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MonkeyNotes-Henry IV, Part 1 by William Shakespeare
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Elizabeth's subjects were thus reminded often that she was the head of the Church of England and the supreme figure of authority in the land. A play like 1 Henry IV, which showed that those who rebelled were massacred, would, presumably of course, suppress any sort of rebellious attitude toward the queen. Indeed, throughout the Elizabethan era, rebellions and revolts were portrayed negatively and their consequences were shown as dangerous and dire, and the inculcating of morality, at least through officially sanctioned works, was an integral part of the theater.


It is open to debate how strongly Shakespeare himself towed the political line of the day. While Shakespearean drama is not necessarily steeped in morality and didacticism, both good and evil, and the rewards and punishments thereof, are both dealt with distinctly. In the area of Henry's guilt, Shakespeare is quite orthodox: If Henry IV has committed the sin of murdering Richard II, he is punished in his own peculiar way, by God and not by man: his own son Prince Hal seems likely to duplicate Richard IIís lowly acts and wavering steps and he himself must endure many years of political rebellion. Some critics have seen Shakespeare as the representative of individual liberty. To them, Falstaff is the hero of 1 Henry IV, undermining the political rhetoric of the day in the disguise of a comic buffoon. Others have seen Shakespeare as much more conservative and representative of the official Elizabethan line. To them, 1 Henry IV (and especially 2 Henry IV and Henry V) show clearly the necessity for dealing effectively with rebellion and the punishments that await those who fail in their duty to the crown. Whether Shakespeare was subversive, orthodox, or simply politically pragmatic, 1 Henry IV shows the wide range of opinions and attitudes prevalent in the era and effectively brings them to life.

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