King Henry IV
By William Shakespeare Falstaff and King Henry: Similar Characters Throughout the play Henry IV: Part I, there are many similarities between characters. Two that seem particularly alike are Falstaff and King Henry. Their common traits are demonstrated by Shakespeare in many subtle and not-so-subtle ways. While Falstaff seems to be able to accept himself for what he is, the King appears to be tied up in his image as a great ruler, and thus will never admit to being anything less than great. The characters of Falstaff and the King at first seem to be diametrically opposed opposites in terms of personality, yet they share many common traits. Falstaff is a thief; he admits to being a robber of purses, and, in fact, is pursued by the Sheriff at one point. The king is also a thief; instead of robbing purses from travelers, he stole an entire empire from Richard II, whom he also had murdered. In their ways of dealing with people, especially under uncomfortable circumstances, the two also behave in like ways. It is well known that Falstaff often works his way out of unpleasant situations using only his wit. The King is continuously modifying his behavior to suit the occasion, such as when he is dealing with Hotspur and the opposing Vassals and when he deals with Hal at the royal court. Both Falstaff and the King live, to a great extent, by the sharpness of their minds: Falstaff as a criminal, and the King as a politician. Another similar facet of these two characters is their view of bravery. Both the King and Falstaff subscribe to the theory that it is better to avoid danger and thus avoid the possibility of harm than to take risks. Falstaff does this on several occasions, such as when he played dead during the battle to avoid injury. At this same battle, the King employed similar tactics, when he had many of his men disguised to look like him and thus camouflage him. It is in these ways that Falstaff and the King are alike; it would appear that their only real differences are in how they see themselves. A politician and a thief can be said to have many things in common. The amount of similarity between Falstaff and the King seems ironic when shown against their sharply contrasting outward appearances. This close comparison of the politician to the common thief seems to suggest that their only difference is in how they go about their tasks and how they feel about their images. Since Falstaff admits that he is a thief and the King doesn't, it can even be said that Falstaff is more truthful to himself than the King. Falstaff and the King, therefore, make an interesting parallel.