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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: " 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?


More Resources

 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
 Shakespeare's Audience
 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
 Shakespeare's Language