Henry IV Part 1

A Kingdom of Rebels

In Henry IV, Shakespeare presents a troubled England with a king whose grip on the throne is tenuous at best. Those who had supported his rise to the throne when he overthrew Richard II are now turning against him. The king even doubts the loyalty of his own son and heir, Prince Hal. The royal figures in this kingdom can be divided into two camps: the revolutionaries and the court of King Henry. Still, the characters in each camp are marked by a streak of rebellion. Every character, be he a revolutionary, a supporter of the king, or even the king himself, is at heart a rebel. What differentiates the two groups of players is what they rebel against.

The revolutionaries, Worcester, his brother Northumberland, and nephew Hotspur, recognize that Lord Mortimer was proclaimed heir to the throne by Richard II. At the same time, this did not prevent them from throwing their support to Henry in his bid for the crown. Henry IV's reign, however, has been a disappointment for them. Worcester brings his complaints to the king by telling him, "Our house, my sovereign liege, little deserves the scourge of greatness to be used upon it - and that same greatness too which our own hands have holp to make portly" (I, iii, 10-13). For...

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