The Development of Prince Hal into a Leader in William Shakespeare's Henry IV

The Development of Prince Hal into a Leader in William Shakespeare's Henry IV

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The Development of Prince Hal into a Leader in William Shakespeare's Henry IV

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,

... middle of paper ... 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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