Henry IV Part 1

Henry IV and Honorable Rebellion

In Henry IV, Part One, Shakespeare tackles the subject of honorable rebellion, primarily through the duality of the two characters of Prince Hal and Hotspur. Hal is the offspring of King Henry IV, who attained the throne of England through a rebellion against King Richard II. Hotspur played a minor role in the rebellion, but has now stepped to the forefront to consider a counter-rebellion in light of what he views as the King's inability to deliver on the promises that gained him the support he needed to usurp the crown. Although generally considered a more attractive character, the consensus remains that Hotspur and the counter-rebellion are less honorable because this conception of honor eschews compromise, ideals, and loyalty.

The issue of Hotspur's unwillingness to compromise is brought to bear early in the play in the scene in which he struggles with turning his prisoners over to King Henry. Hotspur invokes the law of arms, which suggests that he is completely in the right in countering the demand since he is required only to hand over prisoners of noble blood such as Mordake. Except that he was fighting at the time in the name of the King and simple chivalric issues involving the royal right of the liege commands...

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