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The Education of Prince Hal - King Henry IV Part 1

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Introduction

Alexander Williamson The Education of Prince Hal King Henry IV Part 1 The main aim of this play is to chart Prince Hal's transition from a rogue to his proper princely position. As with real people who are making a conscious effort to change the way they are, Prince Hal is always altering the perception of the world that he holds and peoples perception of himself. However, we only really get to see the changes that he is making at certain times in the play set at sufficiently regular intervals to allow them to be seen as updates on his personal progress. These are his soliloquies, speeches spoken towards other characters but there for the benefit of the audience only. They are included to show us what is happening inside his head and about his emotional condition. Showing the emotion demonstrated in the soliloquies as part of a conversational piece of script would have seemed unrealistic in the time the play was written and so the soliloquy was utilised to both dramatic and realistic effect. We also see that with each soliloquy Hal matures and becomes more honourable. The three soliloquies that I will be analysing are in Act 1 Scene 2, Act 3 Scene 2 and Act 5 Scene 4. Each shows Prince Hal's progression from a layabout to royalty and the story so effectively that it would be possible to follow what is happening using only these speeches and a minimal amount of other text. The first of the prince's speeches is set in the tavern in Eastcheap and shows Hal's lowest point. The name of the town itself represents Hal's life of sin, the stress being put specifically on the "cheap" part of the town's title. He practically lives, with Falstaff, at the Bulls Head Tavern in the act of getting to know his future subjects in order to be a better leader. ...read more.

Middle

"Do not think it so, you shall not find it so; And God forgive them that so much have swayed Your majesty's good thoughts away from me!" Hal shows maturity and confidence in this statement by accepting that he has made mistakes in the past but not all of what the king has heard is true but is the product of rumourmongers and Hal's enemies. Despite the trouble these people have caused Hal, he still asks God to forgive those who have been slandering him. This keeps with the religious aspect of the play by mirroring Jesus' quote as he is being sent to death whilst praying to God, asking him not to punish his aggressors. We already know that the king was seen as Gods representative on earth and so the Prince of Wales may be viewed as a Jesus figure, an idea that gives us a new angle on the importance of Hal's change. He then vows to kill Hotspur as a gesture to prove his commitment to his cause and to redeem himself. He uses powerful imagery to depict how the death of Harry Percy will cleanse him of his sins. "I will redeem all this on Percy's head, And in the closing of some glorious day Be bold to tell you that I am your son, When I will wear a garment all of blood, And stain my favours in a bloody mask, Which, washed away, shall scour my shame with it." This means that Hal's will cover himself in Hotspurs blood and, when cleaned off, his sins will be washed away along with the gore. This will obviously not literally happen but it symbolises how Hotspurs death will 'cure' Hal. In lines 138-141 Hal describes himself as the underdog, a tactic that we later discover is all part of Hal's plan to make his ascension seem more glorious and well earned. ...read more.

Conclusion

Hal ends the soliloquy a little more seriously as a tribute to Falstaffs bravery at the very end of his life (whilst still managing to slip a fat joke in) and grants him a little nobility by 'allowing' him to lie next to someone of true greatness. "Death hath not struck so fat a deer today, Though many dearer, in this bloody fray. Embowelled will I see thee by and by, Till then in blood by noble Percy lie." Hal's pun on Falstaff being as fat as a deer, but not being the dearest person to have died in the battle would almost certainly cause a reaction in the audience, most likely a groan, a fitting send-off for a man like John Falstaff. However, before Falstaffs 'resurrection' a few lines later the mood needs to be slightly more sombre as to ensure maximum comedic effect. Therefore Hal reminds the audience that Falstaff will be disembowelled, driving home the fact that Falstaff is indeed dead and will never return. This is a source of sadness or at least disappointment to viewers who have no knowledge of the play or its outcome. In conclusion, we find Hal to be everything that he promised and more. Not only did he vanquish the enemies of the king, but also he has developed good judgement and generosity, skills that will help him in his later reign as king. We can see Hal's new skills in action in lines 25 - 31 in Act 5 Scene 5, when he asks his father to allow him to dispose of the captured Douglas. Henry grants Hal's wish, expecting Hal to want to kill him in the same way that he would have. But the Prince of Wales orders his brother to free Douglas, as the defeated mans honour will also now belong to the king. This wise and shrewd decision shows us that the prince has finally finished his journey and education, from vagabond to royalty. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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