Horses and Harries: Medieval Depictions of Virtue and Vice in 1 Henry IV


Ann Hubert


This article uncovers the competing medieval ideologies of the horse in 1 Henry IV and argues that their implementation interrogates the interconnected construction of masculinity and honor in the play. Depicted variously in medieval romance as the foundation of courtesy and in medieval preaching as unbridled sin, horses signify a complex range of behavioral expectations that provides a new template from which to understand Hal as the impressionable youth who must choose between the path of virtue (the battlefield and Hotspur) and vice (the tavern and Falstaff) to find salvation, which in this case is the approval of his father, King Henry IV. Shakespeare’s integration of the horse’s competing medieval ideologies not only secularizes the psychomachia of the morality play form but also highlights how the presentation of masculinity and honor challenges the seemingly straightforward categorization of Falstaff as vice, Hotspur as virtue, and Hal as reformed sinner.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.