University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The Two Sides of Prince Hal: Charmer and Wit, yet Cold and Calculating
One of the most captivating plays made by William Shakespeare is the play “Henry the IV,” which offers a very descriptive and exciting account of the life of Henry the IV, king of England. In fact, the play Henry the IV is one of the three royal historical plays made by Shakespeare, the two other being the plays “Richard the II” and “Henry the V. ” All of these three plays vividly explore the malice and the intrigue of medieval England, especially in the race for the English throne, amidst the fiercely competing kings. The play “Henry the IV” also gives an insight in the important characters that shaped this part of English history.
This essay would focus upon the character of Prince Hal (also known as Prince Henry), as depicted in Part 1 of Henry the Fourth, especially in the two sides of his character: one being the “charmer and the wit,” while the other being the “cold and calculating” prince. Part 1 of the play Henry the IV actually deals with the unquiet reign of king Henry the IV, who is actually threatened by different things: a conflict between the kings of Scotland and Wales, as well as the brewing rebellion of some of the nobles in his kingdom, among them are Hotspur, Northumberland, and Thomas Percy, among others.
In the first parts of the play, it may be inferred that the nobles actually see Prince Hal may be unfit for a royalty, due to his time spent at the taverns with his friend, Sir John Falstaff (“Henry the IV, part 1” n. pag. ). However, it is actually his association with Sir John Falstaff, especially in the scene at apartment of Prince Hal (Act 1 Scene 2, where his charm and wit can be glaringly seen (“Henry the IV, part 1” n. pag. ).
With Prince Hal actually having a very intelligent conversation with Sir Falstaff, it can be seen that the manner of Prince Hal is very intelligent and enticing, making him appear with a sense of wit and charm. For instance, with Falstaff asking what time of the day it is, Prince Hal wittingly answers it with a contextualization of the situation, as well as stating that “Unless hours were cups of sack and minutes capons…I see no reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of the day” (“Henry the IV, part 1” n. pag. ).
There is another situation where Prince Hal shows his charm and wit, this time when he actually decides to show the nobles that he is very worthy to be a royalty. In Act 3, scene 2 of the play, where the king is troubled by the rebellion, Prince Hal actually takes advantage of the rebellion of the nobles Mortimer and the Percy family, and takes over the leadership of the battlefield, with Prince Hal stating that “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” (“Henry the IV, part 1” n. pag. ) With Prince Hal enjoying the life of the taverns, and having the courage to take a big responsibility from the king, the Prince having wit and charms is really on full display.
However, Prince Hal does not only have this very charming and witty side; the fact is that he also has his own dosage of being cold and calculating; this is very much evident in Act II, scene 2, where Prince Hal and Sir Falstaff is actually embroiled in a highway robbery, which was being done by the nobles who where preparing to rebel against the king (“Henry the IV, part 1” n. pag. ).
In this case, with Prince Hal already caught in the robbery, he still has the demeanor to remain cool, and actually confronted the situation very well. As stated by Prince Hal, “I am accursed to rob in that thief’s company: the rascal hath removed my horse, and tied him I know not where. If I travel but four foot by the squire further afoot, I shall break my wind. ” (“Henry the IV, part 1” n. pag. )