Henry IV Redemption

Essay by Anonymous UserHigh School, 11th gradeA+, January 1996

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In Shakespeare's Henry IV, the character Hal, the Prince of Wales, undergoes a transformation that can be characterized as a redemption. Shakespeare introduces Hal, in the opening act as a renegade of the Court. His avoidance of all public responsibility and his affinity for the company of the Boar's Head Tavern, have caused serious concern for the King, because Hal is heir to the throne. The King realizes that to keep order, a ruler and his heir must prove to be both responsible and honorable; from the outset Hal possesses neither quality. The King even testifies to his own advisor, that he would have rather traded Hal for Hotspur, the son of the Earl of Northumberland. In the King's eyes Hotspur, not Hal, is the 'theme of honor's tongue' (1.1. 80), because he has won his glory through his merits in war. Thus, Shakespeare has set Hal and Hotspur in opposition: Hal, the prodigal prince, versus Hotspur, the proper prince.

Hal understands that he has been branded with the label, 'truant to chivalry,'(5.1. 95) and as the heir to the throne, he realizes that it is imperative that he redeem himself not only for himself, but also for his father and his people because life will not always be a holiday , for 'If all the year were playing holidays, To sport would be as tedious as work' (1.2. 211-212). However Hal needs some type of strength to make his realization come true. Luckily Hal's father, the King is willing to lend several comments that enrage him and provide him with the necssary motivation. It also seems that Shakespeare has included the foil for Hal, the valiant Hotspur, in order to provide the callow Prince of Wales with another source of motivation, from which Hal can begin...