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.
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.
Outline 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.
III. Act II 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.
IV. Act III 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...
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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 kingdom and the re-establishment of that disorder.
Outline I. Thesis Statement: After Henry’s opening speech to his council, the actions of the characters and the situations that arise mirror the chaos of the kingdom and the attempts to re-establish order from that chaos.
II. Act I A. King Henry discusses dispatching an army to defend the Holy Land. B. Rebellion in Wales and Scotland force Henry to cancel the army to the Holy Land. C. King Henry is disappointed that his son is not involved in the matters of the court as befits his title as Prince. D. Hal, who is Prince of Wales, spends his time at local taverns with his common friends. E. Hal becomes involved in a madcap practical joke on Falstaff. F. Henry is determined to deal more harshly with the rebels who try his patience with “these indignities.” G. The issue of Hotspur’s denial of prisoners dominates the council meeting. H. The Percy Rebellion is an attempt to restore the crown to their line after Richard II was deposed.
III. Act II A. The tavern at Rochester is “turned upside down since Robin Ostler died.” B. The chamberlain pretends to be shocked when Gadshill asks him to take part in the robbery, yet he filches from the clients at the inn. C. Falstaff robs a group of travelers and in turn is robbed by Poins and Hal disguised as thieves. D. In a mock conversation between Hal and King Henry, Falstaff, as king, attempts to set his son’s life in order.
IV. Act III A. As the Percys prepare to divide the kingdom, Hotspur and Glendower disagree over the boundaries of each share, which weakens the rebels unity. B. Henry meets with Hal in an attempt to straighten out his errant ways. C. At the Boar’s Head Tavern, Falstaff is called to pay his debts and put his accounts in order. D. The frivolity at the inn is disrupted by serious events in the outside world.
V. Act IV A. The rebel cause shows signs of deterioration despite all attempts to push forward. B. Hotspur’s irrational thinking is a weakness in the rebels’ cause, in that the rebels are not unified enough to fight. C. Hotspur calls his men to arms despite warnings. D. Falstaff assembles a group of ragtag infantry men to fight on the side of King Henry. E. Blunt offers the Percys a peace plan, but they reject it. F. Hotspur responds to the King’s proposal with defiance.
VI. Act V A. King Henry offers the proposal a second time. B. Hal challenges Hotspur to a single fight to determine the outcome of the rebellion. C. Worcester deceives Hotspur. D. Blunt, defending the kingdom, is killed by Douglas. E. Hal acknowledges his brother’s courage and spirit. F. Hal meets Hotspur in valiant combat and kills him. G. King Henry orders that Worcester and Vernon are to be killed. H. Hal receives permission to dispose of Douglas, and passes Douglas’ fate on to John. I. King Henry divides his powers and his men proceed to stifle more rebellions in unified strength.
Topic #3 The creation of characters who parallel yet contrast each other is often used to suggest themes, clarify major issues, or portray character. This use of the dramatic foil is a technique that Shakespeare incorporates in Henry IV, Part I in order to emphasize the chaotic situations that exist in Henry’s England. Analyze Shakespeare’s use of the dramatic foil in terms of the parallels and contrasts of any one of the following pairs: Hotspur and Hal, Falstaff and Hal, Falstaff and Hotspur, Glendower and Hotspur, King Henry and Falstaff, and King Henry and Hotspur.
Outline I. Thesis Statement: In order to emphasize the chaotic conditions that exist in Henry’s England, Shakespeare uses foils, characters who parallel yet contrast one another. One such pair is _________.
II. Hotspur and Hal A. Both men seek honor for their family names. B. Both men prepare for single combat with each other. C. Hotspur acts without thinking; Hal is more circumspect in his approach. D. Hotspur takes no one’s advice; Hal follows military procedure.
III. Falstaff and Hal A. Both Falstaff and Hal enjoy matching wits with each other. B. Falstaff talks of reformation; Hal reforms. C. Both command a position of some authority during the rebellion. D. Falstaff heads an army of infantry men who are improper¬ly outfitted and inexperienced; Hal commands the King’s army consisting of well-armed, well-trained men. E. Hal’s presence increases as the play progresses; Falstaff’s diminishes. F. Falstaff speaks of valor but acts the coward; Hal speaks of valor and demonstrates it.
IV. Falstaff and Hotspur A. Falstaff is motivated by cowardice; Hotspur is motivated by the struggle to reclaim honor. B. Falstaff ponders abstract ideas but never acts; Hotspur does not think before he acts irrationally. C. Falstaff and Hotspur both command a disorganized group of men.
V. Glendower and Hotspur A. Glendower attributes the occurrence of strange pheno¬mena to his birth; Hotspur dismisses such occurrences as coincidence. B. Glendower has proven himself in battle; Hotspur is inexperienced. C. Glendower is educated and studied occult arts; Hotspur is not well educated and dismisses the idea of the supernatural.
VI. King Henry and Falstaff A. Henry’s realm is all of England; Falstaff presides over the world of the tavern. B. Henry’s army is well-trained and well-equipped; Falstaff commands an army of rejects. C. Henry tries to establish order from chaos; Falstaff creates chaos. D. Henry represents law and order; Falstaff represents lawlessness.
VII. King Henry and Hotspur A. Henry seeks to re-establish order by stifling the rebellions; Hotspur seeks to re-establish order by deposing Henry. B. Henry is experienced in military matters and commands a large army of unified men; Hotspur is inexperienced and commands groups of disorganized rebels. C. Henry calculates and proceeds with caution; Hotspur acts without thinking.