Honest Hotspur Essay

William Shakespeare, in King Henry IV part one, portrays the gallant Hotspur as the sole individual whom is able to remain ‘honest’. Honesty is a measure of an individual’s ability to remain irrevocably truthful, though blunt at times, independent of the circumstances thrust upon them. Shakespeare superimposes Hotspur onto this definition of ‘honesty’ through the depiction of Hotspur as the anti-machiavel, in other words, one who is inept at disguising their personal opinions.

Hotspur has been regarded as the epitome of traditionalist honour, which is based upon the level of an individual’s courage. Amanda Mabillard comments that ‘the temperamental Hotspur, renowned for his bravery but flawed in his excessive commitment to honour’. Thusly, Hotspur must act on the dictation of his overwhelming sense of honour since it is through these actions that he is able to accept himself .

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After King Henry threatens Hotspur, he ‘will not send them (his prisoners)’ even though he notices that ‘I make a hazard of my head’. Shakespeare, uses the euphemism ‘I make a hazard of my head’, suggests Hotspurs immense fighting spirit, which is a consequence of his code of honour. Hotspur is unable to retreat himself in the face of a challenge expressing the low priority he instates to the value of his life which opposes the typical portrayal of the machiavel who try to bend all to their favour.

In addition, the audience visualises Hotspurs passion for the continuation of his fearless behaviour. This contrasts to Hal who seeks the gift of honour through the facets of logic and strategy. In Hals soliloquy, he foreshadows his ‘reformation’ from a drunkard to a prince ‘shall show better, and attract more eyes’. I believe Hal is using the population of the tavern as a tool to increase the extravagance of his emergence to claim his destiny.

Shakespeare juxtaposes this to Hotspur who acclaims ‘it is more stirring to rouse a lion than to startle a hare’ expressing his infatuation to strive to accomplish greater deeds of honour. We can see that through Hal’s mischievous tone, Hal is not morally stunned by dishonourable methods to gain honour since he is able to accept himself as a machiavel. Hotspur on the other hand must gain honour through the true valiant nature of battle. Shakespeare reveals Hotspurs narrow minded though process caused by his honesty to himself.


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