Thursday, March 15, 2012
Falstaff is the exact opposite of the type of character you would think a prince should be associating with. He is a fat, sloppy, drunk. He is a thief and a liar, who will do whatever he can to make an extra buck. Normally Shakespeare would encourage the crowd to hate a character like this, but you just can't help but love him. He is the embodiment of Dionysus. I just want to sit in a tavern buying him drinks and listen to his puns. It is clear why Hal would choose him to be one of his closest associates. He demonstrates to Hal a different type of life then he would ever have seen with other members of the court.
Falstaff also seems to play a father figure to Hal. He is his partner in crime while dwelling in the taverns, and even plays Hal while Hal pretends to be his father at the end of act. 2. Here Hal seems to act out a conversation he has had with his father a number of times. Hal lists a number of reasons why he should not be associated with Falstaff. He says, "Wherein is he good, but to taste sack and drink? Wherein neat and cleanly, but to carve a capon and eat it? Wherein cunning, but in craft? Wherein crafty, but in villainy? Wherein villainous, but in all things? Wherein worthy, but in nothing?" (act. 2 scene line 414). Hal taunts Falstaff by stating all his faults, but also seems to reveal his fathers true feelings about the people his son associates himself with. Falstaff defends himself from these accusations, flipping the accusations by associating them with different sorts of people and biblical events. This interaction demonstrates Falstaff's wit, but also what Hal has gained from spending time with people form the lower class. It demonstrates that Hal has a sense of humor, and how he relied upon his past to make him a better ruler. As we talked about in class, Shakespeare wanted to use this plan to show how Hal's redemption from a tavern dweller to a great king, but also how he used his experience from his past to be a better king.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
In Act 3 for Henry the Fourth, Hotspur reveals a different side of his character than what we can observe at first. Originally we know of him as someone ideal for the role of leadership, a man who has the outstanding ability to outmaneuver most in his military regime. However, when he is seen in closer contact with those whose loyalty and companionship he requires, he is unable to connect in a proper way. Even the coining of his name represents how Shakespeare is playing around with his audience, when Hotspur can mean only that he is someone who is “hot” tempered in the “spur of the moment”without any rational reasoning behind it.
When Hotspur argues with one of his allies, Glendower, he explains to Lord Mortimer his justification for quarreling with him because he would,”rather live / With cheese and garlic in a windmill, far, / Than feed on cates and have him talk to me” (865) only for the reason that Glendower did not think like him about changing the course of the river to his liking. He asserts that Glendower is a mystical person and therefore not worthy of his friendship. What Hotspur fails to realize is that Glendower is a valuable asset to his campaign as is any help in the position that Hotspur is in (as a rebel) and that in the long run his pride and his assumptions of Glendower are miniscule compared to the benefit he could get by putting up with Glendower. Hotspur lacks the ability to be diplomatic and therefore his worthiness to hold a role of kingship is questioned. One would think to be an ideal king in his society, you must have some sense of manipulation and diplomacy as well as the ability to suck up your pride when it comes to the well-being of his country and its people.
Hotspur’s immatureness in his dealings with Glendower are a striking difference from his keen sense of military conduct and the bravery he displays in the battlefield so much so that King Henry wishes that it was Hotspur that was his son and not Prince Harry. Nevertheless, Prince Harry surpasses Hotspur where he lacks in “kingly” characteristics.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2012
Primarily, we see a question of what makes a ruler legitimate. Certainly King Henry is not a legitimate ruler, he overthrew Richard II and took his place as King. Now, in the wake of this violent upset of the norm, we are introduced to new characters who are planning yet another overthrow. The thing is though, the norm has already been disrupted, things have already begun to change, and as a result, we see marked examples of increasing disregard of traditional conduct and behavior.
In a way, not unlike his father, Prince Harry has a knack for interacting with the common people. He likes to be out amongst them. He too may tip "his bonnet to an oyster-wench." But unlike his father, Harry has a penchant for frequenting taverns and engaging in other more unscrupulous acts unfitting of a future king. We see Prince Harry speak, in Act I Scene III, of making amends for his undignified behavior whenever he chooses.
"And like bright metal on a sullen ground, my reformation, glitt'ring o'er my fault. Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes than that which hath no foil to set it off. I'll so offend to make offense a skill, redeeming time when men think least I will."
