who in your opinion is the true hero of Henry the fourth part 1

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Who in your opinion is the true hero of the play? Explore the ways in which it is fair to say Hal is the true hero of the play.

In Henry IV debatably the main character of the play is Hal, the son of Henry IV. Hal is disliked by his father but earns back his right to the crown through the events of the play. Hotspur could also be viewed as the plays true hero; he is the leader of the rebellion and the enemy of the king. However my view is that Hal is the true hero of the play because he ultimately wins over Hotspur and corrects his flaws.

Traditionally a hero is defined as mighty, filled with positive attributes, but also flawed, examples of this derive from Greek mythology, men such as Achilles, who’s flaw was his heel. And Hercules who’s flaw was the love for his girlfriend. Both Hal and Hotspur are worthy of the label of the traditional hero. However because Hal recognises his flaws and conquers them, ‘so when this loose behaviour I throw off’, (Act 1 Scene 3, line196) he sporns a new, modern breed of heroic character. Hotspur is better suited to the traditional hero. This is why I believe that Hal is the true hero of the play, the audience also link success with heroism and this boosts Hal’s popularity.

To begin with Hal suffers from an abundant amount of criticism from his father, ‘see riot and dishonor stain the brow of my young Harry’, (Act 1 Scene 1, line 84) consequently the audience views him negatively. These criticisms are confirmed to be correct when in Act 1 Scene 2 Hal displays all of his negative qualities, asking ‘Where shall we take a purse tomorrow, Jack?’(Act 1 Scene 2 line 95). However because Shakespeare cleverly synthesises comedy into this scene, he disguises and plays down the extent of Hal’s crimes. The audience’s mind is more greatly influenced by the comedic aspects of Hal’s character. And consequently creates a positive bond with Hal.

Hal then uses a soliloquy to convince the audience that he will change. The soliloquy shows that Hal, unlike the traditional hero, recognises his flaws saying that, ‘my reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault’ (Act 1 Scene 2 line 201). However after this speech we are still not completely convinced that Hal will change. Because he is a criminal, his promises seem invalid, however the audience feels an element of trust because Shakespeare portrays Hal as the exciting loveable rogue. Shakespeare uses the soliloquy as an opportunity to allow the audience an insight into Hal’s redemption plan. Hal claims that he is only elevating the severity of his crimes in order to make his comeback seem even more dramatic, ‘By how much better than my word I am’, (Act 1 Scene 2 line 198). Shakespeare’s plan is to contrast the characters of Hal and Hotspur, and then to exchange their attributes. Hotspur quickly reverts to childish behaviour whereas by comparison Hal becomes mighty and noble. Having won the favor of the audience he is positioned perfectly to rise into the plays hero.

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From the beginning of the play the audience perceive Hal as a villain, in Act 1 Scene 1, the king rains abuse upon Hal’s name. He wishes that Hal was not his son pleading that ‘it could be proved that some night-tripping fairy had exchanged in cradle-clothes our children where they lay’, (Act 1 Scene 1 line 85). This abuse fills the audiences expectations with bias opinions. When Hal appears he is displayed as exactly what his father claims. However the soliloquy shows Hal’s true thoughts, this shows the audience Hal’s real personality covered by the mischievous rogue exterior. ...

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