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MonkeyNotes-Henry IV, Part 1 by William Shakespeare
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Much to the king’s distress, the prince has been continuing to consort with inn-servants and the like. In Elizabethan times, the person of the future king was supposed to be sacred and untouchable. By drinking with common men, Hal is considered by them to be extremely gallant. Hal, in turn, enjoys the feel of a lower class existence

So far, Hal shows no indication of making good on his promise to reform. Indeed, he justifies his behavior by contrasting himself with Hotspur, who kills "some six or seven dozens of Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife 'Fie upon this quiet life! I want work'" (106-8). He would rather be a man "of all humours" (95), enjoying sport, than to be like the singleminded, battle-obsessed Hotspur.


Hal is indeed a versatile character, and he soon gets a chance to shine. He takes the news of the upcoming battle calmly, claiming to lack Falstaff's instinct for fear. Though the reader might consider this to be false confidence or an attempt by Hal appear nonchalant, it is an appropriate response for a prince to make. Though Hal has no great love for fighting, he is truly prepared to take his place in the upcoming war. He is also capable of acting decisively and bravely when the need arises. When the sheriff arrives, he makes Falstaff hide and deals with the sheriff, promising him that justice will be done. He promises an honorable position to his companion Peto and to return the money. He still maintains his sense of humor however; Falstaff's assignment as the leader of a troop of foot soldiers should prove more of a torture to him than an honor. This is a neat trick by Shakespeare as well, for it insures that Falstaff will be around during the battle to provide comic relief.

The mock audiences that Falstaff and Hal enact are wonderful. First, Falstaff takes the role of the king. He speaks in "King Cambyses' vein" (399), referring to the ornate style of Thomas Preston's Cambyses, King of Persia, a popular tragedy. He lectures his son, whom he accepts as such "partly on [his] mother's word" but mainly by the "villainous" look in his eye and "foolish hanging" (416-8) of his lower lip, on his shameful ways and poorly chosen companions. He advises Hal to get rid of them all, except, of course, that "goodly portly" (435) knight, Falstaff.

Then it is Hal's turn. Falstaff challenges him to play the role as majestically as he did. Hal, as king, launches into a Falstaff-like rant against the neer-do-well knight that his son keeps company with. Falstaff, in the role of the prince, defends his son's friend, asking if it is a crime to like wine, to be old and merry, or to be fat. "Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world" (497-8), he concludes. Taken one by one, Falstaff's faults are not that bad, and his defense of himself (and it is a self-defense, despite the role playing) has an element of pathos. Falstaff is a rebel, of sorts, and by not behaving, he exposes the faults in the social order. However, Falstaff and the prince know that such a character as Falstaff, while an appropriate companion to the prince while he is educating himself in the world, has no place in the court. Hal's response to Falstaff's plea not to banish him is thus telling and, perhaps, somewhat chilling. "I do. I will" (499).

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