Skip over navigation

Henry IV Part 2

William Shakespeare

Questions for Study

Act V, Scene v & Epilogue

Bibliography

How do the kings in this play--Henry IV and Henry V--view the kingship?

In this play, the crown is often personified as if it were a dangerous enemy. Remember how King Henry IV connects his physical illness to the burden of his responsibility, blaming his insomnia on his crown in III.i, with his famous line: "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" (III.i.31). Later, Prince Hal talks to the crown in similar terms as it lies on the pillow of his dying father, and he says that he thinks of it as "an enemy / That had before my face murder'd my father" (IV.v.166-7). King Henry IV associates kingship with almost total power, which is why he is afraid that Hal will lead the country to ruin and why Hal vows to use it responsibly (IV.v). Finally, being a king seems to consume a person's entire identity, as when Hal talks about having given up the person he used to be: "I have turn'd away my former self" (V.v.58).

Name some of the father-son relationships in the play. Discuss how those relationships change as the play progresses.

The most obvious father-son relationship in the play is between Prince Hal and his father, King Henry IV. While Henry IV wants to be proud of his son, he is also ashamed of his vulgar behavior and worried about his future: " [H]e, the noble image of my youth, / Is overspread with [weeds]" (IV.iv.55-56). Hal, for his own part, has rejected his father for years, making Falstaff his mentor instead. Falstaff seems to think of Hal as both friend and son, calling him "my sweet boy," and "my heart" (V.v.41-46). But Hal, of course, rejects him in the end, saying, "I know thee not, old man . . . / How ill white hairs becomes a fool and jester!" (V.v.47-8). In the meantime, Hal first reconciles with his dying father and then, after his death, adopts the Lord Chief Justice as a new father figure, telling him "You shall be as a father to my youth" (V.ii.118). Symbolically, the swap of father figures shows that Hal has replaced the influence of anarchy and irresponsibility with that of law and order.

How are "high" themes contrasted with "low"? What effect does this have on the play?

The Henry IV plays alternate between scenes featuring noblemen, war, and castles, and scenes featuring ordinary people in the city or the country. Henry IV, Part 2 sticks very closely to this model, usually following a scene of noblemen with one set in the Boar's Head Tavern, a London street, or the country home of Justice Shallow. This structure serves to add variety, texture, and humor to the play. It also shows the "high" themes of the primary plot reflected among the "low" people: for instance, the approaching death of Henry IV is reflected in Justice Shallow's thoughts about mortality in III.ii.

What is the role of women in the play?

The women in this play have very little real power, but they do have an important influence on the male characters. Among the nobility, only Lady Percy, Hotspur's widow, has any influence; she convinces Northumberland not to aid the rebels. The lower-class women play a much larger role (in admittedly much smaller issues). Both the air-headed Mistress Quickly and the quick-witted Doll Tearsheet feature prominently, especially in scene II.iv. However, their final appearance--being dragged off by the law officers and hoping that Falstaff will come to help them (V.iv)--shows that, despite their influence, they are ultimately at the mercy of the play's male characters.

How are prose and poetry used in the play to indicate differences in social class?

As in Henry IV, Part 1, the noblemen and royalty almost always speak in poetry (iambic pentameter) when they are alone. Falstaff, the country Justices, and their friends speak in prose. The noblemen often, though not always, speak in prose when they are around Falstaff. After Hal becomes King Henry V, he no longer speaks in prose. This indicates a difference between "high" and "low" social classes, although it is one that can change depending on the context.

More Help

Previous Next
Betrayal or Duty?

by ReadingShakespearefor450th, March 25, 2013

Reading all of Shakespeare by April 2014. Just finished Henry IV, Part Two. I blog on the plays I finish. My take on H IV, Part 2 is at:

http://ow.ly/jpnm8

Follow Us