The Multifaceted Nature of Humanity in the Play "Henry IV"

Shakespeare's mastery over prose and the foundational archetypes of narrative enabled him to construct sophisticated character arcs, which exhibit universal themes and values that constitute the essence of human nature. This universality of the human condition presented by Shakespeare manifests universal appeal throughout the timeless society. Shakespear’s historical play, King Henry IV Part One, critically explores the multifaceted nature of humanity's desire for honor, the complex duplicity of an individual's appearances in which truth and deceptiveness become indistinguishable and how the power of language can enable or inhibit an individual. The characters are constructed as a catalyst for Shakespeare to skillfully promulgate his thematic ideologies of humanity. 

Throughout King Henry IV Part One, Shakespeare communicates the multiplicitous desires for honour, with humanity's inclination to understand what constitutes honorable behavior, ultimately being of timeless thematic concept. The shifting nature of honor was engendered from the change in the political paradigm from Post Renaissance and Feudalism, with Classical Antiquity transitioning to Christain ideologies. Shakespeare characterised Hal to be a martyr, embodying the Christian values, where he would die not for himself, but for the sacrifice of others. Hal embodied these Christan values, however, while still understanding the classical antiquity sense of honor. This is evidently distinguished within his synecdoche of blood ‘To save the blood on either side’, substantiating his true intentions for an honorable sacrifice rather than a myriad of deaths. Conversely, Shakespeare employs the philosophical framework of Classical Antiquity, acting as a foil to Hal, where Hotspur’s desire to obtain and retain honor is of the most importance, superseding his relationships and mentality. Shakespeare creates an allusion between Hotspur and Achilles, both of which share the belief honon is attained through violence and revenge. 

Additionally, Hotspur’s character is further developed through his anger and blood thirstiness, as his dialogue encompasses anacoluthon, with the metaphor ‘And if the devil come and roar for them, I will not send them’, reflecting his mentality of retaining honour to be his top priority and would rather eternal punishment than infringe on his temporal behavior. Moreover, Shakespeare characterises Falstaff to be an antithesis, as he views honor to be a worthless trait, reflecting Michael De Montaigne’s skepticism; the problematic nature of absolute or universal human ideologies. Falstaff's hyperphoras within the dialogue, ‘Can honor set to a leg? No. Or an arm? No Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honor has no skill in surgery then? No.’, further elucidates his attitude towards honor, with honor being as valueless as the word itself and no utilitarian worth. Thus, Shakespresas complex characters represent multiplexial perspectives on the nature of honor, manifesting the timeless exploration of humanity. 

Shakespeare represents the duality of oneself and the ability to construct appearances, in which manipulation and exploitation becomes a quality of the human experience within King Henry IV Part One. Characterization has allowed Shakespeare to reflect upon the Macheviallian principles of constructing outward appearances which contradicts what someone is not, fundamentally being a thematic device of universal appeal. Shakespeare creates Hal to be a foil to himself, justoposing his friendly outwards appearances, to a more deceptive and calculated political reality, becoming more manipulative throughout the play, until ultimately revealing his true self. Hal’s dichotomy is reflected within the celestial metaphor of his first soliloquy, ‘I imate the sun, who doth permit the base contagious clouds/ To smother up his beauty form the word’, highlighting his ability to swiftly move between verse and prose, emphasising his skills to deceive his friends, in which he reveals his true intentions of political gain. In addition, the dialogue ‘I can drink with any tinker in his own language during his life,’ further exemplifies the ability to shift personas, with the symbolism of ‘tinker’ representing a different social class compared to where Hal was raised with a royal background. Shakespeare successfully constructs Falstaff to be an individual believing one's true self will subjugate any alternate persona created, as the individual's morals are established eventually suppressing the constructed appearance, shown in the dialogue ‘Never call a true piece of gold a counterfeit. Thou art essentially made without seeming so.’ As the juxtaposition between the words ‘true’ and ‘counterfeit’ heightens the corrosive nature of the duplicity of an individual's actions. 

Finally, King Henry explores the duplicitous nature of power and appearances throughout the celestial imagery ‘Like a comet I was wondered at’, emphasising to Hal how the power of one's appearances can be a vessels to gain advantages as a king, with the simile comparing a celestial being to appearances made by a leader, ultimately elevating them, being god-like. Conclusively, Shakespeare's ideology of contradicting once appearance with reality examines human nature, being witnessed throughout time allowing for it to become timeless at its core. King Henry IV Part One, showcases an endearing quality, crafted through Shakespears effectively portrayal of the complexity of the english language, in which the dialects link the character to social power and wealth. Shakespeare’s characterisation of Hal demonstrates his remarkable command of language, being the only who has the capability of such eloquence and sophistication. His command of language is shown through the iambic pentameter of his soliloquy, exiting the swiftly switch between verse and prose, ultimately determining how people perceive him. Shakespres utilizes the language of oneself to exploit them and emphasize how language is a representation of one's power, reflecting the Renaissance Humanists understanding of language as being the key to knowledge and civil contribution. This is further exemplified through the simile within the dialogue ‘This fellow should have fewer words than a parrot’, as Hal speaks of Francis' lack of language skills, referring to him as an animal, developing how language is used to exploit others effortlessly. Furthermore, Shakespeare explores the powerful command of the english language through the dialogue spoken by Mortimer, ‘This is the deadly spite that angers me/ My wife can speak no english, I no welsh’, showcasing how deep human connection does not depend on understanding the other, however, can be achieved, ultimately implying ones intent can transcend meaning. Moreover, the construction of Hotspur is a direct foil towards Hal, as he has the inability to control his speech due to his hotheaded nature. This is signified throughout his speeches, being composed of anacoluthon, indicating he is not as self aware compared to Hal and is unable to control his emotions, with the language being used of erratic nature and rudimentary, fundamentally impacting upon those around him. In addition Shakespeare continues to express how language can change the how an individual is perceived through the character, Falstaff, with his dialogue incorporating metaphoric language and alliteration, ‘Let us be Diana’s foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minion of the moon’, ultimately mocking his knightly status using clever word play. 

Overall, Shakespeare’s depiction of characters to represent the thematic comparison of language and power, resulted in the examination of a perpetual principal noticeable throughout time. Shakespeare's comprehensive exploration of human nature and their values throughout King Henry IV Part One, effectively creates a timeless quality, appealing universally, with Shakespeare's development of characters acting as a vessel for these themes to be exhibited. Honour is explored through a multiplex of perspectives, with what constitutes honorable behavior a focal point of the play, the multiplicity nature of one's appearance opposing reality creating deception and manipulation and the power the english language has upon the social status and power of an individual.

16 December 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now