How Important Is Prince Henry (Prince Hal) in Henry IV-Part 1? Essay
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In the play Henry IV part 1, we see that Prince Henry (Prince Hal) plays an important part in the whole plot. We see that he is the focal point of the plays main themes. Prince Hal spent almost all of his time in the tavern with Sir John Falstaff, his best friend. In act 2 scene 4, Prince Hal has an interesting conversation with Falstaff. At first, the conversation begins with a little light-hearted humour when Sir John plays the King interviewing the Prince and Prince Hal plays as himself.
Falstaff, playing the King, starts the conversation by saying, “Peace, good pint-pot, peace” to me as a reader this seemed quite funny in the sense that a ‘King of England’ would address his son, the prince a pint-pot. Falstaff then said, while still playing the King, “I do not only marvel where thou spendest thy time, but also how thou art accompanied.” He later went on to say, “And yet there is a virtuous man whom I have often noted in thy company, but I know not his name.
Really all this time Falstaff was asking Prince Hal about himself. Knowing this Prince Hal asked the ‘king’ “what manner of man, and it like your majesty? By this time, Falstaff had most probably thought of enough words to praise himself and so replied, “A goodly portly man, I’ faith, and a corpulent; of a cheerful look, a pleasing eye, and a most noble carriage.” What he meant by this was that he was a very dignified man with a good figure and that he had a noble behaviour. Prince Hal now decided that it was time for him to play King and for Falstaff to play Prince but Falstaff thought otherwise; he replied, “Dispose me? If thou dost it Prince Half so gravely, so majestically, both in word and matter, hang me up by the heels for a rabbit-sucker, or a poulter’s hare.”
This meant that Falstaff felt quite offended by Prince Hal suggesting such a thing. Prince Hal had another idea, instead of praising Falstaff; Prince Hal thought it would be amusing to disgrace him. Prince Hal spoke out as the King, “Thou art violently carried away from grace. There is a devil haunts thee in the likeness of an old fat man.” This to Falstaff would seem almost as an insult and for his defence replies, “But to say I know more harm in him than in myself were to say more than I know. That he is old, the more the pity.” Falstaff felt as though he had been insulted but still tried to make it sound as though he were still joking. For Prince Hal the major turning point in his life was when he went to have an interview with his father the King. This meeting not only showed Prince Hal how disappointed his father was, but also showed him how wrong he had been up to now. As soon as he realised this he asked for forgiveness from his father, he did this by saying, “Find pardon on my true submission.”
His father replied, “God pardon thee!” The most important part of Prince Hal’s reformation was when he decided to ride into battle alongside his father Henry IV. Hotspur (Harry Percy) had led a rebellion and wanted to overthrow Henry IV so his son Prince Hal promised that he himself would fight Hotspur to the end. Before the battle had begun Vernon, Hotspurs cousin came to Hotspur and described how great Prince Hal looked. He said, “All furnish’d, all in arms; all plum’d like estridges that with the wind bated, like eagles having lately bath’d; Glittering in golden coats like images; As full of spirit as the month of May, And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer.”
Hotspur could not take this anymore and was just lost for words when he heard his own cousin, a rebel fighter saying such brilliant words about someone he was just about to fight. The final battle between Prince Hal and Hotspur was the grand finale of the completion of Prince Hal’s reformation. Hotspur however mocks Prince Hal a little and boasts about himself as well. Hotspur does this by saying, “Harry, for the hour is come to end the one of us; and would to God thy name in arms were now as great as mine!” To Hal this would have been enough to push him and fight Hotspur.
Throughout the play Henry IV, Shakespeare used different devices of language. To distinguish the dignified people he used blank verse. We see an example of this whenever the king speaks for instance when the King speaks to his eldest son Hal, “I no not whether God will have it so.” Another device which Shakespeare uses is imagery, there is a good example of this is when Worcester (his uncle) speaks to Hotspur and Northumberland (his father) when they plan to hold the rebellion. “As full of peril and adventurous spirit as to o’er-walk a current roaring loud on the unsteadfast footing of a spear.” To a reader these words would give them the image of a roaring river with a spear as a bridge on which to cross over. Another device, which is used in the play, is dramatic irony. We see this when the prince is alone in his apartment and thinking aloud to himself about his reformation and how he will amaze everyone when he does so.
In the play, many characters speak about Prince Hal. Falstaff his best friend sometimes addresses him as ‘mad wag’ or ‘the most comparative, rascalliest, sweet young Prince.’ All these names that Falstaff called him were all meant as a joke and never said seriously. Hotspur, Hal’s rival to the throne of England said many things about him, some of which are ‘The madcap Prince of Wales’ and when they finally met at the battlefield, he mocked Hal by saying that he wished that Hal was as great a fighter as he was. The King also said that he would rather have Hotspur as his son and his next heir to the throne than Hal, “He hath more worthy interest to the state than thou the shadow of succession.” Throughout the play, no one described Prince Hal as greatly as Vernon (Hotspurs cousin).
He described Prince Hal to Hotspur so magnificently that Hotspur even told him to stop talking because he could not hear Prince Hal’s praises anymore. Hal was described by Vernon, “All furnish’d, all in arms; all plum’d like estridges that with the wind bated, like eagles having lately bath’d; Glittering in golden coats like images; As full of spirit as the month of May, And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer. Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls, I saw young Harry with his beaver on, his cushes on his thighs, gallantly arm’d, rise from the ground like feather’d Mercury, and vaulted with such ease into his seat as if an angel dropp’d down from the clouds to turn and wind a fiery Pegasus, and witch the world with noble horsemanship.” As this came from a rebel fighter, this emphasised the fact that the impact that Prince Hal had on everybody was astounding.
My conclusion is that Prince Henry (Hal) plays an important role in the play because he manages to have an affect on everyone and everyone seems to be effected by him. Prince Hal is also the next heir to the throne in succession of his father Henry IV so he therefore is an important person and he has to uphold certain responsibilities and cannot let people like Falstaff sway him in the wrong direction.