Hypocrisy in the Percy Family

So, where did all this rage from Hotspur come from? I find it interesting that the Percy family, who were instrumental in disposing of Richard II, are now conspiring to get rid of Henry IV. Hotspur, also known as Harry Percy, started off as a mild young boy in Richard II. His father, Lord Northumberland, was Henry Bolingbroke’s main supporter when Henry returned to England from exile to claim his father’s estate and title. Not only did Northumberland help with Henry succeeding this goal, but he pushed Henry to the throne. In Richard II, all Henry said was that he wanted to claim his estate. All of these events happened while Hotspur looked in in childlike wonder. Now, in 1 Henry IV, Worcester brother claims a little detail that neither Northumberland or Hotspur denies: that Lord Mortimer, Hotspur’s brother-in-law, is the rightful heir to the throne. It’s like these guys aren’t happy with any sort of king. In fact, Northumberland concurs with his brother Worcester’s claim. Hotspur says: “But soft, I pray you; did King Richard then / Proclaim my brother Edmund Mortimer / Heir to the crown?” (1.3.153-155). Northumberland responds with: “He did; myself did hear it,” (1.3.156). Now, I’m dumbfounded by this. Why would Northumberland assist Henry’s rise to the throne if he knew that Richard already named an heir? I call shenanigans on this. I believe the Percy family is just choosing to believe its own bullshit here, and they want to help their own man rise to power because they want to keep their ransom money for all of the war prisoners they take. If I were Henry IV, I would find a way to take these men out. They’ve taken down a king before, and he knows they’re looking to do it again.

On another note, I really like how the this rebellion storyline is paired with a subplot about Prince Hal’s capers and his abuse of Falstaff. It’s funny that just as many lines, if not more, are devoted to a Prince partaking in a robbery of a bunch of robbers. I’m waiting to see how this could fit in with the larger plot, even though this storyline has been given a lot more attention than the more serious matter. Prince Hal’s scenes highly contrast him with his father, who is pretty straight-laced. Hal, on the other hand, gets drunk with his commoner buddies whose main form of entertainment is robbing the wealthy. I predict that Prince Hal is going to thwart the actions of the Percy family in some form, thus proving himself an upstanding citizen and redeeming himself from the degenerate actions he participated in in the past, paving the way for him to become king after the conclusions of the Henry IV plays.

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5 thoughts on “Hypocrisy in the Percy Family

  1. Michele

    I agree with you totally here! I don't understand why the Percy family would be so rebellious towards Henry. I know they want their land, but they are splitting it up anyway, so it isn't like Hotspur gets to be in charge of everything. I personally don't like Hotspur he seems like a hot head arrogant jerk. He is so full of himself and thinks he is untouchable until his allies which is his family by marriage backs out. Now you know thats bad when your own family is not there to back you up. He doesn't even show affection for his wife which makes him more of a sleeze. I do also like the subplot. I think Falstaff is pretty funny, but he is stupid and greedy. I like the comedic touches the play has.

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  2. Jenn Mathias

    I also find Hal's plot to be very interesting. I don't know if I'm off, but isn't he robbing from himself basically? Or is the money just his fathers? We have not really heard much talk about them acknowledging that Hal and Henry IV are related, not since Richard II. I agree with you Michele, in that Hotspur is a huge jerk. The scene with his wife is what made me hate him the most. I guess we will all see how these different plots will connect.

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  3. Meaghan Platania

    Great points here! It is almost as if this process will continue in the way it is going until their is someone in the position of King that is fit to be there. However, how realistic is this really?? It is not an uncommon notion that the ones held in the highest regard are usually evaluated much more critically. This might be what is happening here. It is almost as if the Percy family got rid of Richard II to push Henry IV into his position only to be like "Ehh, nevermind..onto the next!" It seems to me that they are fighting a neverending battle!

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  4. AimeeL

    I really liked your post about the hypocrisy. Could it be assumed then that Hotspur is following his father's footsteps? That he should do this because his father has? Another benefit for Hotspur in his quest is that he has seen a king become a commoner, so can observe what tricks worked and what did not, giving him better insight into how to execute this plan.

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  5. Stephanie

    I think you bring up a good point concerning the Percy family. They certainly seem to constantly be at odds with whomever is in power, and their loyalties seem to easily vacillate. This stands out to me as a definite common theme among the upper class of Shakespeare's stories. They change their minds often, and are quick to betray an ally.

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