Henry IV, Part I: Essay Topics
1) Some argue that honor is the central theme of the play. Do you agree, and, if so, why?
2) Discuss the development of the comedic subplot and how it relates to the overall play.
3) Analyze the complex character of Prince Hal. What are his intentions? What are his motives? To discuss fully this topic you can and should make reference to Hal as we find him in Henry IV, Part II, and in Henry V.
4) Discuss the leadership abilities of Hotspur.
5) Hotspur laments: "...it were an easy leap/To pluck bright honor from the pale-faced moon/Or dive into the bottom of the deep/Where fathom-line could never touch the ground/And pluck up drowned honour by the locks". Analyze Hotspur's grandiose notion of honor and compare that to Prince Hal's own concept of honor.
6) Many critics of the play argue that, in the final analysis, Shakespeare has failed to make Prince Hal a convincing character. We are to conclude that Hal has every virtue that makes both a great ruler and a great man -- honesty, bravery, loyalty, generosity, intelligence, compassion, etc -- in addition to accepting that he has no flaws with which to counter those virtues; flaws that would make him a realistic character. Do you agree that Hal is "too good to be true"? Is it really true that Shakespeare makes Hal flawless? Make reference to Hal's relationships with his father and Falstaff in your answer.
7) Discuss the character King Henry IV. How does he relate to his son. Does he handle his political affairs effectively?
8) Outline the history of and the literary patterns in the traditional morality play and discuss why Henry IV, Part I itself could be considered a morality play.
9) Falstaff is considered to be one of the greatest characters in English literature. Do you agree, and, if so, what makes him such a powerful creation?
Daily Life in Shakespeare's London
Life in Stratford (structures and guilds)
Life in Stratford (trades, laws, furniture, hygiene)
Stratford School Days: What Did Shakespeare Read?
Games in Shakespeare's England [A-L]
Games in Shakespeare's England [M-Z]
An Elizabethan Christmas
Clothing in Elizabethan England
Queen Elizabeth: Shakespeare's Patron
King James I of England: Shakespeare's Patron
The Earl of Southampton: Shakespeare's Patron
Going to a Play in Elizabethan London
Ben Jonson and the Decline of the Drama
Publishing in Elizabethan England
Religion in Shakespeare's England
Alchemy and Astrology in Shakespeare's Day
Entertainment in Elizabethan England
London's First Public Playhouse
Shakespeare Hits the Big Time
Research Your Topic
1 Henry IV Study Guide
1 Henry IV Overview (with theme analysis)
1 Henry IV Study Questions with Sample Answers
Introduction to Prince Hal
Introduction to Falstaff
Introduction to Hotspur
Introduction to Owen Glendower
1 Henry IV Play History
Shakespeare's History Plays: The Ultimate Quiz
1 Henry IV Plot Summary
1 Henry IV: Q & A
Sources for 1 Henry IV
Famous Quotations from 1 Henry IV
Shakespeare's Falstaff and the Queen
Characteristics of Elizabethan Drama
Shakespeare's Reputation in Elizabethan England
Shakespeare's Impact on Other Writers
Why Study Shakespeare?
Quotations About William Shakespeare
Why Shakespeare is so Important