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About Author

William Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon,
England. From roughly 1594 onward he was an important member of the Lord
Chamberlains Men company of theatrical players. Written records give little
indication of the way in which Shakespeares professional life molded his artistry.
All that can be deduced is that over the course of 20 years, Shakespeare wrote
plays that capture the complete range of human emotion and conflict.
Mysterious Origins
Known throughout the world, the works of William Shakespeare have been
performed in countless hamlets, villages, cities and metropolises for more than
400 years. And yet, the personal history of William Shakespeare is somewhat a
mystery. There are two primary sources that provide historians with a basic

outline of his life. One source is his workthe plays, poems and sonnetsand the
other is official documentation such as church and court records. However, these
only provide brief sketches of specific events in his life and provide little on the
person who experienced those events.
Early Life
Though no birth records exist, church records indicate that a William Shakespeare
was baptized at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564.
From this, it is believed he was born on or near April 23, 1564, and this is the date
scholars acknowledge as William Shakespeare's birthday.
Located 103 miles west of London, during Shakespeare's time Stratford-upon-
Avon was a market town bisected with a country road and the River Avon.
William was the third child of John Shakespeare, a leather merchant, and Mary
Arden, a local landed heiress. William had two older sisters, Joan and Judith, and
three younger brothers, Gilbert, Richard and Edmund. Before William's birth, his
father became a successful merchant and held official positions as alderman and
bailiff, an office resembling a mayor. However, records indicate John's fortunes
declined sometime in the late 1570s.


Henry IV, Part I: General Introduction

Henry IV, Part I has been called Shakespeare's greatest history play. Its flawlessly
constructed characters and overt political message have been the subjects of
countless scholarly books. Two worlds collide in the play: the world of the
recently elected King Henry IV and his advisors, and the world of thieving revelers
who spend their days at the pub in Eastcheap. Bridging the gap between the two
is Hal, the King's son, who travels in the company of Falstaff and the other
commoners at the Boar's Head Tavern, but who really does so as part of his
unique and unorthodox plan to prepare for the throne. Although the title of the
play is Henry IV, he is but a minor character in the drama. King Henry's primary
role in the play is to illustrate the fate of one who takes a crown that is not
rightfully his by divine ordinance. King Henry is politically shrewd; in this respect
he is the antithesis of his predecessor, Richard II. King Henry has all the

characteristics of a great Machiavellian despot, and were this enough, he would
be the consummate ruler and have a peaceful reign. But, unfortunately, Henry IV
comes to the throne as a usurper and an illegitimate monarch. He does not have
the Divine Right of Kings and, moreover, he is responsible for the death of God's
anointed Richard. Because of these factors, Henry's ability to rule is diminished,
and instability plagues England.

Prince Hal is the true focus and hero of the drama. While the colorful Falstaff and
valiant Hotspur are entertaining in their own right, they exist to highlight Hal's
strengths. Falstaff, a cowardly man with little ambition, lives in the world that Hal
must experience if he is to understand his future subjects. After his first on-stage
meeting with Falstaff, Hal makes his view of the rotund petty criminal and his
cohorts very clear: "I know you all, and will awhile uphold/The unyok'd humour of
your idleness" (2.2). The cowardly Falstaff represents the level of society that is
full of fainthearted miscreants, and their collective lack of morals and honour
contribute to the decay of society.

Hotspur also serves as a catalyst for Hal's actions. The climax of Hal's preparation
for the throne comes when he embraces his fate as rival to Hotspur and fights him
on the battlefield. The temperamental Hotspur, renowned for his bravery but
flawed in his excessive commitment to honour, represents the level of society
packed with self-righteous hotheads who will throw the country into chaos in the
self-centered pursuit of their lofty ideals. The issue of honour is indeed of great
importance throughout 1 Henry IV, and through a study of the many facets of

honour presented in the play, our overall understanding of the drama will be

In King Henry IV, Part 1, Shakespeare presents three distinct concepts of honour
through the characters Hotspur, Falstaff, and Prince Hal. Although Hotspur's
obsession with honour and Falstaff's apparent lack of honour deserve
examination for their own sake, it becomes evident that their primary function in
the play is to show how Prince Hal balances the two extremes and creates his own
complex concept of honour which enables him to become the perfect example of
a valiant man.

