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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. 

 




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