Henry IV, Part 1 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry IV, Part 1 | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Prince Hal goes to see his father. King Henry lectures his son, complaining that he isn't acting like a prince or like Henry himself as a young man. Instead, Prince Hal is acting like the previous king, Richard II, who was overthrown. King Henry argues that if Prince Hal continues in this way, the common people will dislike him. He says that everyone sees how Prince Hal is acting and that he is ruining the fortunes of their entire family. In a dramatic fashion, the king goes so far as to wonder if God is using Prince Hal to punish him for some sin. His words about seeing himself more in Hotspur's bravery than in Prince Hal's behavior are clearly intended to wound his son.

Moved, Prince Hal pledges that he will act differently from now on. Initially, the king seems not to hear him and continues to lecture him, until finally Prince Hal swears he is the king's true son and will act like it; he will prove his honor and virtue on Hotspur's head, even if he has to die to do it. Pleased by this, the king gives him a military command.

Sir Walter Blunt then enters to tell the king that the Scottish rebel leader, Douglas, has joined forces with the English and Welsh rebels; they will soon be ready to attack. The king answers by saying that he has already sent Lord John and the Earl of Westmoreland out with the king's forces. Prince Hal will lead forces on Wednesday, and the king will ride out on Thursday.

Analysis

In earlier scenes, King Henry and Prince Hal refer to each other continuously. This is the first scene, however, in which the two occupy the stage together. In previous scenes, the tension between them is obvious, and here the father and son focus on the reason for the tension: Prince Hal's behavior.

After listening to the king's long-winded speeches, Prince Hal answers with surprising directness. He says, "I shall hereafter, my thrice gracious lord, / Be more myself." Unlike previous scenes, in which Prince Hal changes his mind or interacts with multiple characters in different ways, he remains steadfast. No matter how many times his father rebukes him, he answers with the same sincere regret and promise of redemption.

Interestingly, the king neglects to acknowledge a fact that shows Prince Hal's similarity to him. Before he took the throne, King Henry spent time with commoners and away from court to avoid appearing as if he were vying for the crown. This is very much like the strategy Prince Hal lays out for himself earlier in the play.

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