What Henry IV says about Englishness | Stage | The Guardian
The debate still rages among critics regarding the relationship between Falstaff and Prince Hal. Comments & replies; Public profile · Account details · Emails & marketing And when Lizzie McInnerny's Mistress Quickly complains to Falstaff that "thou which inevitably involves Prince Hal's rejection of Falstaff; and it is a sign of But the complexity of the Hal-Falstaff relationship is enhanced by Tom. The Choice of the Four Fathers: Henry IV, Falstaff, the Lord Chief youth Prince Hal as he matures into the paradigmatic good ruler, Henry V. .. ( discussing the relationship between power and theatricality in the Henriad). See.
And if he comes within fifty feet of my person ever again, have him executed. The play ends with Falstaff believing it must be a joke, and that Hal will let him in the backdoor secretly in the near future.
Henry IV parts one and two
But we know, having read Henry IV Part I, that Hal has scarce intention of maintaining any kind of relationship with Falstaff once he has succeeded in his scheme to look valiant in the eyes of England and to get in good with his father.
In the Henry-plays, Shakespeare explores the willful fissure between brother and brother, father and son, friend and friend.
Shakespeare values the human being always over the political role the human being fills. He is less interested in prince Hal, and more interested in the complex, unusual and ultimately cold human nature of the human being Hal. There is no doubt in my mind that Shakespeare elucidates a fairly troubling relationship Hal has with his father, Henry IV, and his other, unusual father, Falstaff.
Shakespeare is always brilliant at foregrounding and ellipsis, the former having to do with tacit information and history that has already accumulated before the first act of a play, and the latter having to do with gaps, things that Shakespeare leaves mysterious.
Although Hal tells us in Act 1 that his behavior and his distance from his father and the kingdom constitutes his clever plan to enter the fray at just the right time to insure his nobility, it is, as I have said, a very peculiar way in which to gain and hold power and respect. But Shakespeare generally dispenses with such generic formulas, particularly after around the time of Romeo and Juliet, when he begins to bend and break most of the conventions and rules of stage representation.
In Hamlet, it becomes impossible to know how honest Hamlet is being with us and with himself in the seven soliloquies around which the play is structured: In short, it seems likely that Hal is an unreliable narrator and that we should not trust the veracity of everything he tells us particularly since he admits to practicing deception on basically the entire kingdom ; at the very least, he leaves a lot of issues unspoken and an ellipsis, particularly his motivation.
What motivation might Hal have to deceive his father, Falstaff, and, ostensibly, the entire kingdom concerning his behavior and his goals? In Richard II, and in British history, Hal fled the kingdom under the pretense of safety when his father, then Henry Bolingbroke, headed the conspiracy to eliminate King Richard.
In Richard II, the insinuation is that he fled with Flastaff. The moment Henry IV gains the throne, his son has thrust upon him the destiny of the crown; he automatically becomes a prince, and must contend with and groom himself for such a royal destiny. Hal is quite aware, as a fledgling ruler, that political corruption spreads like a communicable disease. Hal has a proleptic imagination, meaning he projects his current thoughts well into the future.
He is securing his role as King Henry V well before his father has died, his role as a king that he wants to attain and occupy completely separate from his father in everything accept royal inheritance. The character was named after the Italian philosopher, Machiavelli, who wrote the famous renaissance work, The Prince, which reads as a sort of guidebook on how political figures can obtain and secure power, even through ruthless means.
The fact that Shakespeare depicts Hal as coldly calculating in Henry IV, and Falstaff as life-bearing above anything creates problems for interpretation.
Shakespeare uses a well-known plot design in Henry IV known as the story of the grooming of a prince.
Usually in the story of a prince who has a powerful future, the narrative focuses on his young and formative years, his coming of age. But Shakespeare goes beyond the demands of narrative in capturing the mental fluctuations of old age.
You have only to listen to Justice Shallow: How a good yoke of bullocks at Stamford fair? This is not just how old people talk: It is also because the two plays embody, in the persons of Prince Hal and Falstaff, contrasting philosophies and attitudes to life.
Henry IV parts one and two | Theatre review | Stage | The Guardian
And, although it is easy to say that everyone loves Falstaff and hates Hal, I would argue that the moral complexity of the plays depends upon our acknowledging Hal's necessary virtues and Falstaff's often overlooked vices. The case against Hal is familiar: As Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch once wrote, youthful hot-blood and riot are forgivable but "a prig of a rake is something all honest men abhor".
But the plays subvert Hal's stratagem in that they show Falstaff becoming a necessary surrogate father to the emotion-starved prince.
And, whatever the cruelty of Hal's public rejection of Falstaff, it can also be viewed as something that costs the king dear. As for Falstaff, there are as many ways of looking at him as there are commentators. WH Auden also saw him as a Christian symbol representing "the supernatural order of charity". Most intriguing of all is the view of Jonathan Bate who seizes on the little-observed fact that Falstaff began his career as page to Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk: Bate deduces that Falstaff's journey into deep England is therefore "a journey into the old religion of Shakespeare's father and maternal grandfather".
In rejecting Falstaff, the Protestant-Puritan Henry V may even be undergoing a religious "reformation" and turning away England's former Catholic self.
What all these downplay is Falstaff's extraordinary mixture of qualities: But Stephens showed in Falstaff's dimissal of his ragged battle-recruits as "food for powder" a casual contempt for human life. And his treatment of his old Inn of Court contemporary, Justice Shallow, as no more than "bait for the old pike" - a word Stephens seized upon - put in context Falstaff's own later rejection. To treat Falstaff as a Christian symbol is to show a very strange view of religion and to rob him of his infinite complexity.
It also weakens the moral and dramatic impact.
Henry V - Compare the relationship between Hal and Falstaff in two different scenes
Shakespeare is offering not only an unmatched portrait of England. He is writing, as so often in the histories, about the cost of kingship and the price of power.
Hal, to become an effective ruler, has to overcome the chivalric glamour of Hotspur and renounce the seductive companionship of Falstaff. If it is simply a story of a dessicated calculating-machine who rejects a lovable rogue, it is predictable and un-interesting. But if one sees the two plays as a study in the painful solitude of power, then they acquire a universal resonance.