Henry IV, Part I Sample Essay Outlines
by William Shakespeare

Henry IV, Part I book cover
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Sample Essay Outlines

The following paper topics are based on the entire play. Following each topic is a thesis and sample outline. Use these as starting points for your paper.

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Topic #1
Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I bears the name of the English king who reigns during the historical period in the play; however, it is safe to say that the subject of the play concerns the reformation of Hal, Prince of Wales, as he changes from a carefree, fun-loving man to a responsible individual who is prepared to accept the crown of England. Analyze Hal’s reformation as he leaves the world of Falstaff’s tavern and enters the world of the court and its responsibilities.

I. Thesis Statement: After Hal recognizes his irresponsible behavior as a madcap Prince of Wales, he vows to reform his conduct and accept his responsibilities as future King of England. His attempt at reformation is/is not completely successful.

II. Act I
A. Hal and Falstaff engage in humorous conversations, namely about Falstaff’s size.
B. Falstaff suggests that, as king, Hal should establish highwaymen as noble and not criminal.
C. Hal says he will appoint Falstaff executioner of thieves.
D. Poins arranges a practical joke with Hal wherein they will rob Falstaff after Bardolph, Peto, and Falstaff rob some travelers.
E. Hal recognizes the transitory nature of the madcap lifestyle he experiences with his friends at the inn and realizes that he must end it someday.

A. Prince Hal and Poins set up Falstaff for the robbery of the travelers.
B. Falstaff, Peto, and Bardolph rob the travelers.
C. Hal and Poins, disguised as thieves, rob Falstaff and the others.
D. Hal plays a practical joke on Francis, the waiter at the Boar’s Head Tavern in Eastcheap.
E. Hal practices a mock conversation between Hotspur and Lady Percy regarding Hotspur’s militant attitude.
F. Hal goads Falstaff into telling a tall tale about the robbery of the travelers and Falstaff’s subsequent ambush.
G. Hal confronts Falstaff with the truth and exposes Falstaff’s exaggeration.
H. Falstaff and Hal engage in a “play extempore” in which they rehearse a conversation Hal may have with his father in the morning.
I. During the play extempore, Falstaff, acting as King Henry, detects that Hal’s speeches berating Falstaff may have some serious intent.
J. Hal pickpockets Falstaff after the sheriff leaves.

A. King Henry meets with Hal to discuss Hal’s errant behavior and madcap life.
B. Hal vows to prove himself as Prince of Wales should the occasion arise.
C. Hal and Poins enter the tavern marching, and Falstaff and the others join in on the merriment.
D. Hal forces Falstaff to apologize to Mistress Quickly after Falstaff insults her.
E. Hal procures a charge of foot soldiers for Falstaff as Hal begins to assume his responsibilities in the court.

V. Act IV
A. Hal admits that he has never seen “such pitiful rascals” when he sees Falstaff’s charge of infantry men.
B. Hal sends word to Hotspur of a challenge to a single fight to determine the outcome of the rebellion.

VI. Act V
A. Hal enters the battlefield, questions Falstaff’s idleness, and asks for his weapon.
B. When Falstaff offers Hal a bottle of sack as his pistol, Hal throws the bottle at him.
C. Hal acknowledges the valor of his brother John.
D. When Hal sees his father in danger while fighting Douglas, he then challenges Douglas.
E. Hal engages in a fight with Hotspur and kills him.
F. Hal asks Henry for permission to dispose of Douglas and then defers the honor of deciding Douglas’ fate to his brother John.
G. King Henry divides the remaining power and tells Hal they will proceed together against Glendower and Mortimer.

Topic #2
An England beset by war and rebellion is the backdrop for Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I. The disorder that pervades Henry’s kingdom can be seen in the political spheres of the court and in the common world of inns and highway robberies. Trace the details of character action and the situations as they present the disorder within the...

(The entire section is 1,693 words.)