Essay, Research Paper: Honor In Plays


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Many tragic heroes had honor which was either their downfall or their positive
trait. In Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1, Hotspur, a hot tempered traitor,
makes honor his first priority for him and his family . Although the king
praised him, he led a rebellion against him. In Julius Caesar Brutus, a honor
driven conspirator, believes too much in honor and uses nor as a way to justify
his action. He is admired by the Roman people, but was easily manipulated into
joining a conspiracy and immediately took as the leader to killing Caesar. Both
of these characters are very similar in how they perceived and lived their
lives. Shakespeare creates Brutus and Hotspur as characters whose principle
concern is for themselves and honor which ironically causes them to make
unprincipled decisions which eventually causes their downfall. Hotspur lives his
life by the code of honor. Henry IV, the king at that time, honors and respects
Hotspur more than his own son. When Hotspur does not give the prisoners that he
had captured to the king, it is treason because he defies against the king.
Hotspur says that he did not want to hand over the prisoners because his army
had just fought a hard battle and were very proud of what they had done. When
the servant came looking very clean and trimly dressed, they felt that if they
gives the prisoners to him then Hotspur and his army would be giving away
everything they had worked and fought for. Hotspur feels that the king attacks
his honor when he orders those prisoner be sent to him. The king becomes angry
because Hotspur had time to think about his decision and Hotspur still had not
given the soldiers to him. The king says, “ Send us your prisoners, or you
will hear of it” (Henry IV Part 1, I, iii, 126). Brutus also believes that
honor is what makes a man. He says, “ For let the gods so speed me as I love
the name of honor more than I fear death” (Julius Caesar, I, ii, 95-96). He
thinks that killing Caesar is his duty because it will be for the good of all
Romans. When the other conspirators come over to Brutus’s house, Cassius tells
everyone that they should make an oath to follow through with the plan to kill
Caesar. Brutus disagrees and says that only people with evil intentions take
oaths and that they are doing what is the right and just. When Brutus makes his
speech after the killing of Caesar he says, “ Believe me for mine honor, and
have respect to mine honor that you may believe ” (Julius Caesar, III, ii,
15-18). But killing your friend and colleague is not honorable, so consequently
Brutus is not as honorable as he believes himself to be. Honor in both of these
characters is what makes them act and think they way they do. Hotspur believes
that he has been betrayed and wants to kill the king. Brutus wants to kill the
king also because he feels that it will be for the good of all Romans. They do
not think decisions through and eventually honor overrules other factors when
they make decisions. When time comes for Hotspur and Brutus to make decisions,
they turn out to be bad decisions which aren’t thought through. Furthermore,
Hotspur is a very poor decision maker. He decides to defy the king’s orders,
and by doing so commits treason in which some people can be executed. Hotspur
decides that his family deserves more than they have already received for taking
Richard out of the throne, but he does not take into account that Henry is the
king and has a lot of power. Although the king respects and honors Hotspur more
than his own son, he defies the king’s authority and decides to take the side
of his own family. When all of the conspirators gather together, Hotspur just
ridicules some of the other conspirators at a time when cooperation is a
necessity. He is very hot tempered and bases his decisions on his anger. What
makes Hotspur a bad leader is that he is easily manipulated by Worcester, his
uncle. Worcester makes all of the plans for the conspiracy and manipulates
Hotspur into taking control of the operation. Equally, Brutus is also a poor
decision maker. First of all, he decides to assassinate the king and in making
that faulty decision, he makes other flawed decisions. He decides that Cicero, a
wise and respected man, should not be in the conspiracy. The only reason Brutus
did not want him in the conspiracy is that he did not want competition for the
position as the leader of the conspiracy. When the other conspirators decide to
kill Antony along with Caesar, Brutus disagrees because he believes that Antony
will not cause problems for the future. The other conspirators try to give
reasons for killing Antony, Brutus does not listen, interrupts Cassius in mid
sentence, and just decides that they will not kill Antony. Cassius also
manipulates Brutus just as Hotspur was by Worcester. Cassius flatters Brutus and
provokes Brutus by telling him that it is his duty for his family is to kill the
king. He says, “ There was a Brutus once that would have brooked th’ eternal
devil to keep his state in Rome as easily as a king” (Julius Caesar, I, ii,
167-170). Both Hotspur and Brutus are manipulated when a part of their character
is exposed by a conspirator. Hotspur and Brutus both take charge of their
conspiracies to kill their leaders and when they do, they are not proficient
leaders. They do not listen to others and do not cooperate with others. Hotspur
and Brutus think of themselves and are very selfish. In addition, Hotspur and
Brutus are both arrogant and egotistical. First, Hotspur believes that the king
will ransom Mortimer from captivity in Wales for the prisoners. When the king
gives an order, it has to be followed and Hotspur believes he can bargain with
the king. Then Hotspur believes that if he can get Richard II off the throne
then, he could get any king off the throne. Then when all the conspirators meet
in Wales to make final the terms of their plot against king Henry and to
determine how they will divide up the conquered kingdom, Hotspur ridicules
Glendower to his face because he believes the he is better than Glendower. Also,
Hotspur thinks he deserves more land than anyone else. His desire to be
honorable propels him to be arrogant and conceited. Equally, Brutus is also
stuck up in many ways. First, Cassius fawns towards Brutus to manipulate him for
his own purposes. Cassius explains to Brutus that Caesar is no better than any
other Roman, the Romans do not want an emperor, and that he has a duty to his
family to bring down an emperor. Brutus believes all of this because he himself
is jealous of Caesar and believes that he is better than Caesar. Also, when a
person does not listen to other opinions in a situation, that shows this person
believes he is always right and does not need input of others. Brutus displays
this arrogance in all of the important decisions that affected the conspiracy.
This arrogance led Brutus and Hotspur to be subordinate leaders and bad decision
makers. Their excessive belief in honor played a role in their arrogance which
crippled their leadership abilities. Brutus and Hotspur are characters who have
exorbitant views of honor which actually causes them to act in opposition to
their principles and rebel against their leaders. Their egos and their struggles
for power makes them susceptible to manipulation and corruption. Their
misinterpreted idea of honor affects their attitude and leadership abilities.
Brutus and Hotspur build their lives around honor and expect everyone else to
follow those same principles. They seem to value honor, but eventually do not
commit honorable acts. When people are easily manipulated and corrupt, they are
not reliable leaders. Leaders can not take into account just honor in making
decisions. This will lead them to view ideas in only one way. Leaders should
take into account other factors when they make decisions. For example, Adolf
Hitler, the leader of the Nazis looked at problems in one way. He believed Jews
were the cause of Germany’s economic problems and did not take into account
that Germany was to blame for the first world war and had to pay reparations for
it. Hitler’s arrogance and his own definition of honor caused him to make
decisions looking at them one way just as Hotspur and Brutus did. Hitler was
also obsessed with the Aryan race. He believed the Aryan race, Germans, were
superior to all other races and did not even listen to what other had to say.
The narrow way he looked at his views made him an unreliable leader and bad
decision maker. As we choose the leaders for our country, we should try to
evaluate what their morals and motivations are, so that we choose the most
secure and reliable leaders.

BibliographyShakespeare, William. Henry the IV, Part I. Edited with intro. by Barbara A.
Mowat and Paul Werstine. Folger edition. New York: Washington Square Press,
Pocket Books, 1994. Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Edited with intro. by
Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. Folger edition. New York: Washington Square
Press, Pocket Books, 1992.
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