Henry IV One of the most important aspects of 1 Henry IV is the development and transgressions of Hal who is the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne. The play’s focus on the family reminds us that the struggles England endured through its growth were largely struggles inside the royal family. Hal’s character is at a point where he is unable to define who he will be; a responsible part of the monarch, as his father would like to see, or a rogue as is John Falstaff. Throughout the play the prince keeps company with Falstaff, who is indeed a knight but hardly acts as one would hope. He lies, robs travellers and frequents the bar and whorehouse owned by Mistress Quickly. By scene iv of the fifth act it is clear that the Prince will fulfil his role and embrace his noble birth by standing with his father to fight against the rebels.
At the end of the battle Hal makes it clear to himself but also to Falstaff that he will no longer be amongst his clan of rabble rousers. Undoubtedly Prince Hal is a noble character on a small scale and as early on as the second scene in the first act he is hinting at his uncertainties about his role in the state. He states: “So when this loose behavior I throw off / and pay the debt I never promised..” In this “loose behavior” refers to his dealing with Falstaff and the low life of the tavern and the “debt” he “never promised” is upholding the lineage of the monarchy. However, it is not until the battle when Hal puts his selfish, albeit true, loyalty behind him and defends his father who is being attacked by Douglas. Although he does not kill Douglas, Hal shows that he has become a man of honour and dignity. His father recognises this: “In this fair rescue thou hast brought to me..some tender of my life.” This shows that Hal’s decision to change is outwardly apparent to others, but most importantly, to his father.
Another aspect of Hal’s commitment to change can be seen in the lines that Shakespeare has given him. Most of the audience members would already be well acquainted with the story of Henry IV so it was especially important that the language be varied and colorful enough to keep the audience interested. In Act V, scene iv Hal is given lines that seem extraordinarily defiant but masking an internal struggle. Hotspur If I mistake not, thou art Harry Monmouth. Prince Thou speak’st as if I would deny my name.
Hotspur My name is Harry Percy. Prince Why, then I see A very valiant rebel of the name. I am the Prince of Wales; and think not, Percy, To share with me in glory any more. Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere; The Prince, rather than hastily disregarding his former ways, still holds respect for Hotspur even though it is apparent by this time that he will defeat the rebel as he promised his father. Hal speaks respectfully towards Hotspur but proclaims that he will no more “deny [his] name” as he has done up until this point in regards to his duty. This shows the audience that he has come to terms with his identity.
Hals use of language throughout the scene further expresses his acceptance of rank. Until this scene, Hal has spoken in verse only in the company of other nobility and in prose when with his friends in the tavern. The shift in his method of speech reveals to the audience that Hal felt he could move between the two spheres of society, between his father and Falstaff without having to have a static identity. His acceptance of his place in society can be seen in that he decides, for the first time, to speak in verse when addressing Falstaff: “I prithee, speak; we will not trust our eyes Without our ears: thou art not what thou seemst.” . Shakespeare makes Hal’s transgressions all the more important because it takes place during the first time that all the characters, from both the palace and the tavern, are in the same scene. In a sense, Hal is forced to choose a side.
There is such a dynamic social contrast that the “royalty” and “low life” seem all the more on the fringes. In addition, there is the added presense of a climate that fosters nobility and morality. The true nature of the individual characters are bound to show themselves. When put in this predicament, the princes gravitation toward maturity and acceptance of his place comes a forth and his fathers distinction from the other characters becomes clear. For the first time Hal recognizes that there is a rift between himself and Falstaff, and their last interaction can be interpreted as a slightly disdained farewell.
Towards the end of the scene, there can be no doubt to the audience that the Prince will not turn kindly to Falstaff and his gang again. Hal’s decision to speak in verse indicates that he has moved beyond the tavern-dwellers and found himself in a new caste. Shakespeare has put Hal through a rite of passage on the stage in order that the audience be more familiar with his character. Whether or not Hal in 1 Henry IV is to be seen in isolation of the second part of the history or as merely a major development within the two parts is still up for interpretation. The different type of speech exemplifies that Hal has moved on from needing Falstaffs friendship as a reflection of his identity, and has accepted his place as the future King. The last thing that the Prince says to Falstaff is, “Come, bring your luggage nobly on your back: For my part, if a lie may do thee grace, Ill gild it with the happiest terms I have.” For the Audience as well as Prince Hal, this declaration reinforces that Hal is acting in accordance with his title and his father’s wishes and that he has moved beyond feeling a bond with Falstaff.
Earlier on in the play, he might have tried to expose Falstaffs lie but this line shows that the prince accepts Falstaff as a liar and feels no need to challenge him or to deal with him on Falstaff’s level. Not only does he accept Falstaff as a liar, and thus expect no better of him, he is also aware that because of the difference in character and status between them, Falstaff needs the recognition for having killed Hotspur. For Hal, performing the deed was enough; he does not need the outward appearance of honour that comes with glory in battle. For Hal to accept that Falstaff relies on lying to promote the outward appearance of a noble character is for him to accept that the friendship between them is over, that they no longer have anything in common and no longer need one another. With his fathers recognition and a feeling of self-assurance, Hal does not need Falstaff and this scene represents his realization that he has learned what he can from him.
The farewell between Hal and Falstaff though unspoken and subtle is by no means hostile. Hals agreement to lie on Falstaffs behalf is almost a token of gratitude toward him for the benefit he has gained from their friendship. The end of the relationship does not come out of unfriendly feelings for one another but rather from the fact that Hal has undergone a transition that Falstaff will never undergo. Though the last we see of Falstaff in the first part of King Henry IV is a series of empty promises to make what he interprets to be the same transition that Hal has made. The change that takes place within Henry, Prince of Wales is exemplified through his language and his actions. This change is finalised in the second to last scene, leaving only one brief interaction with his Father, the King, between his break away from his previous lifestyle and the end of the play.
Hals acceptance of his role within his family as well as kingdom is indicative of finding the reality of honour within himself. The fact that this epiphany comes so near the end of the play brings Hals journey to an end, giving the play a sense of closure and resolve. Hals decision also serves to give his character psychological depth, and thus further differentiate him from the tavern characters. Hals discovery of princely honour functions to fulfil the concept of honour as an inherent trait of nobility and thus makes his separation from Falstaff an inevitability.