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PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource

Henry 4, Part 1 Characters

King Henry IV is the Bullingbrook of Richard II. Never forgetting his own usurpation of the throne from Richard II, he cannot help but notice similarities between the state of affairs at the time and the one he finds himself in now. 

He intends to keep his authority intact, though by overdoing this he provokes Hotspur to rebellion. He is afraid of the existence of Edmund Mortimer, Richard’s chosen heir, and sees parallels between the former king’s behavior and that of his son Harry. The latter’s way of life leaves the King in despair, as the King still despises the memory of Richard’s effeminate and populist ways. He wishes that his son were more warlike than he has appeared to be to date. Though he is himself an excellent politician (or a vile one, if you ask Hotspur), whose actions are calculated for effect, he fails to see that the Prince is doing much the same. The King smiles a great deal without necessarily meaning it. He is nevertheless a merciful King, executing far fewer people than might be expected. He still hopes to go on a crusade to Jerusalem to expiate his part in the murder of Richard II, but is prevented by the rebellion. He puts no great store in Harry’s promises to change, but grudgingly gives him a chance to prove himself. The King feels old and weary, though he is able to mount a spirited defense of his rights against the rebels. He is no longer as good a fighter as he was, almost being defeated by Douglas before Harry comes to his aid. The rest of his life is chronicled in Henry IV, Part Two.

 

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