The Social, Political And Cultural Issues Dealt With In William Shakespeare

1519 words - 6 pages

Shakespeare engages in a political, social and cultural debate through the conventions of the history-play. Each geographical location within I Henry IV is invested with intense discourse and opposition. The transition between each place encompasses a higher belief and affirmation of these elements than is possible in their isolated state. This essay will endeavour to highlight and deploy such arguments.Each location within the play is invested with political and social dimensions. Henry, the reigning monarch, is at the centre of the political world which dominates the main plot. He erupts into the play as the designated character in the court. His preoccupation with the unity of the state, for men to 'March all one way,' (I. 1. 15) is mirrored in Queen Elizabeth's own beliefs at the time. In connecting both the theatrical sphere of drama and the controversial political and social environment of the audience, Shakespeare succeeds in setting the expectations and questioning of monarchical leadership and legitimacy for the rest of the play. The opening scene witnesses the juxtaposition of religious beliefs as a cause for dispute. This is also paralleled in the distinction of geographical locations; from Westminster to Jerusalem: 'Brake off our business for the Holy Land' (I.1.48). The prevailing traditional ideology of the West as dominating power over the East is clearly visible here. However, in light of Said's views in Orientalism, it is the East that can be seen in a new light from this traditional ideology. 'The relationship between Occident and Orient is a complex relationship of power, of dominance, of varying degrees of a complex hegemony'. Within the limits of London and the Tudor British Isles, the East can be seen as imperial. The presiding character at Eastcheap is Falstaff, a degenerate fallen knight. This 'grotesque' individual is at the centre of the carnivalesque world of the tavern. It becomes apparent his resistance of political power and the dominating role it attempts to play in the tavern inculcate the comic subplot. The opposition of localities; Westminster and the tavern, is paralleled in the opposition of the political plot and the comic subplot. The hybrid genre technique that Shakespeare introduces into the play encourages a questioning of both plot and location. The shift between the two highlights the deceit and discourse evident not only in the tavern, but also in the court. As it is shown that Falstaff as king of the underworld is a seductive character, the reader begins to question Henry's role as king of the court. If the king can gain a monarchical position through murder and deceit, how is it that Falstaff surfaces as the untrustworthy figure? Bulman emphasises this effectively in his chapter on I Henry IV.Yet, as a thief, Falstaff is no worse than the man who now occupies the throne; for, as imagery repeatedly reminds us, the occupant seized the throne by usurpation and thereby stole the rights from the divinely...

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