Since the tetralogy started, there are no true heroes. From Richard II to Henry IV, I can’t seem to find anyone to root for. There is not one person that I would consider a clear cut protagonist. It seems as if these are repetitive plots of greed and power determined by vengeance or betrayal. This plot continues on through Acts III and IV of Henry IV.
After reading the first acts of Richard II, I jumped to the conclusion that Richard II was the pegged antagonist and Bolingbroke was the clear protagonist. Not only was I somewhat wrong, but I even felt sympathy towards Richard II after he was stripped of his power. This led to me becoming indifferent about Bolingbroke. With signs indicating that he had a hand in the death of Richard II, it made me realize that he is as ruthless as the former king.
We fast forward to Henry IV. A similar pattern continues through this play. Now, Henry IV is the marked target by Hotspur. Hotspur says, “Me thinks my moiety, north from Burton here, in quantity equals not one of yours. See how this river comes me cranking in and cuts me from the best of all my land” (3.1. 93-96). Hotspur is plotting war against Henry IV. He stays true to his name by getting upset over his share of the land. Hotspur proves to be another character that is filled with greed, as he cannot be civil amongst his own allies.
The next disappointment of a hero thus far is Harry. Shakespeare uses clever naming to Henry IV son, as Harry should be the “heir” to his throne. Instead, Harry is an embarrassment to his father. This would make one think that the audience would root for Harry to be the hero due to feeling sympathetic for him, but I disagree. The king delivers a long speech about why Harry has been a disappointment. The king says, “So common-hackneyed in the eyes of me, so stale and cheap to vulgar company, opinion, that did help me to the crown, had still kept loyal to possession” (3.2. 40-43). King Henry is embarrassed of Harry because he associates himself with the commoners. He feels that respect was given to him because he kept himself above everyone. Harry agrees to do whatever it takes to prove his worthy to the king. This appears to be a noble act, but proves otherwise. Back in Act I, Prince Harry says, “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” (1.2. 173-178). Harry’s plan from the start was to associate himself with commoners. This would allow Harry to eventually put himself above the common folk, to prove himself to his father. This is a cowardly move from the not-so hero, Prince Harry.
From Richard II, up to Act IV of Henry IV, I cannot find any form of a hero. A book or movie that interests me typically has a character to root for, along with promising conflict. I enjoy reading about greed, money, and power, but it gets old when that’s all there is to the plot. I’m hoping some character throughout this tetralogy eventually stands out from the rest.