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The major theme of the play is “disorder versus order.” King Henry IV is torn by the civil wars in England and is sick and weary. He appeals to his son as a grief-stricken father because he thinks Hal is irresponsible, undisciplined and unfaithful. He is concerned with the welfare of England in the future and doubts whether his son would be able to rule well. All this disorder comes to an end when Hal emerges as an enthusiastic and magnanimous ruler, dedicated to his duty. The royal forces suppressed the rebellion, bringing order to all levels of society.
One of the most evident minor Themes is miscalculation. Rumor introduces the play and sets the tone for much of what goes on within it. Miscalculation is prevalent throughout the play and many actions are based on bad information. Characters are also judged based on incomplete information, but the audience tends to know the truth. By the end of the play, misinformation ceases to be a problem.
The interplay of Moods and tones is an important aspect of the play. After the alarming stories of Rumor and the northern rebels, Falstaff’s wit is lavish, expansive, and elegant. The council of war follows which is a return to somber policy discussion, and then Mistress Quickly’s scene again lightens the Mood. The play extends its scenes and styles to make the widest exploration of the nation’s life. The kingdom is in trouble and there is varied and vigorous movement everywhere. The military scenes show a sense of urgency that the nation is preparing for war. Since the King is sick and tired, he sees everything as a source of disease and worse times to come when his son succeeds him. There is talk of individual sicknesses--syphilis, gout, obesity--and the need for doctors, medicine, diets, purging, and other remedies. Signs of aging are everywhere. Melancholy reigns; the play ends in death which has tolled throughout, from Morton bringing the news of the “hateful death” of Hotspur to the King on his deathbed crying despairingly: “Pluck down my officers, break my decrees./ For now a time is come to mock at form./ there is a growing sense of a world about to collapse in ruin.”