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Discuss Shakespeare's portrayal of Hal in Henry IV Part One.

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Introduction

Discuss Shakespeare's portrayal of Hal in Henry IV Part One Shakespeare wrote 10 history plays in all, 8 of these make up a series of 2 tetralogies, or sets of 4 plays each. Placing them in chronicle order, the metrologies are: (1) Richard II, Henry IV part 1, Henry IV part 2, and Henry V, (2) Henry VI part 1, Henry VI part 2, Henry VI part 3, and Richard III. Henry I part 1 was written in 1596-1597, and was and still is one of the most popular Shakespeare plays ever written. The reason it is not so popular as other plays such as Romeo and Juliet (tragedy) and Taming of the shrew (comedy) is that it is a history play. Contrary to popular belief history plays are not completely historic and do contain main humorous and romantic scenes, characters and settings. An example of this is Falstaff, adored and loved by audiences in both past and prescence. He was so popular that another 2 plays were wrote about him. (Henry IV part 2 and Merry Wives of Windsor) Although Shakespeare wished to the play as close to the historical truth as possible he also had to make sure that he did not upset the Tudors in doing so. He must infact be careful to praise the Tudors. Elizabeth was in reign and so if he had upset the queen in any way there could have been a severe price to pay. After Edward III died, his successor Richard II took over. He was later murdered and it was thought that Bullingbrook (Henry IV) had had him killed so that he could take the throne. There was still however a stronger claim to the throne, Edmund Mortimer; descendant of Lionel, Duke of Clarence. ...read more.

Middle

He questions the idea of honour and what use it has: "Can honour set to a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honour hath no surgery then? No. What is honour?" (soliloquy) This is Falstaff's view of honour yet it is the opposite of Hal'. Falstaff is a coward, a boaster and a lyer. We see this from Hal at first yet as the play unfolds a change in Hal's character takes place and he begins to transform. On the battlefield Falstaff pretends to be dead and lies on the floor as not to be killed. He lies at the robbery of Gads hill saying that he was attacked by many men yet it was only Hal and Poins. He also lies and stabs Hotspur, now dead claiming that he had killed him when infact it was Hal. "Therefore I'll make him sure, yea, and I'll swear I killed him" After killing Hotspur Hal praises the dead man: "A kingdom for it was too small a bound. But now two paces of the vilest earth Is room enough" In this speech the word "it" represents Hotspur's ambition, he had too much and ultimately he payed the price, Hal clearly shows his countrymen that he knows greed is bad, and to look out for what happens if you get too greedy. The speech is carefully phrased and also in iambic pentameter. Hal has clearly come into his own here, and delivers a speech almost worthy of a king. It could however be argued that this it was Shakespeare's intention to portray Hal in this light to fool the Tudors into thinking that Hal had true honour. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hal overcomes and fights him temptation to enter the world of "rude society", eventually and shows that he has the qualities needed to be a fine prince and a respected King. However Hal can be seen in another light it. The honourable Hal could merely be an attempt at fooling the Tudors. Shakespeare wished to please the Tudors and not upset them, but also at the same time he wished to create an enjoyable and watchable play where more accurate portrayals of the true characters could be made. Hal can be seen as cold and detached from his companions, whom he swears to banish (Falstaff). It could be said that Hal uses people for his own personal advantage, either to aid him with his kingship or just for amusement. Hal enjoys cruel Practical jokes ( Gads hill). As mentioned earlier it seems as though Falstaff and Hal are the best of friends. It is obvious that Falstaff has true affection for Hal yet whether the feeling is mutual is uncertain. In Act 2 Scene 4 Why does Hal keep Falstaff outside the room instead of inviting him in straightaway? Why does Hal not pay homage to Falstaff on the battlefield? In the first tavern scene we see Prince Hal relationship with Falstaff. 'Fat-witted,' Prince Hal makes jokes about Falstaff being fat. Whatever Shakespeare's true portrayal of Hal was it is clear that throughout the play Hal has changed. Whether he was fit to be a king all along and he was merely waiting for the right moment at which to announce his "reformation" is unsure. However one thing for sure is that Hal's reformation was one of the greatest Themes in any of Shakespeare's plays. It not only kept the Tudors happy but the audience as well. Oliver Markham 5PMD Bradford Grammar School 371371 1 ...read more.

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