The first glimpse into Hotspur's concept of honour comes in the form of praise
from the king himself, declaring Hotspur to be "the theme of honour's tongue"
(1.1.83). Indeed, Hotspur is committed to honour. The pursuit of this grand ideal
consumes all his energy and shapes his every thought. But throughout the course
of the play we see that this obligation to honour is detrimental and obsessive. The
king's words remain true, but the irony of those words becomes increasingly
apparent as we begin to see how irrational is Hotspur's concept of honour. The
moments Hotspur shares with his wife, Lady Percy, illustrate clearly his excessive
passion for honour. His preoccupation with his chivalric duties has made him
unable to think of or discuss anything other than
Henry Bolingbrokenow King Henry IVis having an unquiet reign. His personal
disquiet at the murder of his predecessor Richard II would be solved by a crusade
to the Holy Land, but broils on his borders with Scotland and Wales prevent that.

Moreover, he is increasingly at odds with the Percy family, who helped him to his
throne, and Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March, Richard II's chosen heir.
Adding to King Henry's troubles is the behaviour of his son and heir, the Prince of
Wales. Hal (the future Henry V) has forsaken the Royal Court to waste his time in
taverns with low companions. This makes him an object of scorn to the nobles
and calls into question his royal worthiness. Hal's chief friend and foil in living the
low life is Sir John Falstaff. Fat, old, drunk, and corrupt as he is, he has a charisma
and a zest for life that captivates the Prince.

The play features three groups of characters that interact slightly at first, and then
come together in the Battle of Shrewsbury, where the success of the rebellion will
be decided. First there is King Henry himself and his immediate council. He is the
engine of the play, but usually in the background. Next there is the group of
rebels, energetically embodied in Henry Percy ("Hotspur") and including his
father, the Earl of Northumberland and led by his uncle Thomas Percy, Earl of
Worcester. The Scottish Earl of Douglas, Edmund Mortimer and the Welshman
Owen Glendower also join. Finally, at the center of the play are the young Prince
Hal and his companions Falstaff, Poins, Bardolph, and Peto. Streetwise and
pound-foolish, these rogues manage to paint over this grim history in the colours
of comedy.

As the play opens, the king is angry with Hotspur for refusing him most of the
prisoners taken in a recent action against the Scots at Holmedon. Hotspur, for his
part, would have the king ransom Edmund Mortimer (his wife's brother) from

Owen Glendower, the Welshman who holds him. Henry refuses, berates
Mortimer's loyalty, and treats the Percys with threats and rudeness. Stung and
alarmed by Henry's dangerous and peremptory way with them, they proceed to
make common cause with the Welsh and Scots, intending to depose "this ingrate
and cankered Bolingbroke."
By Act II, rebellion is brewing.

Themes and interpretations

At its first publication in 1597 or 1598 the play was titled The History of Henrie the
Fourth and its title page advertised only the presence of Henry Percy and the
comic Sir John Falstaff; Prince Hal was not mentioned. Indeed, throughout most
of the play's performance history, Hal was staged as a secondary figure, and the
stars of the stage, beginning with James Quin and David Garrick often preferred
to play Hotspur. It was only in the twentieth century that readers and performers
began to see the central interest as the coming-of-age story of Hal, who is now
seen as the starring role.

In the "coming-of-age" interpretation, Hal's acquaintance with Falstaff and the
tavern lowlife humanises him and provides him with a more complete view of
Elizabethan era. At the outset, Prince Hal seems to pale in comparison with the
fiery Henry Percy, the young noble lord of the North (whom Shakespeare portrays
considerably younger than he was in history in order to provide a foil for Hal).
Many readers interpret the history as a tale of Prince Hal growing up, evolving
into King Henry V,
perhaps the most heroic of all of Shakespeare's characters,
in what is a tale of the prodigal son adapted to the politics of medieval England.


Other readers have, however, looked at Hal more critically; Hal can appear as a
budding Machiavel. In this reading, there is no "ideal king": the gradual rejection
of Falstaff is a rejection of Hal's humanity in favour of cold realpolitik.

