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Henry 4, Part 1 Characters

Hotspur (Sir Henry Percy) is a nobleman from the North, Northumberland’s son, and the most dashing man of the age. 

He is an extraordinary fighter, and the ultimate’s man’s man, with no time for music, poetry, mysticism, home life, or anything much other than battle. Hot-tempered and excitable, he despises loafers and non-fighters, and is brought to anger when confronted by an effeminate dandy just after a battle. He despises King Henry IV for what he considers the King’s lack of proper thankfulness for the Percies’ help in setting him on the throne, and when he finds himself treated disrespectfully in public council, Hotspur aims at rebellion. He has no greater love in his life than danger and honor, and actively seeks it out; his temper often carries him too far, but he is almost impossible to restrain. He refuses to wait for reinforcements before engaging the King in battle because the honor of victory will be greater with fewer numbers. He is rather simple-minded, particularly compare with the other two Henries of the play, the politician Henry IV and the dissimulating Henry Prince of Wales. He takes the latter’s slumming as an excuse to disregard him, and never considers him a proper threat until they are busy fighting each other to the death. He is not a good guest: he is unable to restrain his opinions, easily bored, and rather rude. He also shows little regard for his wife, though their bantering may be their way of showing each other their love. He is the age’s ideal of a good nobleman, to the extent that the King rather wishes that Hotspur were his son rather than the apparently dissolute Harry. He is given to using his rallying call ‘Espérance’ (Hope) as a swear word.


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