The question that Shakespeare raises throughout the series of Henry IV, Part I, Henry IV, Part II, and Henry V is that of whether Prince Hal (eventually King Henry V), is a true manifestation of an ideal ruler, and whether he is a rightful heir to his father’s ill-begotten throne. England is without a true king, being run by a ruler without the right of divine providence on his side– altogether, a very difficult situation for a young, inexperienced, and slightly delinquent Prince to take on. The task of proving himself a reliable Prince and a concerned ruler is of utmost importance to Hal, as he does not enjoy the mantle of divine right– perhaps by being an excellent ruler, Hal can make up for the usurpation of Richard II’s crown. Even though he is unable to change his ancestry, he may be able to gain God’s support by ruling justly, piously, and effectively. Robert Fallon defines this stage of England’s history as “an era when monarchs were expected to share with their soldiers the dangers of the battlefield, where strength of character was equated with strength of arm and a king’s ability to rule was measured by his ability to lead his armies in conquest,” and this is the mindset that Hal must deal with, moving from an irresponsible tavern dweller to a responsible ruler, fit to lead England with God’s support, if not his permission (Fallon, 111).
The association of Prince Hal with dubious, tavern-dwelling creatures like Falstaff is a main point of contention between his supporters and detractors. Because the audience first meets the Prince in Henry IV, Part I, while he is carousing in the tavern with Falstaff, it is necessary for Shakespeare to indicate that Hal is not as enchanted with...
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...stability and domestic tranquility.
Fallon, Robert Thomas. “Henry V: This Star of England.” A Theatrer-Goer’s Guide to Shakespeare’s Characters. Chicago, Illinois: Ivan R. Dee, 2004. 106-122.
Ornstein, Robert. A Kingdom for a Stage: The Achievement of Shakespeare’s History Plays. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1972.
Roe, John. “Henry V: The Prince and Cruelty.” Studies in Renaissance Literature: Shakespeare and Machiavelli. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002. 63-93.
Shakespeare, William. Ed. David Scott Kastan. Henry IV, Part I. London: The Arden Shakespeare, 2002.
Shakespeare, William. Ed. A.R. Humphreys. King Henry IV, Part II. London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., and The Arden Shakespeare, 1981.
Shakespeare, William. Ed. J.H. Walter. King Henry V. London: Metheun & Co., Ltd., and The Arden Shakespeare, 1954.
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