Idea of Honor Thesis

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¶ … Honor

Part of Shakespeare's plays, such as those revolving around historical characters ("Henry IV" or "Henry V") or those describing fantastical situations ("A Midsummer Night's Dream"), seem to reply a consistent part of the plot on the idea that man is subjected to mistakes. Translated into the action of such plays, this is usually corroborated with the fact that man is reticent to accept the mistakes he makes, often does not recognize them and believes that he is right. This paper will aim to analyze this perception, while at the same time explaining some of the causes of such events, without necessarily aiming to provide a motivation for these acts.

With some of the historical plays, it is easier to understand this approach for men. First of all, the historical plays that Shakespeare writes are usually a true expression and reflection of the respective period in history. Without them transforming into a naturalistic approach, Shakespeare certainly takes a keenly realistic one. This influences the way the main characters are formed and the way they interrelate with other characters.

Henry IV, for example, just as much as Henry V in the respective play, finds himself facing challenges not only from the characters around him (including with his son, Hal, the Prince of Wales, who is deemed in the play as troubling the king with his behavior: "See riot and dishonor stain the brow/Of my young Harry"

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), but also form his own conscious, because of the way he has usurped the throne of England. Beyond these factors, there are the obvious political and military challenges, which the writer is keen to analyze and emphasize: enemies who remain active throughout the land, the continuous attempts to regain full control of the kingdom, while at the same time battling the challenges from human interactions previously mentioned etc.

Thesis on Idea of Honor Assignment

As one can see from this, one of the fundamental reasons for which Shakespeare depicts his manly characters as individuals who make mistakes and do not recognize them is that, while being copies of the real life characters, they face the same type of challenges which create the premises for them to be making mistakes. The monarchic character needs to be able to make the appropriate decisions in a very challenging environment and, occasionally (it is really difficult to establish that he makes mistakes as an overall rule), he is not able to make these, thus resulting in mistakes.

The same pattern is followed in "Henry V," where the king occasionally appears more and more as an individual bound to make mistakes. However, the king has deeply changed from his characterization in some of the earlier plays, most notably from "Henry IV," and his mistakes are now overshadowed by the grandiose figure that Shakespeare creates for him and which he passes on towards the audience. Because of his numerous qualities as an exceptional leader, these mistakes tend to be overlooked. Tacitly, however, one would question the spending and challenges that such a war would produce.

In the case of both characters, the question that arises is why the characters do not accept the mistakes they make. There are at least two answers to this question. The first one would be that they do not recognize the mistakes they make, because of several reasons. In the case of Henry IV, his character may not be able to accept some of the mistakes he makes. At the same time, because of all the challenges he faces, he may simply not be able to properly identify an action as a mistake from an objective point-of-view.

In Henry V's case, he will not be able to recognize his mistakes because his grandiose character, as the writer has created it, will not permit this. From all the statements that Shakespeare puts into his mouth, one can understand that Henry V is not an individual who is likely to make, let alone accept making, mistakes.

On the other hand, in both cases, but, most of all, in the case of Henry V, the responsibility of being king will not allow the character to accept his mistakes. The weight of being king is essential and perhaps nowhere better explained than in the part where Henry V walks around the camp in disguise: "Tis not the balm, the sceptre, and the ball, / The sword, the mace, the crown imperial, / The intertissued robe of gold and pearl, / The farced title running fore the king, / The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp

That beats upon the high shore of this world -- / No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony, / Not all these, laid in bed majestical,/Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave / Who with a body filled and vacant mind / Gets him to rest, crammed with distressful bread" (IV. i. 242-253)

As one sees in these verses, some of Henry's approaches and potential mistakes he makes may be determined by his perpetual need to continuously appear as king in front of his soldiers and subjects. As a king, he cannot accept that he can also be a normal man, an individual who is subjected to mistake exactly because of the fact that he is a man. Most likely, this is where the important dichotonomy stands in both these historical plays.

In "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the situation is somewhat different, although there are common denominators with the motivation of mistakes and with the way the characters decide not to assume these. Notably, in the last play mentioned, the fact that the characters do not belong to this world and, as such, have no direct responsibilities, allows them to experiment with their actions, which in turn affect those of other characters. There are several examples throughout the play, perhaps none so evident as the actions in which Puck is involved as he applies the love potion to the wrong individuals, creating all sorts of confusions.

Again, in Puck's case, there is no acceptance of his mistakes as he steadily declares at some point, in one of the most famous lines of the play, "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" (III.ii.115)

. The phrase itself provides an additional and different motivation than those described previously: man also makes mistakes because of an underlying, subconscious inclination towards playing tricks and making jokes on the other people. In "Henry IV," there is a similar character in the person of Falstaff, who assumes the mischievous role that Puck has in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." In both cases, there is obviously no acceptance of potential guilt.

With Oberon, the analysis previously involved in the case of Henry IV and, partially, Henry V, can be repeated. The character of the king makes mistakes because he is the overall leader and coordinator of the actions going on in the play. By antithesis, Titania, despite her important role throughout the play, never steps in to assume that role. With Oberon, he also makes mistakes because he needs to make decisions in a short timeframe and, subsequently, assume those.

In Oberon's case, there is also an important difference in terms of committing and assuming mistakes: Henry IV and Henry V are still accountable towards their population, with the latter strongly accountable towards his soldiers, on whom depends the success or failure of the campaign. However, Oberon is not accountable to anybody: he is not recognized or seen by the mortal world and he is a king in the underworld. For this, he can make mistakes without even being accountable for the mistakes he makes, which tends to explain why he believes not to do so.

One of the reasons previously mentioned in support of the initial argument relied on the idea that men make so many mistakes in Shakespeare's plays also because women seem to play usually secondary roles in which they either have no attributes in making mistakes or, more likely, the mistakes they make are not so important in the overall action of the play and there are not so many implications for the other individuals. The case with Titania is not singular, although in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," she plays an important overall role in the evolution of the play.

In "Henry V," there is only one relatively notable female character: Catherine, the future Queen of England and France. She speaks little English and is thus less involved in the development of the action. In "Henry IV," it is similar: there is no important female character involved in the plot and the action develops through the relationships that are formed between the male characters, which is another reason why they seem to be the characters making mistakes.

As This paper has aimed to prove, there is a cumulative set of reasons for which the men in some of Shakespeare's plays seem to be the first choices when it comes both to making mistakes and to refusing to accept them. One can start with the obvious: at least in the historical… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Idea of Honor" Thesis in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Idea of Honor.  (2009, November 11).  Retrieved February 26, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Idea of Honor."  11 November 2009.  Web.  26 February 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Idea of Honor."  November 11, 2009.  Accessed February 26, 2021.