Henry IV Part 1

Prince Hal and His Box-office Performance

As William Shakespeare wrote As You Like It, "All the world's a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players./ They have their exits and their entrances;/ And one man in his time plays many parts." Shakespeare further adds to this philosophy upon introducing young Prince Hal in his play Henry IV Part One. Hal adopts several personas ranging from the "noble" to the "degenerate" (Barber 54). He is able to wittingly run this gamut of personalities on his way to inheriting the throne through manipulation of what he learns from observing King Richard II, his father King Henry IV, and his own political stratagem. His ultimate wisdom-the realization that "makes" Hal-is that the role of king is little more than a performance for the public, thereby implying that the king himself is little more than an actor. Through King Henry IV's assessment of Hal's actions in light of both Richard's and his own rule, Hal discovers that a king is a performer that must decide what type of persona he wants to reveal to the public. Furthermore, in light of his early associations with John Falstaff, Hal embodies the role of the "traditional prodigal son," complete with degenerate and...

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