Henry IV Part 1: Harmony of Contrasts?

J.P. Roche


When we think of Henry IV we remember sequences - scenes, incidents, groups of characters following one another, juxtaposed in various ways. This invites an approach to the play that may be more fruitful than the pursuit of abstract themes. It is what one might call the 'piecemeal' method. Shakespeare seems to present his object (or his perception of something - of a person, of an event) separately and a number of times. Each presentation will be, as it were, afresh: what is on view may be seen each time in a different light: our perceptions may be sometimes even contradictory: yet we are persuaded to accept that it is the same thing we are perceiving. The method, to put it crudely, is to lay things side by side - in parallel- and to let (or seem to let) the consequences take care of themselves.

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