In Henry IV, Part 1, how do the characters in the pub and the palace behave similarly?

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While it's more common to note the differences or contrasts between the pub where the young Prince Hal hangs out (with Falstaff and other ordinary people) and the more repressed and seemingly civilized court, Shakespeare understood that people are people and behave in the same ways. Both pub and court have their own dialects and customs, and in both places people shade the truth in pursuit of their own advantage and agendas. The pub helps us to understand the treachery in the court, as in neither place do words and actions match.

Prince Henry speaks of learning the dialect or language of the pub in act 2, scene 4, in which he says that he understands the term "dyeing scarlet" to mean heavy drinking and is proud that he can drink with any "tinker" in his "own language." The court, too, has its "own language," mannered and courtly, as when King Henry declares that the "flowerets" of England will no longer be bruised with "armed hoofs." This courtly prose is the language both of honor and deceit, with Hotspur's father, for example, lying about his son's rebellious thoughts. The behavior in the court is little different from the self-serving lying that goes on in the pub.

In both venues, people change roles as needed. In court, as the play opens, King Henry plays the role of a monarch "wan with wear" ready to go on a crusade to the Holy Lands to try to atone for past sins and determined to have peace in England. However, he quickly changes his tune and turns into a commanding leader as it becomes clear that Hotspur poses a threat to the kingdom. Likewise, characters such as Falstaff are adept at changing their personas and their stories to serve themselves. Falstaff, for example, in act 2, scene 4, adeptly moves from positioning himself as a brave fighter to, first and foremost, great defender of Prince Hal.

The pub teaches Prince Hal and the audience to question the language of the court, as Hal does when he parodies Hotspur's honor, imagining him exaggerating his kills: in both places people's behavior is such that words must be suspect and compared to actions, an important lesson for the future king to learn.

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