The eighteenth century
The problem of Henry IV Parts I & II for eighteenth-century critics generally was Falstaff and the relationship between his wit and humour and his evident vices. Was the former to be enjoyed and the latter decried? That is, were these things to be separated? If not, how did one affect the other? Does the comedy subsume morality or vice versa? Linked to the question of Falstaff’s vices was the issue of the rejection at the close of Henry IV Part II and the character of Hal, or Henry V as he is at the point of rejection. Hal’s morality and the political behaviour of the Lancastrians, which becomes a major issue of criticism by the mid twentieth century, begins in the eighteenth century in a small but pointed fashion, the appearance in the second half of the eighteenth century of a sense of shock at John of Lancaster’s machiavellian betrayal of his word at Gaultree Forest, and the summary execution of the rebel leaders.
KeywordsEighteenth Century Critic Debate Piteous Aspect Henry Versus Dramatic Character
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