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Henvy IV and Honorable Rebellion - Book Report/Review Example

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In Henry IV, Part One Shakespeare tackles the subject of honorable rebellion, primarily through the duality of the two characters of Prince Hal and Hotspur. Hal is the offspring of King Henry IV, who attained the throne of England through a rebellion against King Richard II…
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Henvy IV and Honorable Rebellion
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Download file to see previous pages Although generally considered a more attractive character, the consensus nevertheless remains that Hotspur and the counter-rebellion is less honorable because their conception of honor is one that eschews compromise, ideals and loyalty.
The issue of Hotspur's unwillingness to compromise is brought to bear early in the play in the scene in which he struggles over turning his prisoners over King Henry. Hotspur invokes the law of arms which suggests that he is completely in the right in countering the demand since he is required only to hand over prisoners of noble blood such as Mordake. Except that he was fighting at the time in the name of the King and simple chivalric issues involving the royal right of the liege commands Hotspur to either turn over all his prisoners or effectively announce he is in open rebellion. Hotspur, of course, is not the only stubborn partner in the rebellion, unwilling to bend to compromise. Before the battle at Shrewsbury, King Henry extends an offer to pardon the rebels in exchange for merely laying down their arms. Worcester makes the unilateral decision not to relay the "liberal and kind offer of the King" (5.2.2). Curiously enough, this is one compromise that Hotspur announces he would have accepted. Worcester is not through, however; following the defeat of the rebels, King Henry challenges Worcester on the battlefield on the issue of the offer, and is forced to kill Worcester when he receives no response. While the King is presented as a man willing to make the truly grand gesture of accepting the surrender of the rebels with honor, the rebels come off as uniformly uncompromising or ready to yield. It is as though they feel they have been forced into a position whereby their openly aggressive response must necessarily be retained at all times, even in the surmounting face of ignominious defeat. Hotspur himself, though proud and undeniably attractive when he rides his steed and announces "That roan shall be my throne" is nonetheless almost voracious in his unwillingness to accept victory or defeat on anything but his own terms (II, iii, l.70).
Hotspur also manages to be charismatic even when he is being petty and on the defensive, whereas Prince Hal in particular maintains a steady confidence even during his darkest times. To return to the central episode contained Hotspur's speech on returning his prisoners, his long, often comedic monologue exists primarily to detail his utter exasperation with the conduct of the foppish courier sent by King Henry. It is his uniquely metaphorical description of a pompous court butterfly and the way he contrasts the man's effeminate qualities with a lack for bloodlust by using such terms as "neat and trimly dress'd, / Fresh as a bride-groom", "perfumed like a milliner," "With many holiday and lady terms," "a popinjay," "talk so like a waiting gentlewoman" (1.3.32-54) that sticks in the mind, rather than the content of the envoy's message and Hotspur's response. The apparently unintended irony of Hotspur's admittedly poetic speech is that he is hardly less fastidious than that which he is condemning. His rhetorical dressing down of the foppish envoy that caused him such consternation while on the bloody fields of fire for some reason sticks like a burr in his consciousness. Compare Hotspur's really quite maddening pettiness with the cool heads that Henry IV keeps while he is on the verge of losing crown and that Hal keeps while retaining his eyes on the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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