Q. Compare & Contrast how Shakespeare Present the Changing Fortune of Hal &
Hotspur in King Henry IV Part-1

Shakespeare used sources for almost all of his plays. By studying these sources,
paying close attention to the similarities and differences between the source and
Shakespeare's version, we can gain a greater understanding of the play, and aid
our interpretation of it. Shakespeare made many changes, both subtle and
sweeping to the two opposing characters of Prince Hal, who would become King
Henry V and his rival Henry Percy, called Hotspur in his play "Henry IV". The
culmination of these alterations is in the climactic battle of Shrewsbury depicted
at the end of Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part 1". This clash of personalities is far

more than a battle for the crown, as the misunderstood Prince Hal also battles
Hotspur for redemption in the eyes of his father, King Henry IV.

The seeds of this conflict were sown in the preceeding play, "Richard II", when the
newly crowned King Henry IV complained of his "wanton and effeminate"
(Richard II, V.iii.10) son. This version of Prince Hal was very different from the
historical Hal presented in many of Shakespeare's sources, but Shakespeare
substantially changed both characters from their historical counterparts in order
to bring attention to their differences and encourage the comparing and
contrasting of these two youths.

Shakespeare had several possible sources for this play. His main source was most
likely Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, which was
a favorite of Shakespeare's, as well as the source for a great many of
Shakespeare's plays. Other possible secondary sources were The Union of Two
Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and York, by Edward Hall, The Chronicles
of England, John Stow, and The First Fowre Bookes of the Civile Wars Between the
Two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke, an epic poem by Samuel Daniel.

The largest change that Shakespeare makes in the young Hotspur is his age.
Historically, Hotspur was in fact two years older than King Henry IV, and twenty-
three years older than Hal, but Shakespeare makes him of comparable age to Hal.
This change was not necessarily invented by Shakespeare, as Daniel presented Hal
and Hotspur as being close to the same age. King Henry often lauds Hotspur, even
wishing that Hotspur could be his actual son, instead of Hal:

that it could be proved That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged In cradle-
clothes our children where they lay, And call'd mine Percy, his Plantagenet! Then
would I have his Harry, and he mine.

Historically, Hotspur seems to have been everything the fictional King thought
him to be, a brave fighter and competent leader. Other than his age, the only
major change which Shakespeare makes to Hotspur is his rashness and temper.
Hotspur is impatient with Glendower's "skimble-skamble stuff" (3.1.156), and
seems to be uninterested in details, such as when he forgets the map in Act III.i,
or his reluctance to read letters during Act IV.i. Nowhere in the source material is

it suggested that Hotspur was so impetuous as he is in "Henry IV", although his
nickname, Hotspur, may have suggested this impulsive nature.

Contrast with Prince Hal
Hotspur became a such a impetuous sort who always wore his heart on his sleeve
to better contrast with Prince Hal, a very cold, calculating young man whose true
motives were always kept a secret from those around him. The stories of Hal's
irresponsible youth are not present in Holinshed, but they are not Shakespeare's
invention, either. Several histories, such as Stow's The Chronicles of England
recount specific stories of the prince's youthful indiscretions, which were also
possibly a part of the popular imagination about Prince Hal. These stories were
most likely legendary, as the real Hal spent most of his youth at war. Starting
around age 13, the historical Prince Hal had been actively fighting the Welsh
insurrections, led by Owen Glendower and others, with King Henry, and the
historical Hal probably had little time for youthful pranks with a knavish group of
tavern-dwellers such as those described by Shakespeare.

The results of Shakespeare's changes to Prince Hal are many. Firstly, Prince Hal's
Eastcheap chums provided some great comic relief for the play. Invented
characters from these portions of the play have become some of the most
beloved in all of Literature, most notably the irrepressible Falstaff. A second result
is the added conflict for the King's affections. If Hal was the resolute general and
loyal son that he historically was, the King's worries about Hal's lifestyle and
admiration for Hotspur would have felt a lot less likely. A third result, of far more
interest in this essay, is the increased contrast between Hal and Hotspur. The
historical Hal and Hotspur were very similar characters, both were nobles who
had led armies in border wars from a very early age and had proved themselves
very loyal and able soldiers.

Battle of Shrewsbury
In Shakespeare, this contrast comes to a resolution during the battle of
Shrewsbury. Shakespeare retained the historical roots of the conflict and many of

the details, although he did simplify them for dramatic reasons. In Shakespeare's
version of the battle, King Henry is cornered by Douglas when he is rescued by the
wounded Prince Hal. This action allows Hal to defeat Hotspur on one front: That
of the King's opinion: "Thou hast redeem'd thy lost opinion" (V.iv.49). All that
remains is for Hal and Hotspur to face each other on the field of battle.

