Elizabethan-era English meets my analysis head-on.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Just Can't Wait To Be King
My assigned play is Henry IV, part 1. I had to admit, when I saw it on the assignment list, my first reaction was "What? I've never read that play in my life!" I'm going to assume that I was assigned a history play because I'm a history major (Just a guess), although truth be told, I was hoping for Henry V if I was going to get a history-come on, the St. Crispin's Day speech is awesome, and Agincourt was a legendary battle both in Shakespeare and in real life-but I think I like this play too. It'll be very interesting to learn the facts behind the events narrated in Henry IV, part 1.
I've been looking around that font of all knowledge, the Internet, for information on my topic, and I think I want to examine the characters of Hotspur (Henry Percy) and Hal (the future Henry V), the main antagonist and protagonist respectively. This interests me as a historian because these were the two historical characters who were fictionalized the most in the play. Hotspur, in real life, was an older noble, a contemporary of Henry IV who led the rebellion, rather than a hothead youth who is pressured into fighting Henry by his noble relatives. Hal, the Prince of Wales, is a semi-serious youth who runs around with a group of lowlife friends, most notably a fat old man named Falstaff. He apparently has other motives for doing this, though, as he wants to "imitate the sun, who doth permit the base contagious clouds to smother up his beauty from the world, That, when he please again to be himself, Being wanted, he may be more wonder'd at" (1.1.300-05). In other words, he's using his friends to look bad so he can look better as king. Shakespeare deliberately altered the identities of these two historical characters when he didn't have to. I want to know why that is.
Falstaff and Hal-Friends don't let friends use them to become King of England.
Here are some links to look up summaries and background on Henry IV, part 1 in case you're interested. (I won't be upset if you aren't).