Re: King Henry 4 part 1 parting shots
Hi Taylor, great roundup.
I read this as a coming-of-age story as well. I can relate more to that aspect of the story than any other. Though Hal recognizes that he must some day start behaving as a King, he persists in rebelling against notions of order and nobility. And to some extent the play reflects on order and chaos and, especially, the role of the English monarchy through history. To that extent Falstaff represents a rebellious, spirited persona that must ultimately be reigned in so that we can live in peace and have that sense of order. But that order comes at a price. Is there a place for someone like Falstaff in Hal's coming reign? The play opens with Falstaff questioning Hal on this very subject, and Hal dodging the question. Shakespeare explores this theme throughout.
The question remains though, how Hal can state with such confidence in Act I that he will surprise the world when he does "break through the foul and ugly mists" and begin acting like a noble prince. This leads to some interpretations that Hal's time with the lowlifes is actually part of his master plan in becoming king. He wants to surprise the people in a kind of staged performance to ultimately win their hearts in order to solidify his kingship. (Remember, the Bolingbroke claim to the thone is a bit sketchy). His father, Henry IV, is criticized, especially by Hotspur, for his political (Machiavellian) ways. David Kastan, in the Arden Shakespeare, suggests that Hal understands and accepts this political reality even better than his father, and that Shakespeare is showing his audience that such political machinations are a kind of necessary evil. This is a lesson we can still appreciate today. We understand that our politicians must do whatever necessary to win the votes, even if they have to distort or exxaggerate the facts to do so.
Much of the fun of reading Shakespeare is seeing the different ways the story can be interpreted. Although it's easy sometimes to read too much into the story as well.
But ultimately, you're right, we can still relate to these plays because many of these themes are still relevant.
I recently ordered the BBC production of THE HOLLOW CROWN—four episodes that follow the Henriad—Richard II, Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. This looks really quite good. I'm thinking of reading Richard II before I watch this though. I may end up reading the entire tetraology.http://www.amazon.com/The-Hollow-Crown- ... B00DQN6IOK