So far in the play you can see the visible conflicts and foils between the Percy family King Henry’s family. One of the most visible conflicts is how Hotspur feels wronged by the King. After the Percy’s have given up so much including their brother-in-laws right as heir to the throne, Hotspur is outraged that the King will now do nothing to help out the Percy family. This is possibly one of the biggest foils in the play. The King’s family overall and the Percy family. The Percy family is all about honor, doing the right thing and protecting ones country. The King’s family is about honor but when it comes down to it the King’s family doesn’t honor their debts such as the debt King Henry has towards the Percy family for helping him rise to power.
Another major foil in the play occurs between Hotspur and Harry. Hotspur is a noble solider who prides himself in his ability on the battlefield. As well do others due to Hotspur’s fearlessness and hastiness of action. He believes in honor, nobility, and glory to the exclusion of all other things. Due to his extreme values he however, tends to be very quick and hot tempered at times. Prince Harry on the other hand, King Henry’s son seems to be quite the opposite. Harry is lazy, and although he claims to be noble he continues to hang around less than savory characters. Harry hangs out with robbers, highwaymen and prostitutes. Along with hanging out with these people he also partakes in some of these robberies. Aside from the illegal activities and criminals Harry hangs out with he claims to be secretly smart and states that he doesn’t want to overly impress anyone now with his intelligence because if he does the people might expect too much from him when he is King. He believes that by doing this when he is King and does do something great then the people will be overly impressed by him. This ludicrous idea Harry comes up with is seen in Act one scene two:
“Prince Henry: I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humor of your idleness.
Yet herein will I imitate the sun.
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mist
Of vapors that did seem the strangle him
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work,
But when they seldom come, they wished for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promisèd,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And, like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I’ll so offend to make offense a skill,
Redeeming time when men think least I will”.

It’s possible that Harry is smarter that we all think. And that Hotspur may be more ill-tempered then he seems in these beginning acts, making me beg the question: Will these two characters be each others downfalls? I wonder if by the end of the play Harry’s wantingness to impress the people later on and Hotspur yearning for revenge against the King will lead to these two characters becoming each others archrivals instead of just each others foils.


One thought on “Foils

  1. estaats

    You offer a great understanding of Henry IV thus far. You address many good points, especially when you state King Henry doesn't want to return the favor of helping out the Percy family, what is that nonsense? If it weren't for them he wouldn't be in the position he is in now. Also, you touch on the idea of Harry using his friends to look better, I believe this says a whole lot about his character. I can understand the pressure of wanting to do right by your dad the king, but come on, using other people to do so just seems so low to me.


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