Henry IV Part 1

Prince Hal's "Act of Becoming" in Henry IV Part 1

One of the main themes in Shakespeare's King Henry IV, Part 1, is Prince Hal's "act of becoming" as he moves from Falstaff's "sweet wag" (I.ii.23) to King Henry's "fair rescuer" (V.iii.48). The significance of the scenes at Boar's-Head Tavern, Hal's role-playing with Falstaff, his parodies of battles and of Hotspur, and his slumming in low-level society is that they are time frames in the emergence of Prince Hal's personality, but they are calculated time frames of his own choosing. In shirking his princely duties, he has chosen to act the part of the prodigal son until his father's throne is threatened and it is time to answer duty's call.

In his soliloquy at the end of Act 1, Hal reveals much of his nature. First, he is not confused, in a dilemma, or even feeling guilty about being a wayward son. Second, he is well aware that the environment he has chosen to move in, the tavern society, is a place of disorder and idleness. It is a world that has meaning for the prince, however. He is not wasting his time there, but is practicing for events that will occur later. When he speaks of his reformation, he is being ironic. He is rebellious, but he does not need to...

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