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LA Henry IV Project

Presentation on usage of words "Coward" and "Truth"

Allen Hu

on 12 February 2012

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Transcript of LA Henry IV Project

Annotation Group Activity The usage of the word "coward" in "Henry IV Part I" demonstrates the existence of a social system that deviates between upper and lower classes by varying implications of the word for either class of society. The use of the word "truth" demonstrates the presence of preeminent values and expectations that contrast with the reality of a harsh absence of integrity. COWARD TR TH Among the lower classes (tavern companions), "coward" is a playfully mocking term used to accuse one of being fearful or cautious; it is also commonly associated with jests and allusions. "Well, for two of them, I know to be as true-bred cowards as ever turned back" (I.II.172) "Indeed, I am not John of Gaunt, your grandafther, but yet no coward" (II.II.64) Poins uses the word 'coward' here to playfully accuse Falstaff and his companions of being overly fearful and lacking any strength of morale. Here, Falstaff teasingly denies being classified as a coward, demonstrating the negative and mockable connotations associated with such a label. In upper classes, "coward" is a term spoken in anger and disgust at the overly cautious and conservative, almost as a curse. "Say you so? I say unto you again, you are a shallow, cowardly hind and you lie" (II.III.14) Hotspur uses the word to condemn cautious, potential allies who are hesitant in following the precarious proposition of rebellion. Upper and lower classes also use "coward" to exhibit self-improvement when paired with the supernatural. "The lion will not touch the true prince...I was now a coward on instinct." (II.IV.256) "The frame and huge foundation of the Earth shaked like a coward" (III.I.15) Falstaff redefines 'coward' to improve his self-image and justify his cowardly actions in order to look good in the face of others. Characters from both social classes implement "truth" to contrast actual circustances with words of flattery. "Yet such extenuation let me beg As, in reproof of many tales devised...bysmilling pickthanks and base newmongers. I may for some things true, wherein my youth...Find pardon on my true submission" (III.II.18) Prince Henry utilizes "truth" to indicate the idea that actual misdeeds, however unpleasant, are more justified as measures of judgement than anything spoken out of sycophantic self-amition. "If speaking truth...were not thought flattery" (IV.I.1) Hotspur uses the word "truth" to admit that he cannot use flattery, which in its own demonstrates the differences between flattery and truth. "You say true. Why, what a candy deal of courtesy this fawning greyhound then did proffer me!" (I.III.247) Hotspur uses "true" while contrasting the relationship between himself and a powerless Bolingbroke to the current state of affairs. Use of the word 'coward' allows Glendower to elevate his divine endowment by flaunting his authority over the mortal world. "Truth" is used as a standard against which the imperfections of people are measured. "Now as I am a true woman" (III.III.68) Mistress Quickly describes herself as a "true" woman in order to enforce her image as a trustworthy and genuine person. "This is the most imnipotent villain that ever cried 'stand!' to a true man" (I.II.104) Falstaff contrasts Poins' integrity to that of a "true" man, emphasizing the gap between Poins' villainy with the righteousness that is conventionally aspired to. The word "truth" is also used ironically as a lie to further bolden people's motives. "They tell thee true" (V.III.7) "to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth, is to be the true and perfect image of life indeed" (V.IV.118) Sir Walter Blunt, previously described as a "true, industrious friend" (I.I.62), lies to Douglas in order to boister Douglas' conviction of Blunt's mistaken identity. Falstaff, lying about his state of mortality by faking death, advocates his actions as being "true" when in fact they are misleading and deceptive. THE END

by Nancy Huang, Joan Zhang, and Allen Hu
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