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Prince Hal

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Prince Hal’S Detachment From The Tavern Life And Development As A Leader Essay, Research Paper

Although William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 depicts Henry Bolingbroke’s troubles

following the usurpation of England’s thrown, the more consequential plot concerns the

transformation of Prince Hal from a tavern crony into the next King of England. This is a

play of contrast where Prince Hal is caught between two father figures who represent

contradicting ideals. The figure most notable in the Prince’s youth is Falstaff, a materialist

who rejects responsibility and has a childish demeanor, thus providing a comparison with

the Prince’s own youthfulness. In opposition to the jovial Falstaff comes Henry IV, the

biological father of the Prince, who is time honored with responsibility and political

authority, providing a model for the Prince in his maturation. This play becomes the study

of Prince Hals’s development in character as he observes the figures around him to

distinguish what makes an effective King, along with his detachment from the youthful

rebellion within the tavern setting as he becomes an adult with the political prowess to

become the next King of England.

The growth of character in Prince Hal as an irresponsible youth associated with a

tavern gang into the authoritative cunning King Henry V is founded in the Prince’s

intuition to humble himself during his youth in order to gain the favor and admiration of

the English people. In a monologue the Prince suggest his intentions for glorification as he

advances from the tavern gloom by stating,

Yet herein will I imitate the sun,

Who doth permit the base contagious clouds

To smother up his beauty from the world,

That, when he please again to himself,

Being wanted, he may be more wand’red at…(I ii 209-205)

In this speech Prince Hal regards himself as the sun who under the smothering pestilence

of the clouds will as a result become more missed and therefore more victorious among

the populous. Shakespeare relates the same desire to humble thyself before masses in

order to gain their admiration to Henry IV, while arguing with his son the strategies he

used in the usurpation of the crown from Richard II by suggesting himself as,

A fellow of no mark nor likelihood.

By being seldom seen, I could not stir

But, like a comet, I was wondered at…(Act III ii 45-47)

With the repetition of words as “wondered at” Henry IV also seeks the people’s favor

through humility, so the people of England will welcome him to their throne. Henry V

becomes an inspirational figure to win their admiration as a leader, in contrast to the

loathsome tavern setting that Prince Hal is associated, in order to gain the commoners

praise as an equal.

In the development of Prince Hal within the tavern setting during his youth, which

he uses as an institution for learning common society in preparation for kingship, there

comes a point of detachment from the former self. The first semblance of partition comes

during a game where Falstaff playing the Prince ask, “banish Peto, banish Bardolph, banish

Poins, but for sweet Jack Falstaff…banish not him…”(II iv 475-479). Prince Hal, as the

King, replies “I do, I will,” thus foreshadowing Falstaff’s banishment by the Prince when

he is crowned King of England. The Prince’s lasting gesture in the declaration of

independence from Falstaff is on the battlefield when the Prince loses his sword and asks

Falstaff to lend him one, and the jovial Falstaff replies, “Hal, if Percy be alive, thou gets

not my sword; but take my pistol if though wilt.”(V iii 50-51) Prince Hal reaches for his

pistol only to discover a bottle of sack; in disgust the Prince throws it at him. This scene

reinforces the character of Falstaff as one of “jest” and depicts within Prince Hal his

maturation over such folly.

The final duty in Prince Hal’s independence from tavern life is winning his father’s

favor and becoming a leader of stern will and political prowess. King Henry IV is

contributed with the ideals of Machiavellianism where political gain is priority at any cost.

This belief structure constitutes the right of action over words and proving worthiness as a

leader through the battlefield. Prince Hal proves his loyalty and worthiness to his father by

way of force when he comes to his father’s rescue during a fight where he storms on to

the scene and proclaims, “It is the Prince of Wales that threatens the, Who never

promiseth but he means to pay.”(V iv 41-42) In fear the offender flees for his life and the

King announces, “Thou hast redeemed thy lost opinion, and showed though mak’st some

tender of my life,”(V iv 47-48) therefore winning the heart of his father and the future

throne of England. The final act of detaching himself from the low life associated with

Falstaff and his gang comes during Henry IV, part II when upon the coronation of Hal as

Henry V, he banishes Falstaff. This is his first assertion of power as the King of England

and the final act of defiance against his rebellious childhood.

There is positive and negative as well as gains and losses in his quest for kingship,

like the eventual loss of a friend in Falstaff. In addition to the deliverance of power that

Hal asserts, his character also develops a stern and vigor unlike his light hearted deposition

during his youth with Falstaff, and it too is a sign of his maturation, although it can be

discerned as a negative affectation. A former father figure to the Prince, Falstaff was also

out for personal gain through friendship with Hal. This is evident when Flastaff states,

…when thou art King, let us that are squires of the

night’s body be called thieves of the day’s beauty.

Let us be Diana’s foresters, gentlemen of the shade,

minions of the moon…(I ii 22-25)

Therefore Falstaff not only loses a figural son, but also hopes for a prosperous life in the

King’s court. Prince Hal’s assertion of justice as a King is questioned when Falstaff ask,

“Do not thou, when thou art King, hang a thief,”(I ii 63-64) and the Prince replies, “No;

thou shalt.”(I ii 65) In the same conversation the Prince states “I mean, thou shalt have the

hanging of the thieves and so become a rare hangman,”(I ii 68-70) suggesting Falstaff is a

thief and alluding to the reason behind the banishment of Falstaff when Hal becomes King.

Falstaff is known by Hal to be a thief and justifiably could be hanged, and in fact in

HenryV, the King does hang Bardolph a former tavern crony for stealing from a church,

and it reinforces Prince Hal’s assertion of kingship as a just institution. Positively Hal’s

intuition, stern, and political prowess gain him the throne of England and consequently a

successful reign.

Prince Hal’s character matures through ideology set forth by his father, and his

quest for the throne has both positive and negative results. One of the negative results is

the loss of former friends along with gaining characteristics that may be characterized as

cold, stern and domineering. However, it is this personality that wins the favor of King

Henry IV and eventually the throne of England. It is also the attributes that allow him to

reign successfully in a just manner without being usurped. The tavern allows Hal to

develop these characters and adept himself with the common people of England to gain

their favor but also become aware of how better to serve their needs, thus Prince Hal

develops a universal character that proves worthy of a king.

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