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How does Shakespeare create an atmosphere of unrest and lawlessness in Act I of Henry IV Part II?

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Jacqui Talbot L6I September 20th 2003 'What trust is in these times?' How does Shakespeare create an atmosphere of unrest and lawlessness in Act I of Henry IV Part II? England is in a state of unrest and unease. These feelings are being felt in all levels of society. King Henry's weak position on the throne becomes more pronounced in part II than previously in part I. As King Henry is a usurper his royal position is not rightfully his, which makes him uncertain of his safety due to the circumstances. An induction is a prologue, or an explanation of what the play will be about. Rumour is a symbolic or allegorical figure of the kind often appearing in plays until after Shakespeare's death. Rumour firstly gives a general account of what he does, 'Open your ears; for which of you will stop The vent of hearing when loud rumour speaks?' Rumour creates a sense of uncertainty, disorder and treachery. Rumour is catching the audiences attention by making them listen to the lies he's spread. ...read more.


King Henry has been wounded, his allies captured or killed, and the king's own son, Prince Hal, killed by Northumberland's son Hotspur. This meaning the rebels are victorious. However, another messenger arrives, Lord Bardolph's servant, Travers. Travers says he has even more recent news, the rebellion has been lost and been lost badly. Lord Bardolph does not believe him, but Travers is soon followed by a third messenger, Morton. Morton has very bad news indeed, the rebellion has been lost, and Northumberland's son, Hotspur, has been killed by the king's son Prince Hal. Not the other way around as rumour suggested. Consequently resulting in Northumberland being heartbroken and upon learning this he vows to take a terrible revenge. Northumberland's reaction is a wild spasm of grief. He uses powerful language that seems to call down a curse upon his son's killers, 'Now bind my brows with iron! Let heaven kiss earth! Now let not Nature's hand Keep the wild flood confin'd! Let order die!' His friends, however, calm him down by reminding him that raging against the world will do no good and that he and his allies have known all along the risk of their actions. ...read more.


He uses polite language (with veiled insults) to a superiors face, but behind their back he speaks as he feels. The Lord Chief Justice asks Falstaff to carry a message to Westmorland, but after the Justice has left, Falstaff speaks his mind 'If I do, fillip me with a three-man beetle.' Always an opportunist, and ready to exploit others for his own advantage, he makes use of anything that will serve his interests. When he thinks that his gout will make him limp, he decides to pretend the limp is a war wound, saying 'A good wit will make use of anything. I will turn diseases to commodity.' Throughout the play, England is threatened with collapse into the chaos of disorder. King Henry, having defeated Hotspur's rebellion faces renewed rebellion lead by the Archbishop. In the very first scene, the rebel Northumberland declares the theme of unease and anxiety. Shakespeare deepens the theme in the comic subplot. He pits Falstaff, who threatens to bring about anarchy , against the Lord Chief Justice, who stands for law and order. Shakespeare sets the stage for the rest of the play by making the atmosphere of the first act tense and filled with uncertainty. ...read more.

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