Perhaps Harry is overly confident in his ability to win people over, in his ability to control a situation. Or perhaps he is on to something. Unlike his father, Harry truly does win the trust of both commoners and noblemen alike. He has the unique ability to understand the way people communicate with one another and adopt his mannerisms accordingly. He can speak passionately and emphatically before a King, while still being able to banter with a bartender in the local dialects. Harry is more of a man of the people than his father ever could have been. And while his father's "right" to the throne is questionable, and his place was certainly not got through ethical means, we can't help but question whether or not Harry might have a viable and rightful place on the throne simply because he can relate to the people with greater ease and understanding than any who have gone before him.
After reading this scene and especially noting these two character's behavior, it brings to mind the question we discussed in our last class about power, corruption, and what traits make a king. It seems that all of these leaders are extremely flawed in some way or another and they are all thirsty for more power which makes them extremely dangerous. Thinking about any of these men as King of England is a scary thought, all of them could rule as tyrants unchecked by anyone they rule.
What is especially notable is the contrast between Hotspur and Henry. Hotspur is an immature, quick tempered, and bold person who speaks his mind without fear of consequences. He is a brilliant military strategist because of this but is also a terrible diplomat who can easily get himself in hot water and cut important ties. Henry on the other hand is a cunning diplomat yet seems to be slightly corrupted by the amount of power he has. Henry and Hotspur are in a few ways contrasted with each other yet neither of them make particularly good kings.
Bringing back the question about what characteristics make a good king, it would seem that none of the people fighting for the crown would make "good" kings. I would argue that Prince Harry is the only character would be fit to rule. In the beginning of the play he is immature and would rather bum about and play pranks with his friends than take any real responsibility although he privately reveals his true intentions to act foolishly and lower people's expectations of him and then surprise them when he does an adequate job. In this act though we see Harry beginning to take a real interest in the events going on around him, realizing that only one side will be victorious. Additionally, he returns the money that he stole earlier in the play, partially motivated by fear of punishment, but still, it is a step in the right direction. Harry is a clever person, he might be slightly lazy but I think that is just a characteristic of his immaturity and that as time goes on Harry will be able to use his strategic and manipulative abilities in the favor of the crown.
There are several characters in this play that use appearance to cover up reality in order to fulfill their own needs and desires. This is seen in the opening of the play when Hotspur is forced to face the king concerning the prisoners that he was supposed to give to the king but did not. It is very difficult to determine what exactly happened that led to this decision, whether Hotspur actively chose to insult the king or not. Hotspur is one of the only witnesses to the actual decision and at the end of the day it is his word against the word of the other lord. This is seen in Hotspur's explanation. "when the fight was done,/ when I was dry with rage and extreme toil . . . came there a certain lord, neat and trimly dressed,/ Fresh as a a bridegroom, and his chin, new-reaped . . . amongst the rest demanded/ my prisoners in your majesty's behalf." (1.3.29-46). It is clear from Hotspur's explanation of his actions that he is being show in the best presentable light given the potentially treasonous actions he made in not giving over the prisoners of war. Because of the difficulty in determining the reality of what Hotspur's actual actions or intentions the only real credible source of information on the matter lies with Hotspur himself and as such he has the power to create the appearance of what happened and thus ensure he retains his power and suffer no lasting consequences, because this action.
Then there is the character of Prince Harry, there is no other character in this play that further shows that difference between appearance and reality and how this difference can be used in order to suit his own needs and get power for himself. This seen most often in the way that Harry acts like a drunk, thief, and basically an incompetent person. This is all done in order for people to underestimate him and thus be even more impressed when he turns out to be an incredible king. This is seen Harry's speech "So when this loose behaviour I throw off/ and pay the debt I never promised." (1.2.186-187). It is clear that Harry is not nearly as incompetent as he pretends that he is, merely using the appearance of incompetence in order to for people to underestimate him. This would eventually help to convince people that he is much more than what he appears to be thus ensuring that he is looked upon with much more respect and loyalty than he would normally have been. Finally there is the fact that Harry is aware of the power that appearances have in this world. This is seen in "Yet herein will I imitate the Sun." (1.3.175). Unlike others before him, Harry realizes in order to have power he need not actually be as powerful as the sun but appear to be like the sun. Through this appearance that he has power will eventually lead to him actually have power.
