Falstaff and King Henry: Similar Characters


Throughout the play Henry IV:Part I,there are many similarities
between characters. Two that seem particularly alike are Falstaff and King
Henry. Their common traits are demonstrated by Shakespeare in many subtle
and not-so-subtle ways. While Falstaff seems to be able to accept himself
for what he is, the King appears to be tied up in his image as a great
ruler, and thus will never admit to being anything less than great.

The characters of Falstaff and the King at first seem to be
diametrically opposed opposites in terms of personality, yet they share
many common traits. Falstaff is a thief; he admits to being a robber of
purses, and, in fact, is pursued by the Sheriff at one point. The king is
also a thief; instead of robbing purses from travellers, he stole an entire
empire from Richard II, whom he also had murdered. In their ways of dealing
with people, especially under uncomfortable circumstances, the two also
behave in like ways. It is well known that Falstaff often works his way
out of unpleasant situations using only his wit. The King is continuously
modifying his behavior to suit the occasion, such as when he is dealing
with Hotspur and the opposing Vassals and when he deals with Hal at the
royal court. Both Falstaff and the King live,to a great extent, by the
sharpness of their minds: Falstaff as a criminal, and the King as a
politician. Another similar facet of these two characters is their view of
bravery. Both the King and Falstaff subscribe to the theory that it is
better to avoid danger and thus avoid the possibility of harm than to take
risks. Falstaff does this on several occasions,such as when he played dead
during the battle to avoid injury. At this same battle, the King employed
similar tactics, when he had many of his men disguised to look like him and
thus him hard to find. It is in these ways that Falstaff and the King are
alike; it would appear that their only real differences are in how they see
themselves. A politician and a thief can be said to have many things in
common. The amount of similarity between Falstaff and the King seems ironic
when shown against their sharply contrasting outward appearances. This
close comparison of the politician to the common thief that seems to
suggest that their only difference is in how they go about their tasks and
how they feel about their images. Since Falstaff admits that he is a thief
and the King doesn't, it can even be said that Falstaff is more truthful to
himself than the King is. Falstaff and the King, therefore, make an
interesting parallel.