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Henry IV, Part 1

William Shakespeare


King Henry IV

The title character of 1 Henry IV appears in Richard II as the ambitious, energetic, and capable Bolingbroke, who seizes the throne from the inept Richard II after likely arranging his murder. Though Henry is not yet truly an old man in 1 Henry IV, his worries about his crumbling kingdom, guilt over his uprising against Richard II, and the vagaries of his son’s behavior have diluted his earlier energy and strength. Henry remains stern, aloof, and resolute, but he is no longer the force of nature he appears to be in Richard II. Henry’s trouble stems from his own uneasy conscience and his uncertainty about the legitimacy of his rule. After all, he himself is a murderer who has illegally usurped the throne from Richard II. Therefore, it is difficult to blame Hotspur and the Percys for wanting to usurp his throne for themselves. Furthermore, it is unclear how Henry’s kingship is any more legitimate than that of Richard II. Henry thus lacks the moral legitimacy that every effective ruler needs.

With these concerns lurking at the back of his reign, Henry is unable to rule as the magnificent leader his son Harry will become. Throughout the play he retains his tight, tenuous hold on the throne, and he never loses his majesty. But with an ethical sense clouded by his own sense of compromised honor, it is clear that Henry can never be a great king or anything more than a caretaker to the throne that awaits Henry V.

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Falstaff--not the King or Prince--Rules This One!

by ReadingShakespearefor450th, March 11, 2013

I think it should have been called Sir Jack, First Part, as Falstaff towers over everybody else in King Henry IV, Part 1. See my blog on the play:


1 out of 2 people found this helpful

Falstaff is your standard issue jester

by pafnuty, September 28, 2013

Most Shakespeare plays have a jester, who is able to perceive certain things better than the "noble" person. There are other elements that make Falstaff more interesting, such as the juxtaposition of "fortune," class, or perhaps simply initiative.


1 out of 4 people found this helpful

magic is not a motif

by Bad_Horse, December 16, 2014

No "strong current of magic runs throughout the play". It's in one or two scenes in part 1.


1 out of 1 people found this helpful

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