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Henry IV: AAppearance vs.

Reality"
Shakespeare's play Henry IV begins with a king (King Henry) beginning a pilgrimage after killing King
Richard II. Henry believes that by gaining the throne of England he has done an honourable deed, yet
he admits that the fighting and bloodshed could continue, A. . . ill sheathed knife . . . @ (I.1.17). He,
also, admits that his own son, Prince Hal, is not honourable enough to occupy the throne, Asee riot
and dishonour stain the brow of my young Harry" (I.1.17).
Shakespeare continues the topos of honour and redemption into Act three, scene two, where he uses
elements such as anaphora, topos, imagery and rhetoric in a meeting between King Henry and Prince
Hal that is both crucial and climatic to the overall structure of the theme of honour.
At the beginning of Act III sc. ii, Shakespeare clears all other characters from the stage to allow King
Henry=s first meeting, face to face with Prince Hal, to be focused and intense. King Henry is the first to
speak and sets a sombre tone as he begins to unmask himself to his son A. . . some displeasing service
I have done @ (3.2.5). As well Shakespeare allows King Henry to bring Prince Hal=s mask to attention
by using anaphora:
Could such inordinate and low desires,
Such poor, such bare, such lewd, such
mean attempt, such barren pleasures,
rude society as there art matched withal . . . (3.2.12-15).

The word such is used to emphasise his [Henry] displeasure of Hal=s friends and the image they
portray around him causing Hal in the eyes of Henry to lose his princely image.
Shakespeare, then allows Prince Hal to defend himself to his father's interpretations of his (Hal)
character. Again, there is a contrast between what King Henry perceives and what is reality. The king
is obviously distressed over Hal=s choice of friends and how they affect this 'Princely image'. Hal on
the other hand asks for Apardon on my true submission @ (3.2.27), claiming that such people (friends)
tell stories that may not always be true Aaft the ear of greatness must hear @ (3.2.24).
It seems that King Henry still has some reservations about Prince Hal=s 'appearance' and how that
effects his (Hal=s) place on the throne; which may be some what ironic coming from a king that truly
bases popularity, Aopinion that did help me to the crown @ (3.2.42), on public opinion though a
rebellion is organising around him.
During the King=s speech to Hal, Shakespeare employs many elements of style to review and parallel
King Henry=s mask to Prince Hal=s appearance and foreshadow a possible outcome for Prince Hal, A. . .
prophetically do forethink thy fall @ (3.2.38). By using the imagery of a comment Shakespeare is trying
to impress on Prince Hal that in the eye of the public Alike a comet I [he] was wondered at " (3.2.47).
King Henry had to keep himself Afresh and new, my presence like a robe pontifical @ (3.2.55-56),
while in public. In contrast Shakespeare uses the image of a A cuckoo in June @ to show that Prince
Hal is Aheard, not regarded, seen, but with such eyes, as sick and blunted with community @ (3.2.76-
77).
As Prince Hal answers, Shakespeare reminds the reader that the intention of this meeting is
reconciliation of both King Henry and Prince Hal. In act one, King Henry states AI will from henceforth
rather be myself @ (1.3.5). To parallel the king=s remarks Shakespeare has Hal repeat the same idea
AI shall hereafter, my thrice gracious lord, be more myself (3.2.92-93).
Though there is a saying that Athe eyes are windows into a man=s soul@ Shakespeare uses the
rhetoric of A eyes @ and A sight @ to be negative in that it is what the eyes of other people see that
makes a person honourable. Some examples of this rhetoric used by Shakespeare are: Aafford no
extraordinary gaze . . . admiring eyes . . . eyelids down @ (3.2.78,80,81), indicating that through these
public eyes Prince Hal does not demand the respect needed to be as successful a king as King Henry
believes he himself is. Then, Shakespeare uses A sight @ in the same passage to give insight to the
'mask' Henry wears that must make him blind:
. . . save mine, which hath desired to see thee more,
which now doth that I would not have it do,
make blind itself with foolish tenderness. (3.2.89-91)

Again Shakespeare is using this act to play out the King=s idea of how his son Hal appear to be less
honourable than Hotspur, but, will put aside his honourable mask towards some of the misdoing by
his son for the sake of saving his (Hal=s) princely image.
Another aspect of Shakespeare's style is the long passages at the end of each scene that are, usually,
given to the main (or most important) figure on stage at the time. In this scene, however, much of
what King Henry is saying to Prince Hal is contained in a long passage. Although these passages by the
king are not at the end of the scene, but, contained within the scene it could be that Shakespeare
wants to show that the king is indeed an important character until Hal begins his own pilgrimage of
reconciliation. As well these long passages give King Henry a chance to repeat and parallel a large
amount of information to Prince Hal.
In his last long speech to Hal, King Henry repeats his disfavour in his son=s ability to be king stating that
Ahe (Hotspur) bath more worthy interest to the state than thou the shadow of succession@ (3.2.98-
99). Also King Henry uses this opportunity to explain what he thinks are the honourable qualities he
feels Hotspur has over Prince Hal:
Leads ancient lords and reverend bishops on
To bloody battles and to bruising arms.
What never-dying honour hath he got
Against renowned Douglas ( 3.2.104-107)!

Finally, Shakespeare allows Prince Hal to answer to all the allegations presented by King Henry. One
element of Shakespeare's style here is the long passage which denotes Prince Hal as an important
character gaining respect from the king. First Hal tells King Henry that AGod forgive them that so much
have swayed Your Majesty's good thought away from me @ (3.2.130-131). Hal then goes on to say
that he wants to announce his right to be king as the son of King Henry by proving his honour and
loyalty to the king though the only honourable thing left to Aredeem all this on Percy=s head@
(3.2.133).
This last passage summarises Prince Hal=s feelings that up until now he has been seen through a mask
unworthy of his father=s honour. Like the king before him Hal wishes to cast off this mask and earn
respect through the forth coming rebellion; much as did King Henry gain respect and honour by going
into battle with Richard II.
In conclusion, Shakespeare uses elements of style such as topos, and anaphora, as well as imagery and
rhetoric to parallel and contrast King Henry=s honour with Hal=s perceived lack of honour. This scene
in act three is a critical moment between a father and son set up by Shakespeare to enable both
character to Acast off@ their masks and show the reality of their true selves and asks the question of
whether honour is truly what we say it is.
Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. 1Henry IV. In The Norten Anthology of English Literature. Eds.
M.H. Abrams et all. 5th Ed.
New York: Norton, 1987. Pg. 505-574