In the Shakespeare's play Henry IV the word honor is used in various forms thirty two times. If one looks up the definition of honor in a dictionary, there is a concise meaning to be found. The American Heritage Dictionary's definition is thus: 1. High respect, as that shown for special merit; esteem. 2a. Good name; reputation. This concrete description of the word is not disputed and is relied upon in the scholarly world as a representation of the common understanding. The idea of Elizabethan honor would have most likely been in accord with this modern definition. Especially the idea of a good reputation, for in Shakespeare's times one's family name and honor coincided. However, the four major characters in Henry IV; Henry IV, Prince Harry (Hal), Henry Percy (Hotspur), and Falstaff; seem to have come to determine their own separate stance on how honor works and to what degrees this idea holds an importance to them personally. The way in which their honorable ideologies have defined their character provides a distinct correlation on how their reputations have been established in the eyes of the public.
First off, the rebel king Henry IV brings up the introductory discussion of honor. By bringing up the attributes of honor straight off, it sets up a certain ironic tone in the play since the audience knows the dishonorable measures the king went through to usurp the crown. When speaking of Hotspur taking prisoners at Holmedon he retorts, "And is not this an honourable spoil?-(I.1.74) referring to Hotspur's endeavor. He then goes on to compare him with his own son's capacity,.
Yea, there thou makest me sad and makest me sin.
In envy that my Lord Northumberland.
Should be the father to so blest a son,.
A son who is the theme of honour's tongue;.
His son Hal, as we know from Richard II, has been spending most of his time in taverns accompanied by a group of common scoundrels.