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The Shakespeare Tarot - Hotspur

7 of Staffs - Hotspur

Dramatis Personae: Hotspur, a.k.a. Henry Percy.

Text & Context: As Brutus to Mark Antony, Hotspur represents old world values compared to Hal's embodiment of the new. His is the shining ideal, concerned with precedent and consequence but unharrowed by ethical questions, cut down in his youth by the future king. He is primitive, violent England, dead but forever young. In this sense, he is a radically isolated figure.


 Within the Henry IVs, Hal is set as Hotspur's antithesis, creating a complex network of meaning when we realize Hotspur's aged corrrelative is Falstaff. Prince Harry, son of the usurping king, kills Hotspur, Henry IV and heroic England's ideal son. Symbollicly then, Harry kills the heroic England of old, reiterated at the end of the Henry IV cycle, when Henry V kills the old lad of the castle, Falstaff. 

 Hotspur's own father was unable to join his son at Shrewsbury, but he forged ahead anyway because winning an impossible battle would lend "luster and more great opinion." Henry Percy, then, was the victim of his own headstrong and headlong fixation with honour. In this way, the Hotspur card is a warning against outdated notions of masculinity, singularity of mind, and over-estimation of the likelihood of success.

Intertext: King of Cups Hal; The Emperor IV Falstaff.

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