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HENRY IV. PART I.
Date and place of Henry IV in Shakespeare's work. Richard II, Henry IV, V, VI, Richard III, constitute a Lancastrian tragedy. Unity of motive in these plays. But no unity of chronological composition, nor in quality of treatment.
Henry IV marks a new epoch in Skakespeare's chronicle plays. In John and Richard, he follows the chronicles closely, and introduces little or no material of his own.
Henry IV is a chronicle-comedy. Shakespeare invents as much as he borrows. The character and doings of Falstaff and his companions are independent of history, but they illustrate it and add variety to the play. The date of Henry IV, 1596-98, shows Shakespeare's powers in comedy at their height. The deposition and murder of Richard II demands retributive justice upon the house of Lancaster.
The beginnings of its working are seen in Henry IV through— (a) The king. His remorse for Richard's death. The
insecurity of his position. His crafty intrigues met by conspiracy on the part of those who had assisted him to the throne. The plot of the Percies and its overthrow constitute the motive of Act i.
King Henry and his son.
The king's fears from the
(b) Harry Hotspur and the Percies. Motives and aims of the conspirators. Character of Hotspur.
(c) Prince Henry. His character as exhibited in Part I. Was he wearing a mask? Reasons which actuated his conduct. The Prince and Falstaff.
Falstaff. Shakespeare's intentions in drawing the character of Falstaff. Falstaff and Sir John Oldcastle. The charm of Falstaff. Was he an irreclaimable drunkard and debauchee? His companions.
HENRY IV. PART II.
Part II develops further the leading motive of Part I, and the leading characters. Fresh elements of humour are introduced in Justice Shallow and Justice Silence, serving to throw into stronger relief the character of Falstaff, who is the true hero of Part II as far as dramatic prominence is concerned.
The King is shown oppressed by fresh machinations against his throne, against which he is successful, as in Part I, but overborne by suspicion and gloom, proportionate to his political successes. The Nemesis of Richard is upon him throughout. Prince Henry serves to accentuate his suspicion and gloom, though with less cause than in Part I.
General character of King Henry.
The treatment of Prince Henry in Part II is a preparation for Henry V. He is shown withdrawing himself from his former companions, and with a deepening sense of responsibility. Reconciliation and understanding between the Prince and his father. The episode used by Shakespeare to show the true character of both, and the historical necessity of the House of Lancaster.
Prince Henry's treatment of Falstaff. Is it to be justified? The true Prince Henry of history as compared with Shakespeare's Prince.
Further developments in the character of Falstaff. Creation of the character of ancient Pistol. Origin of his bombastic style.
General estimate of the two Parts, and their bearings on the Lancastrian tragedy.
'Let the end try the man.'-Henry IV, Part II, Act ii. Scene 2.
Trilogy of the Houses of Lancaster. Their struggle, their glory, their fall. Henry V marks the zenith, and must be read both as to character and purpose in conjunction with Henry IV and Henry VI.
The play is Elizabethan in its patriotism. Henry is Shakespeare's hero and the pattern of romantic chivalry. It was thus suggestive of England's position under Elizabeth, the triumphs over Spain, and the deeds of the great Elizabethans.
Place of Henry V among Shakespeare's Works. Considerations which suggest 1599 as its date. It is thus of the same period as Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It. Range and qualities of the characters treated or created by Shakespeare at this period. Distinguishing characteristics of Henry V.
The subject unfitted for the romantic drama. The unities of time and space entirely ignored, and Agincourt is shown by an appeal to the imagination. The Prologues to the Acts are very significant, for they are apologies for shortcomings in observance of the unities, and are explanatory of the movement. Cf. the Messenger and Chorus in the classical drama. The play is an alternation of seriousness and levity. The original purpose was to still further portray Sir John Falstaff; this purpose was modified by the production of Merry Wives of Windsor. Thus in Henry V we only have Falstaff's death. The fat knight is not included in the dramatis personae. But Bardolph, Pistol, Nym, Fluellen, serve to fill the relief scenes.
Character of King Henry. Comparison and contrast between Henry as Prince and King (see Henry IV, Parts I, II). How far is Shakespeare's Henry true to history? Sources of the play and an estimate of its historical accuracy generally.
Act I. The Declaration of War with France.
Its motive. Internal troubles connected with the insecure position of the Lancastrians on the throne.
Henry IV's dying counsels to his son to engage in a crusade.
Insecurity of the Church. The clergy hope to avert Henry's designs by engaging him in foreign enterprises. Genealogical claims of Henry to the throne of France. Insulting message of the Dauphin.
Discovery and punishment of Scroop's conspiracy. Henry sails to France. Embassy to the French King.
Act III. Harfleur. First introduction of Katharine of France. The day before Agincourt.
Act IV. Doubts and fears.
The battle of Agincourt.
French and English positions.
Henry V again in France.
Act V. Interval (of five years).
The wooing of Katharine. Negotiations. Peace.
Date of the play and its place in Shakespeare's work. Difficulties regarding the text. Quarto and Folio Editions. Reasons for placing it among the earliest of the chronicle plays (1594). Its dramatic unity is accidental rather than result of design. Its relation to the Tragedy of the House of Lancaster. Eventual triumph of a scion of that House, when retributive justice has been done, illustrates again the historical necessity of that House, and its expiation of the past.
Richard is one of a class of characters, which at the time were attracting Shakespeare, whose appearances were contradictory to their realities, e.g. Bassanio, Prince Henry, Henry IV, and perhaps Falstaff.
Character of Richard III. Renaissance qualities which he exhibits, e.g. his culture, ferocity, and adaptation of means to ends. Contrast and comparison between Richard III and Macbeth. Though the motive is the same, the treatment shows, in Richard, Shakespeare with his powers in character-drawing still immature; in Macbeth, with those powers at their height. Compare Rirhard with other Shakespearian villains, as Edmund (Lear), Iago (Othello).
The use of the supernatural in this play, compared with Macbeth, Hamlet, and Julius Cæsar.
The play regarded as a training ground for Shakespeare, e.g. in character-drawing (as Richard), in imaginative power (Clarence's dream), in arrangement, in powers of expression, we have the promise of the highest; but regarded by itself, it is immature, and its interest is sustained by the subject rather than by the intrinsic merits of its dramatic structure.
Notes on some of the minor characters, but Richard III is essentially a one-character piece.