Henry IV Part 1

Discussing Henry IV

Some questions to promote in-depth discussion about Henry IV.

  • How does King Henry feel about his son, Prince Hal? Does he see him as a valiant war hero, worthy to be the King’s successor? Or is he disappointed and wishes for his son to be more hotheaded like Hotspur?
  • What prompts King Henry to consider a holy crusade at the beginning of the play? How does this link to his past with Richard II?
  • Both King Henry IV and Falstaff play the role of father figures in the play. What are the similarities and differences between these two men and what positives and negatives do they each possess as Hal’s father figures?
  • Kingship, leadership, monarchy and power are some of the main themes of Henry 4. What other more ‘familial’ themes does the play explore?
  • The title of the play might suggest that King Henry is the main character in Shakespeare’s story. What arguments are for and against this idea? Who else might be considered the play’s main protagonist?

Further questions for journal writing. Individually write down your opinion in answer to these questions, then form a whole-class discussion to further explore them.

  • What makes a king?
  • What is true bravery?
  • Who should actually be on the throne?
  • Why is Hal attracted to his pub friends?
  • What is Falstaff’s purpose in the play?
  • What makes a good parent?
  • What makes a good Son?
  • How is Henry IV like all fathers? How is he different?
  • Is Falstaff a good man?
  • What is your definition of honour?
  • What do you think of Henry IV’s actions?
  • Are the rebels justified in their feelings?
  • Are they right to declare war on King Henry?
  • What makes Hal choose to change his behaviour?
  • What does it really mean to grow up?
  • Can someone be themselves, separate from their parents, and still have their approval?