Relations Between Older and Younger Men in Henry IV and As You Like It
It is interesting to compare the relations between older and younger men in Henry IV and As You Like It. This essay will consider two extracts; 1 Henry IV, 2.4.109-62 (Bevington ed., pp. 182-6) and As You Like It, 2.3.27-77 (Brissenden ed., pp. 131-3). The two extracts differ dramatically in their approach to the relations between older and younger men.
In summary, the As You Like It scene is serious and moving, conducted in verse, concerned with issues of faithfulness, and uses Biblical references for metaphors. The scene from Henry IV is humorous, conducted in prose, concerned with betrayal and falsehood, (even if it is set in a farcical context,) and refers to common sayings in its metaphors and oaths. Both scenes examine the comparison of an old world to the new, to different levels of significance. The potential exists in both scenes to perform them in opposition to the audiences expectations - comic elements could be introduced into the As You Like It scene, and the Henry IV scene could be darkened in places.
The extract from Henry IV is conducted in prose throughout; its use can be allotted by social distinction, for superior characters to inferiors, or it can be used by one of high status to another, as a calculating insult. In this case though, it is appropriate for the surroundings of the Eastcheap tavern, and is used among persons of varying status to express their friendship. Hal effectively moves between the prose world of Eastcheap and the noble world of exalted blank verse. The use of prose in the tavern is simply a different register and does not necessarily make it an inferior form; Falstaff's prose often seems to speak more truth than the elevated language of the courtiers. The use of prose here also has the effect of increasing the pace of the scene, and the brisk exchanges of short pieces of dialogue support this:
HAL: Why, you whoreson round man, what's the matter?
FALSTAFF: Are you not a coward? Answer me to that. And Poins there?
POINS: Zounds, ye fat paunch, an ye call me coward, by the Lord, I'll stab thee.
1 Henry IV 2.4.134-39
By contrast, the As You Like It extract is conducted in blank verse. It's unrhymed, measured iambic pentameter was the most popular poetic form, or vehicle, of English Renaissance drama. It tends to be used by high-ranking characters, as a mark of respect to each other, or to talk down to inferiors. In this extract, however, Adam would be considered an inferior of Orlando, yet they converse in blank verse without the intention of insult. A lowly character such as Adam, like that of Caliban in The Tempest, gains reverence and status by his use of verse, and shows the mutual respect and friendship between the pair. Adam's rhyming couplets in his final speech give formal heightening to his resolve, and an audible marker to the conclusion of this part of the play,...