Hal and Hotspur finally meet face to face in shortly after Hal rescues his father.
When they do meet, Hal makes reference to their similarities, and acknowledges
that the two can not both exist:

Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere; Nor can one England brook a
double reign, Of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales.

misreading of an ambiguously
In the source, and most likely in reality, Hal did not actually kill Hotspur. It has
been suggested that this event came about as a misreading of an ambiguously

worded passage in Holinshed's Chronicles. This seems rather unlikely, as the other
sources are quite explicit at this point and because Shakespeare has already
greatly altered historical facts for this play, many of them specifically leading up
to this confrontation. The roguish Falstaff eventually takes credit for killing
Hotspur, which may be a sly reference to this very ambiguity, or an attempt to
bring these events in line with actual history by suggesting that history doesn't
always record what really happened.

The greater purpose of this play and it's sequel is to show the grooming and
maturation process of Prince Hal, as he becomes the great King Henry V. The final
message of the Hal/Hotspur rivalry seems to be that the heroic ideal represented
by Hotspur is ultimately flawed, and that a truly great king requires something far
more subtle.

A Comparison of Hal and Hotspur


King Henry IV, the richly dramatic history play by William Shakespeare, is not only
teeming with affluent language, but also character comparison. Oddly enough,
the play does not revolve around the assumed King Henry IV, but rather around
Henry V (Hal). Prince Hal is both reckless and free-spirited, his actions often
procuring scorn from his father, Henry IV. Hotspur, son of Henry Percy the Earl of
Northumberland, differs quite greatly from Hal in both attitude and character.
The comparisons of Hal and Hotspur become prevailing theme throughout King
Henry IV. Similar in only age, the contrast of these two men becomes the
structural foundation for body of the play.
As the play begins, the audience is immediately introduced to the King's son
through his comparison to Hotspur. Word of Hotspur's success on the battlefield
does quickly reach the ear of King Henry. Henry proceeds to inform the audience
of his sin "In envy that my Lord Northumberland/ Should be father to so blest a


son"(1.1.74-75). Henry feels as such because his son Hal has "dishonor stain the
brow" while Hotspur is "the theme of honors tongue"(1.1.80-87). Henry's
constant praise of Hotspur's honor later influences Hal and his perception of
honor. Thus, through Henry's description of Hal and Hotspur the audience
becomes first acquainted with the notion of honor, and its apparent value to each

When investigating into Hal's character the audience instantly perceives an air
of lightheartedness. Shakespeare presents the audience with a clear picture of
Hal in his introductory scene. Here Hal is seen drinking with his chums; discussing
a robbery. As their discussion continues it becomes apparent that Hal fears the
repercussions of being caught, and does not actually wish to follow through with
the robbery. Against his judgement Falstaff, Poins, Bardolph, Peto and himself
burglarize the transport. An important insight into Hal's character is thus gained
because after this thievery Hal returns the booty. Although he is willing to engage
in the act of stealing, he is unwilling to remain in wrongful possession of another's
property. The hypocritical nature of his actions simply reveals his internal
struggles between what is immature and what is adult. During Hal's preliminary
scene the audience is already able to determine that Hal is growing out of
adolescence and into the shoes which will eventually become the king's. In his
closing soliloquy Hal foreshadows his eventual maturation when he says,
"[offensive actions] So when this loose behavior I throw off,/ And pay the debt I
never promised,/ By how much better than my word I am?

Unlike Hal, Hotspur spends his time dreaming of battles and glory. The focus
of Hotpur's life revolves around conflict and the bravery, grandeur, and honor
associated with being the victor. Critics often cite "his greed for honour is for
monopoly; he aims only at war; he is as much a liability as an asset to his allies."
(Dorius 21). In contrast with Hal and his reasoning of consequence in the robbery
scene, Hotspur often acts on impulse. Two characteristics become apparent as
the audience listens to Hotspur speak. Firstly, Hotspur appears surrounded by a
conceited air, and secondly he is extremely long winded. His superfluous use of
language is a weak attempt at disguising his feeble mind. False notions of honor
lead him to a continual pursuit of glory, glory that he only achieves at the expense
of his balancing features. Hotspur is known for his audacity on the front line but
not for his courtship, love of the arts, or mercy. As for living up to the code of
chivalry, Hotspur fails. In comparison with Hal, Hotspur is severely off balance, a
flaw that ultimately results in his downfall.

