Henry IV Part 1

Henry IV, Part 1: The Apprenticeship of a King and Quintessential Machiavel

In spite of its title, Henry IV, Part 1 is, without question, the story of a prince as he stands, however uncertainly, on the threshold of kingship. Yet Shakespeareâs literary account of this historical figure is not merely a diary of a royal progeny engaged in the usual frivolous pastimes while biding time until the throne is vacant. It is much more than that; it is an engaging and multi-layered story of the making of a king. The key word here is making, as Prince Hal is the son of a usurper who knows better than to sit back and wait for kingship to be handed to him. Who better to know the uncertainty of inheritance and that blood does not guarantee attainment of the coveted crown? Prince Hal does well to heed his instincts to secure training and âfield experienceâ in order to invent himself as a king, and as depicted in this play, he wastes no time beginning his schooling.

The kings in the Shakespearean history plays which preceded this one (i.e. Richard III, Richard II) were shown to have had little or no preparation for their reign, as one was, like Prince Halâs father, a usurper himself, and the other, merely a king by the old fashioned way-birth. Both lived (and died) to regret their ill-preparedness and/or unwanted reign....

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