In the play Henry IV, the two characters of Hotspur and Prince Harry use appearances in order to manipulate power for their own needs. With Hotspur it is by manipulating the appearance of what happened in order to make himself look as good as possible in the current circumstances. With Prince Harry it is through the appearance of incompetency that he will become even more powerful with the revelation of his better qualities. Both of these characters follow the belief that the appearance of power will lead to the reality of power.
After all the arguing that we see between Hotspur and Glyndwr I could not see this plan happening, especially as easy as they make it seem. I feel as if they are counting their chickens before they hatch as an understatement. I was really questioning these men's sanity as I was reading. Hotspur and Glyndwr argue the whole time and not even Mortimer can control Hotspur's agitating mouth. Call me crazy but if they are arguing this much already about how to divide the land up among them, how is it they they think they will be able to run their lands in the same country differently? This just seems like a recipe for disaster and a lot more war and bloodshed. All that was running through my mind is the picture of the snake that is split into pieces that we learn about in US history in the seventh grade. "A house divided cannot stand" as Lincoln put it. If only Lincoln was around earlier on to warn these men of the mistake they are about to make.
I feel as if the arguing between Hotspur and Glydwr should be an omen to Mortimer and the rebels. They should be able to see that they will not be able to work together to get the job done, or if they do get it done that they would never be able to divide up and run the different parts of the same land without a large amount of arguing, or even an eventual war between them. It should be obvious that with the selfishness that is apparent between men that eventually someone will want more than they have received and another battle will begin. Also Hotspur begins to argue as soon as the land is divided up. Hotspur complains about the land he is to receive because there is a river in a part of it that he does not like. Hotspur argues that he will change the shape of the river when he attains his land. Sounds to me like Hotspur is a real pain that the other men should have thought to leave out of this major plan to overthrow the king. All Hotspur really does is continue to create problems, not to mention he seems extremely immature. At this point Hotspur reminds me of Prince Harry. Neither of these boys show much potential in running anything on their own, or even going through and executing a plan of action.
I just do not see how any plan between these men will work. They do not share the same points other than wanting to get rid of King Henry IV. Hotspur even goes as far to make fun of Glyndwr's pagin beliefs. I just do not think these men thought this plan through. It seems as if they are just looking to the reward of getting rid of Henry rather than all that would go into the motion. The men seem to unorganized to be able to achieve this big goal that they have set for themselves and I don not see any of their plans working out for them, and if they do there is no way that it will all work out in the end without another overthrow, or fight for more than what they have. I have already learned enough from Shakespeare to know that greed gets the best of just about everyone.
Friday, March 9, 2012
There's also the question as to Richard's intentions and his past. There is uncertainty if he has killed the Duke of Woodstock and if that was so, if this murder was for the good of the people and the land, or for selfish intentions. This matter was introduced very early in the play, which is normally unusual to do, as the play is long and the characterization of a person can be easily revealed over time and pages. The fact that so many characteristics and facts/rumors are thrown at the king so suddenly shows that, especially as the play progresses, that there is more to Richard than meets the eye. At the beginning, he seems like a poor excuse for a king, who still doesn't know how to use his power rightfully. Later on, however, Shakespeare begins to slowly strip Richard of his power, his status, and his sense of self. It's his way of saying, "if this man didn't have his crown and sceptre, would he be anybody at all?"
In the video version of 3.2, King Richard is being shown as being stripped of his power and his inner struggle to maintain his sense of self as he realizes he's losing everything. This is a fascinating representation of him as a man, as he was being played by a woman. I believe this sex-exchange role is significant and shows a different side to the king which wouldn't be apparant if his role was played by a man. The woman shows his feminine side, as well as the fact that despite his power or loss of it, he's a human being all in all. Despite his actions and his past and his inevitable future, he is a man who's trying to do the right thing, despite his failures. He is also a man of feelings and fear and every human emotion that would be more obviously present if he weren't king in the first place. This representation of him helps the readers/viewers connect with him on a deeper level, because who on this earth hasn't lost something (or everything) dear to him? This personification kind of takes away from the idea that the king was given his role by God which makes him appear more realistic in our eyes, as well as help us draw a deeper connection to him.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
The Garden in Act 3 scene 4 enters us into a feminine realm, as seen by its occupants the Queen and first lady. This environment provides a relief from the masculine politics seen in the pervious scene, when Bolingbroke returns to the court with treasonous intentions. The garden is not so much a direct escape from affairs of state, but provides a different lens to view the events through.
