Lying Shakespeare's Historical Plays Richard Term Paper

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The situation is different in Henry IV, where the main character, prince Hal as he is called by his friends, will ascend to the throne in the second part of the play in spite of his past as a villain. As the play begins, we see the king Henry IV, prince Hal's father, caught up in the midst of a civil conflict with Hotspur and the entire Percy branch of noblemen, because of a debt he had failed to pay to them.

During this conflict, Henry shows his bitterness at not having his eldest son, prince Hal to help him in the military matters. Hal is, at this time, with a group of rogues and villains who accompany him in his unlawful actions. Falstaff is the most famous of these, and seems to be Shakespeare's best known personification of falseness (a word from which his name is undoubtedly derived) lying and deceit. Falstaff uses dissembling as a means to achieve both fortune and fame, pretending even to have killed Hotspur in the battle. But even more so, he achieves through permanent lying to create almost a myth about himself, arguing through such skilled rhetoric that he even overtake Richard III, that honor and morality are of no use whatsoever and that they lose their value as soon as they are opposed to the only true thing there is: life.

Although Falstaff proves to resemble Richard III in his designs and in his love for his own self, and also in his skill for lying, nevertheless, he is not altogether evil as Richard is, but rather a villain who is also an Epicurian philosopher and who believes that life and its pleasure are the only realities of the world.

There are other dissemblers in Henry IV, and Hal is perhaps the best example. He keeps company with Falstaff and his other friends and participates in their depravity and cheating for a long time, and his behavior determines his father to threaten him with disinheritance and loss if his rightful claim to the throne,

However, in one of his speeches he clearly proves that his behavior and his villainous deeds were part of a sort of political scheme that will help him ascend to fame in a more dramatic way than being an exemplary prince would have:

Yet herein will I imitate the sun, / Who doth permit the base contagious clouds / to smother up his beauty from the world, / That when he please again to be himself, / Being wanted, he may be more wondered at / by breaking through the foul and ugly mists / of vapours that did seem to strangle him. / So, when this loose behaviour I throw off / and pay the debt I never promised, / by how much better than my word I am, / by so much shall I falsify men's hopes;"(1 Henry IV, 1.2. 175-189)

Hal thus openly admits that his bad behavior was meant as a dissembling trick that would help him to power and appreciation by the people a lot faster because of the contrast with his old self. Hal proves to be a good liar, as opposed to Richard, since he manages to achieve his purposes without doing so much harm and reforms himself completely. Similar tricks were used by his father as well to gain the crown as he openly recognizes:

Opinion, that did help me to the crown, / [...]by being seldom seen, I could not stir/but, like a comet, I Was wond'red at; / That men would tell their children, 'This is he!'/Others would say, 'Where? Which is Bolingbroke?' / and then I stole all courtesy from heaven,/and dress'd myself in such humility/That I did pluck allegiance from men's hearts,/Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths[...]"(1 Henry I, 3.2. 43-53)

Thus, in both of Shakespeare's plays, lying and cheating prove to be efficient when trying to gain political power, but in Richard's case his absolute evil nature soon brings him his defeat, while in Hal's case the same means actually succeed because he employs them without abusing and then reforms himself completely.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Henry IV. London: Oxford University Press, 1972

Richard III.…[continue]

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