The Transformation Of Foil Characters: An Comparison Of Hal And Hotspur As Foil Characters

910 words - 4 pages

In Henry IV Part 1, by William Shakespeare, Shakespeare intends the readers to view Hal and Hotspur as foil characters. A foil character is a character who contrasts with another character, usually to highlight one of their attributes (“Foil.”). Hotspur, a well renowned war hero, is respected among many people in his society. One of those people includes King Henry IV. King Henry IV is ashamed of his own son and wants him to be more like Hotspur. Prince Hal, King Henry IV’s son, is expected to be an honorable young man since he is going to take the thrown after his father. However, Hal falls short of these expectations by carrying a negative image in society. At the beginning of the book, he ...view middle of the document...

1.74-75). Being praised and valued by King Henry IV gives Hotspur a reputable rank in society. King Henry IV even goes to the length of referencing an old belief that his son, Hal, was switched with Hotspur while they were both newborns. His lack of pride in Hal and Hal’s actions themselves, display Hal as an unrespectable prince. Hal is seen associating himself with his drunken friends in a tavern, a degrading location for a prince. He also schemes with his friends to rob pilgrims who are passing through Gad’s Hill. These debasing actions lower Hal’s expectations in society. King Henry IV even tells Hal that “the soul of every man/ Prophetically do forethink they fall” (3.2.39-40). These words further encourage Hal to change and prove himself. He does so by taking Hotspur’s life and honor in battle. An important and contributing factor to Hal’s “emergence as the heroic prince” was King Henry’s comparing of the two men (A Modern Perspective, 248). Hotspur acted as a foil character in bringing out the attributing quality of Hal’s honor.
Hal and Hotspur’s outcomes show how they act as foil characters for one another. Hotspur fights Hal in order to maintain and improve his honorable reputation. Hal fights to prove he is a worthy prince and make his father proud. When Hal kills Hotspur, there is a reversal of roles and a contrast in personalities between the two men. By killing Hotspur, Hal gains power and honor as a war hero. Contrastingly, Hotspur is stripped of “those proud titles [Hal] hast won of [Hotspur]” (5.4.80). As Hotspur dies, he focuses on the honor that he has lost instead of his death itself. He is more concerned with...

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