The Gardener and his assistant step into the scene as the first commoners of the play, giving their two cents about the change in power. Using gardening discourse to explicate metaphor of the Richards place on the throne, the Gardner says, “Go, bind thou up young dangling apricots/ which, like unruly children, make their sire/ stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight./ Give some supportance to the bending twigs.” (3.4.30-33). The apricots in this quotation represent the fruits of King Richards rule, made heavy through the treasonous contempt of the court. Likewise the fruits need to be supported, which the Gardener tends to. “Go thou, and like an executioner/Cut off the heads of too fast growing sprays,/That look too lofty in our commonwealth:/All must be even in our government." (33-36) We can see how the gardener represents the “natural” sense of order in royal power. His pruning and tending of the garden is an allegory for maintaining political sanctity in an otherwise chaotic wildness (anarchy).
This notion is continued with: “noisome weeds which without profit suck the soils fertility from whole flowers” (3.4.39-40). The weeds are Bolingbroke and his men, who are invasive species endangering the “whole flowers”. The mentioning of “soils fertility” connects the idea of Land explore in class, that England is a holy place that nourishes the royal lineage. In replying to the request to de-weed the garden, the First man pans out enlarge the frame of the subject: “Why should we in the compass of a pale/ Keep law and form and due proportion/…When our sea-walled garden, the whole land,/ Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers choked up” (3.4.41-45) The “sea-walled garden” alludes to England, likewise bordered by the oceans. This quotation calls to question why should they put effort in taming nature that’s so easily corrupted. The names “Bushy” and “Greene” are too relevant in the discourse of nature, and they’re deaths suggest the end of fecundity in Richard reign. The Gardener provides a seasonal metaphor of Richard: “He that hath suffered this disordered spring/Hath now himself met with the fall of leaf” (3.4.50-51). The tree’s experience with a “disordered spring” leads to “fall of leaf”, foreshadows the inevitable winter (death) to come for Richard.
The Gardner provides an idealistic notion of how power should be monitored: “We at time of year/ Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit-trees,/ Lest, being over-proud in sap and blood,/ With too much riches it confound itself” (3.4.60-63) The “over-proud in sap and blood” is Richard, who is too confident in his inherited role as King. This idea that the shedding of blood, in both a literal and familial sense– is all apart of maintaining the balance of a garden (or England). The Gardener’s paradoxical view on “the order of nature” vs. “tending to nature” provides a different means to understand the politics of the play through.
Monday, March 5, 2012
Once the crown is handed over, we begin to see disorder actually ensue. Richard breaks a mirror right after parting with the crown. The glass shatters violently as he no longer recognizes his face; he feels instability and disruption internally. This parallels the disruption of order in the nation. In Act V, Richard and the Queen are separated and the tradition of marriage violated. The Queen inquires: “Must we be divided? Must we part?” (5.1. 81) while Richard exclaims in anger at this violation. Immediately following, the Duke of York’s family is broken apart by disagreement about allegiance to the king. York, whose son has conspired to kill Bolingbroke, says, “Mine honor lives when his dishonor dies” (5.3.68); meanwhile, the Duchess of York pleads for her son's pardon. The scene is chaotic and the family burdened with dysfunction, no longer strong with loyalty and shared blood. York goes so far as to say, “Against them both my true joints bended be.” (5.3.96). A final piece of evidence for the disruption of order is the murder of Richard due to a convoluted exchange between Bolingbroke and a servant. Bolingbroke’s actions parallel those of Richard’s, and now we must question whether or not Bolingbroke was actually justified in taking the crown from a divinely chosen king. The disruption of order has begun on a small scale, within the royal family, but it's implied that it will spread throughout the nation with the new King’s immediate involvement in murder (whether it was his intention or not).
Throughout the play, it is evident that readers may not have a clear understanding of the two characters. Richard has done wrong to his country and to Bolingbroke by stealing money that was not his to have. Bolingbroke, however, practically forced Richard into giving him the thrown, just to force him to leave his wife and keep him prisoner. How are readers supposed to feel towards Richard and Bolingbroke? Both men have done horrible things to other people, especially to each other (Arguably one more than the other). I, for one, am still not set on how I feel about the two men. Both have done wrong, and as we all know too well- two wrongs don't make a right!