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William Shakespeare (1564-1616) Henry IV, Part One, (1596)'Hotspur's weaknesses of character outweigh his virtues.' Discuss.

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Rowen Salt 14th February 2002 William Shakespeare (1564-1616) Henry IV, Part One, (1596) 'Hotspur's weaknesses of character outweigh his virtues.' Discuss. When Shakespeare wrote this historical drama, not all of it was true to history. Shakespeare was concerned with dramatic effect, so he therefore made Hotspur the same age as Hal, which wasn't true historically but the public could then compare and contrast both Harry's qualities throughout the play and act as each other's foil. In reality, Hotspur was thirty- nine and Hal was fifteen. Hotspur wasn't actually killed by Hal at Shrewsbury and his body was actually crushed between two millstones, then beheaded and quartered. Shakespeare invented details and even characters and leaves out much a historian would consider important. A quote that perhaps best suits Hotspur; "By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap, To pluck bright honour from the pale- faced moon, Or dive into the bottom of the deep, Where fathom- line could never touch the ground And pluck up drowned honour by the locks, So he that doth redeem her hence might wear Without corrival all her dignities." Hotspur believes honour is so difficult to get that it lies only at the bottom of the deepest seas and on the moon. ...read more.


Mars is the God of war, so this praise is exceptionally high. The king often wishes Prince Hal and Hotspur were swapped at birth; "A son who is the theme of honour's tongue..... Sweet Fortune's minion and her pride." "That this same child of honour and renown, This gallant Hotspur, this all- praised knight". He also says "He has more worthy interest to the state Than thou the shadow of succession." He knows Hotspur to be this great warrior and that would be a good son to have. To strive for honour as he does, never afraid. His own son is nothing like Hotspur and would be happy to sit in pubs all day, but I think that may be partly due to Falstaff. He is so renowned, that even his enemies praise him; "I do not think a braver gentleman, More active- valiant or more valiant young, More daring or more bold, is now alive To grace this latter age with nobles deeds." Hal says this about Hotspur, but Hotspur is not so gracious to Hal. His virtues may be few, but they are important to him and he is very worthy of them. ...read more.


Worcester's point is that although Hotspur can be brave and determined, sometimes it can lead to anger or rage which could worry people and make them 'lose faith' in him- if he cannot control himself, how can he begin to control others? Some might say Hotspur has bad judgement, but I believe he just does what he thinks is right, for example when he reveals the rebellion secret to a lord, hoping he will join, but he doesn't. However, he won't tell his wife anything about it because he believes she might 'gossip', but she is actually quite worried about him. He thinks women cannot keep secrets; "Constant you are, But yet a woman. And for secrecy, No lady closer." One could even call Hotspur sexist. Hotspur's passion about honour and impatience for battle make him careless, for example, he forgot a map and could not remember the name of an important castle; "A plague upon it! I forgot the map." Is Hotspur really a good man 'obsessed by war'? I believe his good qualities, although few are exceptional, although his bad ones seem to appear more frequently and unfortunately may be of more importance. ...read more.

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