Henry IV Short Sample Answers
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Table of Contents
Henry IV is in many ways a study of contrasting characters, including Harry, Hotspur, Falstaff, and King Henry. Does the play have a single protagonist or many characters of equal importance? Why is the play named after King Henry? 4
Henry IV explores the qualities of a king and how a king ought to bear himself in relation to other people. Consider the various candidates for kingship in the play (King Henry IV himself, Prince Harry, Hotspur) and discuss what qualities the main contenders would bring to bear on kingship. Do these qualities help the eventual winners defeat the losers, or is it merely a question of luck? 5
The play contains many instances of symmetry, in which scenes or even people seem to be slightly altered reflections of other scenes or people. Look for scenes where you think that a previous event is being repeated or transformed or for characters who are explicitly contrasted or compared. Which scenes or characters are these? Why might Shakespeare use this technique? 6
Henry IV mixes prose and poetry to an extraordinary degree. Consider the places in which the two modes occur in the play. Why did Shakespeare choose to write his play this way? Do you think that some of the characters “demand” to speak in prose or in poetry? How would the character of Falstaff, for instance, be different if he spoke in iambic pentameter or that of King Henry if he always spoke in prose? Can you see Harry’s shifts from poetry to prose and back again as an i...