Henry IV, Part 1

PDF EBook by William Shakespeare

EBook Description

I have read this play many times, and—although Shakespeare always shows me something new—this reading gave me little insight and few surprises. Henry IV, Part 1 PDF EBookI was struck with two parallels, however—one within the play itself, and one within Shakespeare's body of work.

First of all, I appreciated the subtle parallels between the Hotspur- PDFGlendower and the Hal-Falstaff scenes.Each young man spends much of his time needling a self-important, older man who is such a windbag that the audience is almost automatically on the young man's side.Hotspur, whom we are inclined to respect because of his high spirits and his achievements as a warrior, is so easily irritated, and carries his own self-regard so close to the surface, that his needling of Glendower—although deserved—seem pointless, rash and injudicious.(It may, in fact, prove fatal, since Glendower fails to come to Hotspur's aid when most needed—a dereliction perhaps precipitated by the younger man's abrasive heckling.)Consequently, although we like Hotspur at the end of the scene as much as we liked him at the beginning, we respect him a good deal less.

Contrast with this the Hal-Falstaff exchanges.Hal, already characterized as a wastrel, punctures Falstaff's pomposity with such a controlled attack of pointed wit that we begin to admire him for his discipline (at least in conversation), and sense that there may be more to him than appears on the surface.In addition, Falstaff—unlike the humorless Glendower—is a worthy opponent, filled with wit and self-awareness, and the fact that Hal can more than hold his own—and keep his temper too—suggests a self-awareness, a deliberately cultivated distance from his degraded surroundings, that prepares us for his eventual transformation just as much as his soliloquy about the sun.

The other parallel—between plays—is closer, but certainly less important.Lady Percy, in her attempts to gain information about the coming rebellion, delivers a speech that is very much like Portia's speech to Brutus in similar circumstances.Their conduct afterwards, though, is different.Portia—the stoic Roman—cuts herself in the thigh to prove her ability to keep a secret, but Lady Percy—a hardy warrior's bride—tries to break her husband's little finger and force him to talk.(Like I said, this isn't that important, but it is interesting how a great dramatist can use similar materials in support of very different effects.)

Speaking overall, I am once again astonished by the great command of voices that Shakespeare demonstrates in this play.Hotspur, Falstaff, Glendower, Hal and Mistress Quickly all use language in very distinctive ways, and even the casual conversation of the servants in the stable yard is vivid and characteristic.I am also impressed with the expert and seamless blending of poetry with prose, history with comedy, rhetoric with wit.

By the time he wrote Henry IV, Shakespeare could not only do it all, but he knew exactly how—and when—to mix it up.This is the work of a master.
Like this book? Read online this: Shakespeare Survey 38 - Shakespeare And History, Vol. 38, King Henry IV, Part 1 (Wars of the Roses, #2).

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