Henry Iv Essay

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In Henry IV Part II William Shakespeare uses diction, syntax, and imagery to convey King Henry’s state of mind.

The King starts his soliloquy questioning why he cannot sleep when the peasants can. He continues by addressing sleep though apostrophe. King Henry questions as to “...how have I frighted thee” (3). Shakespeare uses diction to emphasize how desperate the King is to sleep, and how respectful he is to sleep. Henry politely calls sleep “gentle” (2) and “Nature’s soft nurse” (3). Even though the King desperately wants to sleep, he does not condemn it for not coming, but rather respectfully calls sleep gentle. Sleep is a healer in Henry’s eyes and he accordingly calls it a nurse. Henry needs a healer, and since sleep is a gentle nurse, it must be Henry’s mind that keeps him from sleeping. As the soliloquy goes on, and Henry grows more annoyed, his diction turns more accusatory. Near the end sleep becomes “partial” (23); Henry claims that sleep is actively avoiding him. Henry’s diction convey’s that the King is desperate to sleep and becomes more irritable as the soliloquy continues.

The syntax of the soliloquy convey’s the kings mounting agitation towards sleep. While the soliloquy starts with the king respectfully addressing sleep, as the soliloquy continues the syntax mimics the speech of an insomniac. Lines 15-22 are one, long sentence that builds the King’s agitation towards his lack of sleep. The continuous statement shows the King’s change from respect to irritation towards sleep. At the end of the soliloquy the King answers as to why he can not sleep: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” (28). Through this final synecdoche the king invokes sympathy from the audience and conveys his state of complete desperation

The soliloquy’s imagery also mirrors King Henry’s increasing distress. In the beginning, he talks longingly of sleep, and asks sleep to “steep” his senses. Steeping creates the image of comfort and warmth, which shows the King’s...
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