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Themes

The play's concern with "Rules and Order" is closely linked the theme of "Power." In Henry IV Part 1, two stories of rebellion and disorder run parallel – the story of Prince Hal's "teenage" rebellion against his father and the rebel uprising led by the Percy family. While the play makes clear the gravity of both threats to stability in Britain, it often deflates the seriousness of civil and familial disobedience with comedic episodes and parody. Rebellion is frequently associated with effeminacy and women and should be considered along side "Gender." Shakespeare's also interested in the relationship between theater and rebellion.

Questions About Rules and Order

  1. Why does Hotspur refuse to hand over his war prisoners to the king? What's the king's response to this?
  2. Why does King Henry admire Hotspur and disprove of Hal? Aren't both young men rebellious toward the king? What's the difference between them, if any?
  3. Is rebellion ever justifiable in the play? Why or why not?
  4. Why do the Percys want to overthrow the king?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Although the play depicts rebellion as a serious threat to the kingdom, disorder and unruliness are often portrayed as comical and ridiculous.

In Henry IV Part 1, female characters are always associated with rebellion and disorder, which suggests that women are a threat to stability.

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