The Roots of Greatness: What Does the Relationship between Henry and Hal Reveal about Henry V’s Rule?
Professor John Cox
One of Shakespeare’s most commendable qualities as a playwright is the ability to create dynamic characters. These characters appear in their full nuanced glory through their relationships with other characters in the plays. This research focuses on the relationship between Henry IV and his son Hal throughout the Lancastrian Tetralogy — Shakespeare’s four history plays commencing with The Tragedy of Richard II and closing with Henry V. The purpose of this paper is to use this relationship to shed light on Hal’s character after he begins to rule as Henry V. In this research, similarities between the Henry IV and Hal are explored through categories such as the similarities in the two characters’ language and Hal’s mimicking of Henry IV’s rule. Whether through implicit or explicit words and actions, Henry IV influences his son, molding him to be the next King of England. This research also examines the important differences between Henry IV and Hal and describes how these key differences make Hal a stronger ruler. Henry IV’s misunderstanding of Hal’s political tactics and Hal’s willingness to go further than his father in his political trickery are both examples of differences that cause chasms between the two characters while also illustrating the complexities of Hal.
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