Henry IV, Part 1

by: William Shakespeare

Themes

Main ideas Themes

Although language is seldom discussed by the characters in 1 Henry IV, the sheer variety of spoken language in the play suggests that one of Shakespeare’s aims with this work was to portray something of the scope of the English language. In addition to high speech and low speech, there is poetry and prose, as well as the various accents of Britain’s various locales. The varied nature of the play’s language suits the multiplicity of its settings. Shakespeare shows that he can capture the speech of common thieves on a dark night, warriors on the way to battle, and courtiers in the royal palace. Shakespeare utilizes various rhetorical and formal strategies to distinguish his various types of speech without sacrificing his unifying style: generally, for instance, well-born characters tend to speak in verse, while commoners tend to speak in prose.