Shakespeare chooses to develop the audience's relationship with Hal much
differently than with Hotspur. One may find this decision especially interesting
after investigating the character traits of Hal and Hotspur. Although it is quite
apparent that Hal's virtues need reform (he was involved with the robbery of a
transport), the audience remains sympathetic with him (he later returns the
stolen merchandise). The audience connects with Hal through his warmth,
humor, and eventually bravery combined with humility. However, Shakespeare
imparts to the audience a much different impression of Hotspur. Unlike Hal,
Hotspur's character is hard, stiff, and full of conceit. Even though Hotspur
demonstrates bravery, boldness, and honor the audience does not identify with
him in a supportive manner. If this appears quite obvious to the audience, it
should. The hostility towards Hotspur contrasted with the support shown to Hal
serves as a template on which the play climaxes.

Even as the play moves towards its conclusion the comparisons are made
between Hal and Hotspur. Again King Henry critiques his son's unsatisfactory
behavior requesting he "Make me believe that thou art only mark'd"(3.2.9). Hal is

then quick to voice his yearning to please his father by saying, "So please your
majesty, I would I could/ Quit all offences with as clear excuse"(3.2.18-19).
Henry's contrast of Hal's childish behavior to Hotspur's apparent bravery and
honor procures a realization in Hal. This being the turning point for Hal, he
realizes he must prove to his father that he is honorable by fighting Hotspur.
Surprised and impressed by what his son declares, the king retires ending the
When comparing Hotspur and Hal one may choose to view their characters
through the eyes of chivalry. Hal is caught in the mean between his friend
Falstaff, and his enemy Hotspur. Both corrupt the code of chivalry at two
different extremes, "Falstaff in a comically pathetic manner, and Hotspur in a
tragic pursuit of misguided ambition."(Pereira). Unlike either Hotspur or Falstaff,
Hal emerges from the situation remaining neutral, and by doing so proving
himself gracious, forgiving, honorable, and just. Hal manages to balance a mix of
extreme virtue by following a mean. Aristotle outlines a similar philosophy, which
he calls the method to virtuosity. Aristotle suggested that the most virtuous
course of action lay somewhere in-between two extremes. By recognizing these
extremes and choosing to walk the line between them, Hal not only separates
himself from Hotspur in intelligence, but also character.(Pereira)

During the final scenes Hal and Hotspur's differences are stressed yet again.
Both men are eager to meet one another in battle, but unlike Hotspur Hal is not
searching for glory. Here the audience sees Hotspur's angst so high testosterone
seems to pour from his ears, while Hal is off fighting to save lives. As the battle is
drawn to a conclusion, Hal slays Hotspur. However, he shows no hatred towards

his enemy and completes his epitaph for him. If the roles were by chance
reversed, and Hotspur had arisen victor the audience would expect he would
gloat and soak in the glory. One would expect Hal, being aware of this, would do
the same thing. He does not. He does not even speak against Falstaff when he
claims he killed Hotspur. Hal's modesty is in direct contradiction to Hotspur's

Hal and Hotspur are two characters very different from one another. Their
similarities split from age and sex, never to converge again. Although their
differences appear slightly more pronounced during the beginning of the play,
they remain present throughout. Shakespeare masterfully crafted a history play
intertwined with drama, action, and suspense revolving around two men and
their differences in character.


In King Henry IV, Part 1, Shakespeare presents three distinct concepts of honour
through the characters Hotspur, Falstaff, and Prince Hal. Although Hotspur's
obsession with honour and Falstaff's apparent lack of honour deserve
examination for their own sake, it becomes evident that their primary function in
the play is to show how Prince Hal balances the two extremes and creates his own
complex concept of honour which enables him to become the perfect example of
a valiant man.



About Author
Mysterious Origins
Early Life
Henry IV, Part I: General Introduction
Themes and interpretations
Q. Compare & Contrast how Shakespeare Present the Changing Fortune of
Hal & Hotspur in King Henry IV Part-1
Contrast with Prince Hal
Battle of Shrewsbury
misreading of an ambiguously
A Comparison of Hal and Hotspur