Henry IV Part 1

Baptism Through Blood

In Part 1 of Henry IV, "blood" is the defining characteristic, separating the players into two distinct groups easily designated by their relationship to blood and providing the basis for the two lifestyles that Hal leads. The nobility's obsession with blood in all of its meanings coagulates them into the first of the two groups. This blood obsession is manifested in the minds of the leading court figures, most especially those of the King, Henry IV, and Hotspur, Henry Percy. Hal is, by virtue of his seemingly inappropriate and common companions, separated from this world of blood and is fully encapsulated by a world of folly and ineptitude. This group of common thieves and truants, although accompanied by a wayward prince, compromises the second group---a group to which the term "blood" is to be used in farce but never to be taken seriously. From the end of Hal's first scene the audience is aware of Hal's desire to affect a dramatic transformation and enter the world of the nobility without the stain of his former lower class associations. Hal notes the existence of key differences between the two classes from the outset, but the epiphany that blood was the main dividing factor allowed Hal to...

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