Example research essay topic: Theme Of Conflict In Shakespeare’s King Henry Iv – 1,033 words

Shakespeares King Henry IV Part I centres on a
core theme of the conflict between order and
disorder. (Act 5 Scene 1, lines 115-138) Such
conflict is brought to light by the use of many
vehicles, including Hals inner conflict, the
countrys political and social conflict, the
conflict between the court world and the local
world, and the conflicting moral values of
characters from each of these worlds. This
combination of certain values exists on many
levels, and so is both a strikingly present and an
underlying theme throughout the play. Through
characterization Shakespeare explores moral
conflict. In the play Hal has reformed, moved away
from his former mentor Falstaff and become a good
and honourable prince. Hals remark to his father
indicates a now strong, independent mind,
predicting that Douglas and Hotspur will not
accept Henrys offer because of their love for
fighting.

Henrys reply in turn indicates a change
in attitude towards his son, a newfound respect.
Acknowledging Hals prediction, the king orders
preparations to begin, and we see he has his own
set of solid moral values: knowing that their
cause is just helps him to reconcile with his
highly honourable conscience that there is indeed
cause for war. Still maintained is the conflict
between the very format of the text, with Hal and
Henrys conversation held in formal verse typical
of the court world, in which Hal is now firmly
embedded. Falstaff, however, sustains his equally
typical prose speech, which indicates to the
audience the enduring division between the court
and tavern worlds. As soon as the king leaves,
Falstaff immediately proclaims his unashamed
cowardice, asking Hal to protect him in battle.
The prince retorts with an insult to Falstaffs
enormous size, and abruptly bids him farewell.
Gone are the jests that would accompany a
conversation between these two at the beginning of
the play, and Hals reactions to Falstaff now
represent his moving away from the tavern world,
and that he now belongs to the court world.
Falstaff is extremely honest about his feelings
towards the whole affair, bluntly stating that he
wishes it all were over, exposing his strong
reluctance to fight and interest in
self-preservation. Again the prince offers only a
rude retort before his exit, commenting that its a
wonder Falstaff isnt dead yet, as he well should
be with all the overeating and overdrinking he
indulges in. Falstaffs soliloquy questioning the
value of honour is an ironic contrast with how
Hotspur and Hal regard honour.

By now the contrast
between their highly ordered morality and
Falstaffs own moral disorder is obvious. Falstaffs
inclusion at this point, when Hal has left his
side and moved on, is necessary to point out the
differing morality between the two, which was once
so similar. Falstaff is of paramount importance to
the sub-plot dealing with Hals decision between
continuing his carefree lifestyle or maturing into
the role he is destined to play as a respected
prince and later king. This soliloquy continues
the theme of another of Falstaffs in Act 4 Scene
2, in which he is equally undisturbed by his
amorality, and shows that his highest concern is
for his own well being. Falstaff begins by
remarking to himself how absolutely unnecessary it
would be to go to ones death before their time. He
uses the metaphor of owing money, making a
comparison between paying bills and death.

It is
characteristic of a member of the materialistic
tavern world to draw a metaphor with such a
concrete, solid and no-nonsense thing as finance.
He simply cannot understand why one would be
willing to pay such a debt before it is owed – he
himself is loath to pay such a thing as his life
in what he sees as a worthless and empty cause. He
personifies death in his metaphors, saying he will
not surrender to him until he must, and will wait
until death is inevitable. Falstaff takes no
risks, and the mere idea of throwing ones life
away for this abstract thing that men call honour
seems ludicrous to him. Anyhow, he resolves that
honour will spur him on. But, he wonders, what
good will honour do him? He establishes that
honour can indeed lead to the suffering of many
wounds, but not to the remedying of them. He is
not interested in anything that risks his personal
comfort, and as for honour, he only cares about
what it can do for him.

According to Falstaff, not
a great deal. He eventually establishes, in his
characteristically simple fashion, that honour is
but a word, and in that word is contained nothing
but air. Falstaff is truly exemplary of the tavern
world. He wants things that he can see and touch,
tangible things, and has no interest in concepts
such as honour. As he reasons, why would you want
honour if it only leads to death? Those who have
honour are dead! His resolution that honour is a
mere scutcheon hints at his cynical view. It is
straight from the tavern world – survival is more
important to him, unlike those of the court world
who live by honour, and care not if it leads to
their death, but only that they one day may come
to be honourable, whether dead or alive.

He closes
with the comment that what he has told us is his
catechism. This suggests an idea that his religion
is to avoid honour, and ever to question its
value. Falstaffs blatantly honest soliloquy has
provided the audience with a direct insight into
his mind, and contrasts well with Hal and Hotspurs
speeches, in which their moral order and regard
for honour is evident. Falstaff helps to show the
change in Hal to the audience. Falstaff himself is
no different to the Falstaff of Act 1, unlike Hal
who has obviously undergone a great deal of
change. Falstaffs speech is highly typical of the
tavern worlds way of thinking: straightforward,
sometimes humorous, spoken in prose, and only the
values of the tavern world taken into
consideration, with no regard for such
insubstantial, un-physical concepts as honour.

In
this way, and spoken directly to the audience,
Falstaff effectively expresses his unashamed
resolution not to submit to moral order..

Research essay sample on Theme Of Conflict In Shakespeares King Henry Iv