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Sunrise, Sunset From Henry Iv Part 1 Essay, Research Paper
In Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV part 1, there is a contrast established between a bloody rebellion and drunken frivolity, which establishes the question of the play; honor in death or cowardice in life. Their are several contrasting characters and events which help to establish this question; the foils are Prince Hal to Hotspur, Falstaff to King Henry, and the robbing of crowns, money or monarchy. Shakespeare’s addition of the Falstaff scenes to the story of the rebellion is an effective way to create laughter and life in the play and to establish the contrast between honor and enjoyment of life. The contrast between these groups of men is like the contrast between night and day. In Act 1, Scene 2, Falstaff argues for the men of night, “let not us that are squires of the night’s body be called thieves of the day’s beauty; let us be Diana’s foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon and let men say we be men of good government as the sea is, by our noble and chaste mistress the moon, under whose countenance we steal.” (ln. 19-24) Falstaff is arguing that the men of night should be judged by the rules and standards of the night and not by those of the day. This plea shows the central issue of the play, honor in death or frivolous cowardice in life.
Though Henry and Hotspur are bitter enemies and Falstaff and Hal are comical ones, both pairings of men have a father-son relationship. Until the final act of the play, Hal is estranged from his father, because of his reputation as a thief and a drunkard. Without Henry as an active father, Hal’s role model of sorts is Falstaff. Like any son, Hal follows Falstaff’s example, robbing and drinking, but would deny any association between his acts and Falstaff’s. When he was younger he would rob with Falstaff, follow Falstaff’s example, but when he reached an age of rebellion, he stole from Falstaff. This situation is like the situation between King Henry and Hotspur. In Hotspur’s youth, he helped steal the crown from Richard, for Henry, but when he reached an age of rebellion, he tried to steal the crown from Henry.
The thievery of Gadshill and the battle for the crown are two contrasting battles which show the similarity between the day men, Henry and Hotspur, and the night men, Falstaff and Hal. Hal is motivated by a desire for money, a desire to rebel against Falstaff, and a desire for fun. Though before Gadshill, he has robbed with Falstaff, at Gadshill he steals from Falstaff. He is not motivated to steal from Falstaff because Falstaff is wrong and he wishes to punish him. Hal is not stealing for what is right. Hal steals for the hell of it. This battle for money is like the battle for the crown. Hotspur is motivated to take the crown from King Henry, not because the King is wrong, but because of his own motivations. Hotspur is motivated by a desire for the crown, a desire to rebel against the King, and a desire for honor. Hotspur is not rebelling for what’s right. Hotspur’s motivations are not concrete enough to be worthy of the loss of life they will cause. He does not want to relinquish his prisoners, because of an issue of pride established on the battlefield. He does not want to release the men who he fought. The king’s request for their release is not enough to start a rebellion. Also, if Hotspur’s rebellion is based on the release of Mortimer, then he should not have to fight, because by the time of the battle, Mortimer is free. Hotspur’s rebellion could not be based on a desire to return the crown to its rightful line, because he took the crown from this line. Hotspur’s rebellion is based on his own ideas of honor. There are other similarities between the two battles. When Poins hides Falstaff’s horse, he takes away his ability to steal effectively. At the rebellion battle, Douglas knocks the kings crown from him, taking away his ability to rule effectively, because a King needs a crown to rule as a thief needs a horse to steal. Also, at Gadshill, Poins and Hal disguise themselves, in order to achieve their goal, to steal the money. At the rebellion battle, the king disguises many lords as Kings to accomplish his goal, keep the crown. These two battles show what’s really important to these men, frivolity and honor. If frivolity is the goal of night and honor the goal of day, then they both accomplish what they set out for, but neither is fighting or stealing for what is right.
The setup of the play is contrasting scenes, rebellion and thievery, are not directly linked until the end of the play. Though Hal and Hotspur are very closely linked, they are only mentioned once each until the final battle. Shakespeare uses both of their scenes as to show similar ideas, rebellion of youth from their elder’s in attempt for honor or fun, but he does not link the two directly. He creates an ingenious device by not saying what he’s saying. At the beginning of the play, their seems to be no connection between the two story lines. As the play proceeds, the connection is made, but by the audience, not by the characters saying it. The similarities are rampant, but not apparent immediately. For example, the King begins the play by speaking of time, “Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,”(Act 1. Scene 1. ln. 2); his foil, Falstaff, begins scene two by asking “what time of day is it, lad?”(Act 1. Scene 2. ln.1) Both men then establish the situations for their stories. The king establishes the rebellion is about and Hal establishes that Falstaff is a thief. Though there seems to be no connection between thievery and rebellion, as the play moves on, it becomes apparent that their is a very real connection between the two. By having the audience figure out the connection for themselves, Shakespeare makes the connection much stronger in their minds then if he told them himself. The audience then is forced to compare the two and come up with their own ideas about honor of death versus enjoyment of life, so when the ending comes they will be interested to see what solution Shakespeare comes up with.
The main foils in Henry IV part 1 are Hotspur and Hal. Hotspur is the representative of the day and Hal the representative of the night. The intention of the day is to be honorable and the intention of the night is to enjoy life. If both these characters are looked at with a relative eye, then they are the same. Separately they are the same, but together they are diametric opposites. If they were compared during the day, Hal would be a fool, but if they were compared at night, Hotspur would be the fool. In Act 2, Scene 4, Hal mocks Hotspur; “I am not of Percy’s Mind, the Hotspur of the north, he that kills me some six or seven dozen Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife ‘Fie upon this quiet life! I want work.’”(ln. 84-87) Meanwhile, Hotspur despises Hal as a drunkard and a fool; “And that same sword-and-buckler Prince of Wales, but that I think that his father loves him not….I would have him poisoned with a pot of ale.”(Act 1. Scene 3. ln. 230-233) The sword-and buckle and ale are both representative of the lower class, which a prince should not be, according to Hotspur. The irony that Shakespeare creates by having Hotspur and Hal think each other fools shows that they are both fools. By picking day over night and night over day, neither can be a full man. They must fight at the end, because they represent the two contrasting ideas of the play, honor of life and love of life.
Shakespeare transforms Hal at the end of the play, to show the best example of a man. The Hal of the first acts would not be a hero in the end as he is in the end, but instead would not even show up for the war. By having Hal take responsibility for himself in the end, Shakespeare shows what he thinks of the issue of honor and fun. Hal does not become Hotspur, if he did then honor would be right. Hal does not fight the good fight and forget his past. He becomes a combination of day and night. If he forgot about the night, then Shakespeare would be saying that honor was greater. If he ran away and did not fight, then Shakespeare would be saying that enjoyment of life was greater. When Hal sees Falstaff and thinks him dead, he weeps for his friend. Hotspur would probably kill Falstaff himself. Later, when Falstaff pretends that he killed Hotspur, Hal goes along with it, because he does not have the same desire for honor as Hotspur. The setup of the play shows this combination. In the first acts, Hal and Hotspur’s story-lines were separate, but in the end they combine. This models the transformation that creates the Hal of the last acts. The new Hal that shows himself in the end is Shakespeare’s answer to his own question. By having Hal win the fight and act as he does with Falstaff, Shakespeare is saying that life is to be fought for, but it is also to be enjoyed. If life is not enjoyed, then their is nothing to fight for. If life is not fought for, then it is not worth being enjoyed. Shakespeare is saying that a sunrise or sunset is much better then the sun or the moon.
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