Although William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1 depicts Henry Bolingbroke's troubles following the usurpation of England's thrown, the more consequential plot concerns the transformation of Prince Hal from a tavern crony into the next King of England. This is a play of contrast where Prince Hal is caught between two father figures who represent contradicting ideals. The figure most notable in the Prince's youth is Falstaff, a materialist who rejects responsibility and has a childish demeanor, thus providing a comparison with the Prince's own youthfulness. In opposition to the jovial Falstaff comes Henry IV, the biological father of the Prince, who is time honored with responsibility and political authority, providing a model for the Prince in his maturation. This play becomes the study of Prince Hals's development in character as he observes the figures around him to distinguish what makes an effective King, along with his detachment from the youthful rebellion within the tavern setting as he becomes an adult with the political prowess to become the next King of England.
The growth of character in Prince Hal as an irresponsible youth associated with a tavern gang into the authoritative cunning King Henry V is founded in the Prince's intuition to humble himself during his youth in order to gain the favor and admiration of the English people. In a monologue the Prince suggest his intentions for glorification as he advances from the tavern gloom by stating, Yet herein will I imitate the sun, Who doth permit the base contagious clouds To smother up his beauty from the world, That, when he please again to himself, