"Honor" in Henry Iv, Part I – Falstaff vs. Hotspur

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"Honor" In Henry IV, Part I – Falstaff vs. Hotspur
According to F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Indeed, very few people have this quality, the playwright William Shakespeare being one of them. In many of his plays, "Henry IV, Part One" among them, Shakespeare juxtaposes different worldviews, ideologies, and even environments. His characters usually provide a clear example of a split among them in one of many perspectives. One of his characters in "Henry IV"—Falstaff—is first seen as an endearing, uproariously funny scoundrel and later reveals himself more of a lowlife with his view of honor—he seems to believe it when he says that honor is merely "air" and "a word." Henry Percy (a.k.a. Hotspur), another character in the same play, is a warmongering young noble who ends up wanting and leading an armed rebellion against the king (a.k.a. Henry). His view of honor—more regularly occurring in the world and more "correct" than Falstaff's by far—sets up the second major view of the idea of honor. With the two different ideologies, it is difficult to say what exactly Shakespeare wanted his audience to make of what "honor" really is, but perhaps he wanted his audience to see that the world is, in fact, a mixture of extremes. Thus, perhaps the correct view of honor is that it gains respect and gives those who have it a good name despite how they achieved it, only so long as the people of that age decide that to be what "honor" really is. A central concept surrounding Falstaff throughout the play is that of honor, even though he is never seen as honorable by the other characters and most of the audience. As we trace the use of "honor" Shakespeare uses the word to illuminate not only the character of Falstaff, but to shed light upon the concept of honor as it is interpreted by the prince (a.k.a. Hal) and others in the play....
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