Father/Son Relationship in Henry Iv and V

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  • Topic: Henry V of England, Henry IV of England, Falstaff
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  • Published : April 20, 2005
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Shakespeare deals with a parent-child relationship in the historical plays of Henry IV Parts One and Two in the characters of Henry Bullingsworth (Henry IV) and his son Hal (Prince of Wales, later Henry V). The fact stands clear in the development of the son, Hal: the son's success in life is not dependent on his relationship to his father politically, but success is demonstrated when there is a realization of both parties on the level of parental love. Hal is not living up to his name, but also to blame in his father's failure to love. Our discussion is based solely on the text itself, based primarily on three main dialogues between Hal and his father.

The first dialogue demonstrates the father as he is concerned about the family name and general confrontation with the son regarding his unruly life style (I Henry IV, III, ii). Two items of background need to be mentioned. First, Hal's unruly lifestyle includes spending much time with the inevitable Sir John Falstaff. It is generally accepted that the substitute "father" figure of Hal's prodigal youth is found in the character Falstaff. Second, the father's argument finds its way back to his struggle to get where he is today.

The King asks the rest to leave so that he and the prince may talk. In his first speech, we see the father trying to cope with the lifestyle of one of this very own. His speech includes such questions as: what have I done to make you this? ("I know not whether God will have it so/For some displeasing service I have done" III, ii, 5-6); do you realize that you are not a ting like a prince? How can you live such a lewd life (Tell me else,/Could such inordinate an low desires, …Accompany the greatness of they blood,/And hold their level with thy princely heart?" 11,17, 18). We se the parent trying to retain some sort of respect that he feel has been lost. Hal, in his estimation, is living a double standard. Hal is trying to comprise the life of a prince and the pleasures of the lewd. (This is correct in some respect, yet there needs to be realization of the question: Why?)

The prince's response to these accusations is an honest one. There is no denial of his life style, and he shows general respect for what the king has said.

So please your Majesty, I would I could/Quit al offenses
With as clear excuse…I may for some things
True, wherein my youth/Hath faulty wand'red and
Irregular,/Find pardon on my true submission.
(I Hen. IV iii, ii 18,19, 26-28).

Hal's response shows the formality of the relationship with his father. This is where the fact of the shared responsibility of Hal's condition comes to life. The fact of the father's background helps us to realize that the King got where he is by sacrificing a few things, one of them his relationship with is older son. And perhaps it may be stated tritely: like father, like son. Hal is coping with not having a father figure, and acting perhaps as his father would. Perhaps this initial confrontation could be a "Cat in the Cradle" theme, where the father suddenly realizes that his "boy is just like me, my boy is just like me".

The father responds "God pardon thee!" in the continuing awkwardness of the situation. The king promotes the informalness to the talk. He lists specific failures that he sees in Hal's life and reactions to the situation. They include: losing his place in the Council to his younger brother (32,33), alienating himself from the rest of the family (33,34), losing the respect and hope of the people for a good successor to the throne (36-38), and making a mockery of all the king worked for (46-84). Then the "kicker" by the frustrated father: And in that very line, Harry standest thou,/For thou

hast lost they princely privilege/With vile
participation. Not an eye/But is a–weary of they common
sight,/Save mine, which hath desir'd to see thee more,/
Which now doth that I would not have it do,/Make blind
itself with foolish tenderness (85-91).
It is like Henry is...
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