, that there are three different people in this world, people who can gain knowledge and entertainment from Shakespeare, those who can’t, and those who don’t understand it. The discussion and examination of Shakespeare continues, Do not simply look at this a play, as entertainment, William Shakespeare intended to leave the audience with a message to leave home with.

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