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Shakespeare - Transformation of Prince Hal

Shakespeare - Transformation of Prince Hal

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Published by: Chanin on May 11, 2010
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The Transformation of Prince Hal in Shakespeare’s HenriadPrince Hal, the Prince of Wales, is introduced in
 I Henry IV 
as the eldest son of Bolingbroke, now known as King Henry the Fourth. It is this young Prince that holds theaudience captive as the story progress through the three dramas within the Henriad. This youngPrince starts out as a riotous, insubordinate and wild Prince, but ends up as a just and wisesovereign to the surprise of everyone, including his own family, and it is this transformationfrom spoiled Prince to regal King is a major part of the plot within these three plays. Thistransformation can also be viewed through the concepts created by Nicolo Machiavelli in his book 
The Prince
. One would expect that Prince Hal would follow in his father’s footsteps, theoverly zealous King Henry IV, but from the beginning of 
 I Henry IV 
it is obvious that Prince Halis far from being in similar character of his father. Prince Hal goes from being the worse possible character of a ruler to being the epitome of the ideal ruler to Machiavelli and others inthe time period. The transformation is remarkable and unexpected as will be shown in theShakespearean dramas that tell the story of Prince Hal’s transformation into the well-loved KingHenry the Fifth, whom is a close comparison the ideal ruler that Machiavelli describes in his book 
The Prince
.Even before the character of Prince Hal is brought on stage the audience is introduced tothe character through King Henry IV. He introduces Prince Hal in frustration andembarrassment, stating, “Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him [Harry, son of  Northumberland],/ see riot and dishonor stain the brow/ Of my young Harry” (
 I Henry IV 
1.1.84-86) These three verses show the King’s discontent with the actions of his own son and wishingthat the honorable son of Northumberland be his son instead making it obvious to the that PrinceHal does not live up to his father’s expectation.
 
This bears well, so that when Prince Hal does come into the picture at a tavern with adrunk, the audience does not expect anything less from the notorious Prince Hal. He sits idly byas his friends, Poins and Falstaff, talk of robbing couriers at Gadshill in the morning. As Falstaff asks, Prince Hal to join the adventure, the audience holds their breath to see if the young Princewill actually participate. The first hint that Prince Hal is not as bad as his father and others fear is found in his response “Who, I rob? I a thief? Not I, by my faith” (
 I Henry IV 
1.2.138).However, this notion of goodness and a father’s over exaggeration reemerges with the plan torob the robbers. Prince Hal does redeem himself slightly after everyone has left the room and heis alone. He allows the audience to see where his mind lies within the events of the past andcoming day:“So when this loose behavior I throw off And pay the debt I never promised,By how much better than my word am I,By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes,And like bright metal on a sullen ground,My reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault,Shall show more goodly and attract more eyesThan that which hath no foil to set it off.I’ll so offend, to make offense a skill,Redeeming time when men think least I will.”(
 I Henry IV 
2.2.208-217)Within this one speech, Prince Hal gives a foreshadowing of what is to come in the future whenhe is crowned King. So while the rest of the world around him thinks of him as a spoiled and
 
wild Prince, the truth is that he is acting in such a way as to gain more loyalty upon hiscoronation when he true personality and character replace the past Prince.Machiavelli, in chapter 8 of 
The Prince
, writes of the need for a Prince to live with hissubjects, in that the Prince must “hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of itor not according to necessity” and that he, the Prince, as stated in chapter 15, should “besufficiently prudent that he may know how to avoid the reproach of those vices which would losehim his state.” It would seem from the above speech of Prince Hal that he is learning the waysof the commoners and building a rapport with them so that when he is King he will not beunknowing in his governing. In fact, he will have a greater knowledge about the commoncountryman then all of his advisors put together. Therefore, it should be considered that PrinceHal is merely misunderstood by the current advisors and nobles that guide the King. Prince Halis preparing for his reign and will be better prepared than even his father.Prince Hal, even in the wild and crazy atmosphere of the tavern, shows his true state of mind while playing with Falstaff. In
 I Henry IV 
2.4, Falstaff plays King Henry IV to help PrinceHal with the coming meeting he will have with his father. However, Falstaff does notunderstand the mind of the King and praises only himself therefore, Prince Hal trades places withFalstaff, playing as the King and Falstaff plays Prince Hal. In Falstaff’s final rally to be acceptedand again praise himself, he bids “banish/ not him thy Harry’s company – banish plump Jack,/and banish all the world” (
 I Henry IV 
2.4.478-480). The truth comes out in the four words of Prince Hal’s response “I do, I will” (
 I Henry IV 
2.4.481). This play allows Prince Hal to preparethose around him for the change that will come, whether they do not truly understand theconsequences that will befall them when Prince Hal takes the throne or not is unimportant toPrince Hal. He knows what needs to be done, and will do it when the time comes.

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