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Kingly Duties

Updated on December 15, 2010
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare


In his critically acclaimed and audience beloved plays, Henry IV, parts One and Two, William Shakespeare is able to demonstrate one young mans quest to find himself and to accept his true purpose in live, a thing which ultimately can translate to all of us in some way or another. Shakespeare literature version of Hal, or the young King Henry the Fifth as history knows him, is a fun loving man who spends his days in un-royal taverns, joking around with the scum of England, instead of attending to princely duties as is his father’s intentions. Through the balance of both plays, Hal comes to terms with his true self and his destiny.

Hal is very much a man who is afraid to deal with his destiny and responsibility when we first met him in part one of the play. While Hal should be attending to his duties as Prince and spending his days in the castle or working for the good of the kingdom, he is wasting away his days taverns with the vermin of English society. It takes ultimate the rebellion of Harry Percy to bring young Hal back to his rightful place by the side of his father the King. Once the fight is over, the now battle worn Hal then starts to live up to his role as the Prince of Wales and next in line for secession to the crown of England. By the time we then see his in part two of the play, he is much more serious about his princely, and then finally kingly duties.

Much of how we as an audience may see Hal is very much based on his association with his friend Falstaff, who very much is the comedic clown of the play. Falstaff, the biggest bum of the lot that Hal spends his days with early on, is able to show us better where Hal is coming from and how low he has sunk, or has not as the case may be. Through Falstaff’s action, we are better able to interpret and understand Hal’s. While Hal is seen very much enjoying the comforts of drink and women with Falstaff, he draws the line at robbing people, which is the chief means of income for Falstaff. Instead of condoning such action or joining in, Hal instead goes behind Falstaff’s back and re-pays all the money stolen. Yet even with his rouge side, Hal still enjoys Falstaff’s friendship and holds him dear in his heart, a thing which is very much on display when Hal believes Falstaff dead. However, as he must reject the life of a the low life rascal, so must Hal reject his friend in time as a a show to the fact that he finally accepts his role as prince and ultimately king.

Hal’s turning from his friend is him turning from his past self and past life. The second act shows us how he has “grown up” and accepted the responsibilities that come with being king, as apposed to the second act. Where as it seemed as if Hal wanted nothing to do with the life of the king in part one, he very much seemed determined to fulfill that life. He always had a light heartedness to him and most importantly, a sense of responsibility. This is best shown on display when he re-pays the victims of his friends robberies. But his sense of order and kingly duty seems to show up more at the end in part two.

In the end, we are able to see Hal grow an progress from his lack of living up to his potential to his taking his rightful place as king of all England. There are many bumps in the road for young Hal, and in the end he is forced to make a hard choice between a world he was living in and the one he was meant for. His turning his back on his lifelong friend was a hard choice for any, but in the end a choice Hal had to make. By turning his back on his past and “growing up” he was able to rise to a much better place in live and find his truth worth.


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