Honor In British Literature Essay

644 words - 3 pages

Question One
Shakespeare, in Henry IV, Part I, does not present one clear definition of honor; instead, he demonstrates competing conceptions through the individual character’s interpretations. Three characters each have their own sense of honor: Harry, Hotspur, and Falstaff. Harry’s honor most closely resembles the commonly held, contemporary view of “kingly” or noble honor: honor is self-deprivation from hedonism and self-sacrifice for the greater good of the nation. While at the beginning of the play King Henry disapproves of Hal’s gallivanting, Hal earns his father’s respect by modeling this conception of honor when he goes to fight alongside his father. Hal does not view this as a choice, but a necessity. In other words, rising to fight alongside his father when his nation is just what a prince does.
In contrast with Hal’s definition, Hotspur’s definition of honor do not match noble honor. Instead, honor rests upon the shoulders of an individual in a certain situation. Hotspur’s honor parallels pride. King Henry tainted Hotspur’s pride and his family’s name. This honor lost is something Hotspur seeks to regain. Hotspur believes he can renew his honor through defeating the king. He says, “"it were an easy leap to pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon, or dive into the bottom of the deep, where fathom-line could never touch the group, and pluck up drowned honour by the locks" (I.iii.199-203). One victory and his disgrace abolished. His sense of honor consists of wins and losses. To be honorable, at the end of the day, Hotspur had to emerge on top.
Falstaff completely disregards honor. He finds it is a foolish waste of time. He states, “honour is a mere scutcheon” (V.i.138). Escutcheon is ornamental shield, ineffective but shiny . Falstaff sees honor as something worthless, merely for the delight...

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