shakespeare - 1 Throughout both Richard II and Henry IV,...

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Throughout both Richard II and Henry IV, multiple characters toss around the word honor in several contexts during the play. The vast variability amongst the way the word is used illuminates it’s meaning that has not only become adaptable but hollow as well. The real concept of honor had been lost amongst power hungry men who had conveniently twisted its meaning to further their own political motives. By examining these hypocrisies it can be seen that the word honor is subjective to each individual. Its definition can only be defined by the specific person’s set of goals or motivations. At the beginning of Richard II, Shakespeare introduces two characters, King Richard II and Mowbray, who sharply contrast in their interpretation of the value of honor. Mowbray is a rare example of a person who embraces the concept of honor as a reflection of the pureness and truthfulness of one’s soul. Unaffected by ulterior motives, Mowbray becomes a measurement of comparison for other men in the play. In the First act of Richard II, Mowbray states “Mine honor is my life, both grow in one, / Take honor from me, and my life is done. Then, dear my liege, mine honor let me try;/ In that I live, and for that will I die.” (I,i). Mowbray makes the assertion that for him, honor is not something he will relinquish to save his life because the two are dependent on one another. Unlike others who view honor as a concept to benefit from, to Mowbray Honor is a manifestation of his decisions and actions everyday. Mowbray keeps quite and conceals information about the murder that could have possibly proven his innocence while at the same time refuses to openly lie for the King’s benefit, displaying the true definition of his character. Mowbray, upon hearing Richard’s decision to banish him forever, responds in double meanings, “A heavy sentence, my most sovereign Liege” (I.iii). “Heavy” implies 1
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that not only is a lifetime sentence harsh, but the weight of the ruling is especially cruel to caste on an innocent man. With one word, Mowbray can imply that he as well as many others know Richard’s involvement in Gloucester’s death and see the great distance he is willing to go to cover his tracks. It becomes evident that Richard is willing to act dishonorably if it will benefit his cause as king. Mowbray, who trusted that the Richard would have had more dignity than to punish an honorable man drawn into a dishonorable
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shakespeare - 1 Throughout both Richard II and Henry IV,...

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