In King Henry Iv, How Has Shakespeare Portrayed the Similarities and Differences in the Characters of Prince Harry and Hotspur?

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Hal and Hotspur are the two most compared characters in Shakespeare’s King Henry IV: Part 1 because of the many similarities and differences that are portrayed by Shakespeare. The audience is presented with many aspects about each character very early on in the play, and it is then that they create expectations which can either be confirmed or contradicted as the play goes on. Shakespeare usually portrays a character through the use of literary and dramatic techniques throughout his work, either subtle or obvious. In this particular text, he has used a range of textual techniques to portray the characteristic of arrogance shared by both, portray Hotspur’s great honour, as well as Hal’s notable dishonour, and the ways that the two contrast.

A similarity that Shakespeare has portrayed between the characters of Hal and Hotspur is that they are both arrogant, and he has done this through the use of dialogue. Hal has been portrayed as being arrogant by Shakespeare in Hal’s soliloquy at the end of act 1 scene 2. He says he will ‘imitate the sun./ who doth permit the base contagious clouds to smother up his beauty from the world,’ and say when he reveals himself he ‘may be more wondered at.’ At the end he adds ‘redeeming time when men think least I will.’ The metaphor that Hal uses in his dialogue to view himself as a sun, whose beauty is masked by clouds, and when he chooses to reveal himself, the world will look at him in awe. The fact that he says he will choose when to reveal himself (‘when men least think I will.’) shows to us that he believes that he is in control of the situation that he is in, and also that he will shine like the sun. He compares himself to the sun, suggesting how highly he thinks of himself, which reinforces his belief in his own ability to turn things around. It is for that reason, through the use of a metaphor in Hal’s dialogue, that Shakespeare has portrayed Hal as being arrogant. Hotspur has also been portrayed as arrogant through the clever use of dialogue. After his argument with King Henry, Hotspur says he ‘will lift the down-trod Mortimer/ As high in the air as this unthankful King,/ As this ingrate and cankered Bullingbrook.’ Hotspur’s words express much resentment for the way that King Henry has been treating him. He calls him ingrate (ungrateful) and then says that he will ‘lift’ Mortimer to the throne and over thrown the King (whom he refers to as Bullingbrook). This shows his arrogance because he believes that he can overthrow the King of England, no small feat indeed. This suggests strongly to us that he thinks of himself high enough or worthy enough to do so, and as a result, Shakespeare has portrayed Hotspur as being arrogant to us through the use of his heated words.

Shakespeare has portrayed Hotspur through the use of techniques like foreshadowing, contrast, setting and language. Hotspur has been portrayed by Shakespeare as the representation of honour and chivalry through the use of foreshadowing made by other characters. In the very first scene, the King envies Northumberland and describes Hotspur as ‘the theme of honour’s tongue.’ Shakespeare has used the king to foreshadow Hotspur’s character as being the very depiction of honour and what it stands for, which illustrates a vivid image of what kind of a character Hotspur is and also primes us to meet him. It is this way that Shakespeare, through foreshadowing, portrays Hotspur as honourable. Shakespeare not only does this to portray Hotspur, but also portrays Hotspur as being honourable through the company that he keeps and the hight court setting that he is associated with. In Act 1 scene 3, we see Hotspur in the court of King Henry IV and surrounded by other nobles of England. This high up setting, where being surrounded by nobles, makes Hotspur out to honourable because he plays his part in society. Shakespeare’s choice of characters that surround Hotspur also represents his importance in society and the fact that he has...
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