William Shakespeare 's Henry Iv : Part I Essay

William Shakespeare 's Henry Iv : Part I Essay

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One of the most famous scenes in Henry IV: Part I is the scene in which Prince Hal and Falstaff put on a play extempore. This is often cited as the most famous scene because it is Hal’s turning point in the play. However, the scene is much more than that. The play extempore is a moment of prophecy, not epiphany because is cues the reader in to the play’s major themes, and allows readers to explore the possibilities of the play’s continuance.
In his speech at the end of 1.2, Hal says that he is only spending time in the taverns and with misfits so that when he achieves glory, it will look even greater than it is. However, one might argue that really Hal is scared to take on the responsibility of being a prince and is using the time that he has left to indulge his desires before he must put them aside to become king. This is further demonstrated when Hal says, “Do thou stand for my father, and examine me upon the particulars of my life” (2.4. 363-364). He doesn 't just ask Falstaff to play his father, he asks him to stand in his place and to examine his life. This may be a subconscious movement from Hal to be judged by Falstaff rather than the king. Hal knows he can impress Falstaff, but he also knows that he is a disappointment to his father. This is an extension of Hal’s wish not to be prince or to take on the responsibility that it entails.
This scene sees Falstaff stepping into shoes that he can’t quite fill—both in his portrayal of King Henry and of Prince Hal. Falstaff fails to create the play extempore’s intention—to prepare Prince Hal to meet with his father—and instead makes the moment about himself when he says, “And yet there is a virtuous man whom I have often noted in thy company, but I know not his name” (2. 4. 403-40...


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...e is saying that he will do what’s necessary to be a good king. That he does have what it takes to leave a life he enjoys for a life of duty.
The true reason for the value of the play extempore is its ability to use all of the plays themes in one scene, and its ability to project the future of the characters in Henry IV: Part I. The reader sees the characters seeking redemption—Hal from his father and the kingdom, and Falstaff from Hal. In this scene readers also see the performance of a king, which leads to some essential questions of the play. What is a king, and what makes someone a king? Is it just the willingness of others to accept that person as a king? The play extempore seems to answer those questions with a yes. Finally, it displays the ability of the play’s characters to take on a roll before they are prepared to do so, and to make of it what they will.

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William Shakespeare 's Henry Iv : Part I Essay

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