What does Henry IV Part One have to say about the manipulation of people and power?.
Some see Henry IV Part One as Shakespeare's own "morality play" - such plays were well-received by medieval audiences. The moral themes of manipulation and exploitation are prominent ones, and ones which present themselves throughout the play in the nature of ulterior motives between supposed friends and political factions. Shakespeare's resounding message however, is that manipulation is inescapable when power over others is to be had.
In Elizabethan hierachical society, one expects the character with the most power to be the King himself. However, within the opening scene we see a man amid political instability with a crack in his power, which is due to his own fear that his rule is illegitimate. The deposition of King Richard II would have been seen by many as an offence against God; as the ruler was seen as God's representative. An ominous undertone resounds through this: the power that Henry has acquired is already flawed and abused. Here, a precedent has been set: by usurping the throne dishonestly, Henry has increased the vulnerability of his acquired power to abuse. His recognition of this "crack" in his power is shown by his protest "So shaken as we are, so wan with care." It is perhaps for this reason that it is hardly surprising disorder prevails in the way it does. .
Henry's ambition for a crusade to the Holy Land is also an example of his manipulative side. He claims that the purpose of the crusade is to fulfil God's work, and to regain the land where Jesus was crucified to save mankind: "Which fourteen hundred years ago were nailed; For our advantage on the bitter cross." In this way, it is as if Henry is atoning for his wrongs. However his real reason is to unite the country against a common enemy, after much friction between rival armies in a civil war: "Forthwith a power of English shall we levy.