Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



English Language, Literature, and Creative Writing

First Advisor

Mark A. Johnston


Bakhtin, Henry, Kantorowicz, Masculinities, Masculinitiy, Shakespeare




Early modern ideals of masculinity were notably inconsistent, and often contradictory, yet remained prominently embedded within the ideology of Elizabethan England. This thesis focuses on how Shakespeare’s 1 and 2 Henry IV expose the dangerous consequences of these ideals when situated in competition with one another by reproducing them during a period of intense civil upheaval. These plays reveal the deficiencies of conventional models of masculinity, particularly through the characters of Falstaff and Percy, as well as the need for a new model of masculinity that can provide the state with order and stability. The resulting Machiavellian ideal, which Hal constructs from other competing ideals, is a model of masculinity that operates according to a principle of control, both in the political sense and over oneself. Percy’s death and Falstaff’s banishment signal the emergence of Hal’s Machiavellian ideal as a more effective model of masculinity, which flourishes not through prescribed notions of manhood but by actively negotiating the beneficial or destructive aspects of particular ideals, combining them in accordance with an ever-changing society. By tracing these changes, masculinity is revealed as a composite of many ideological registers that depend on ideas of, among others, bodies, language, and politics.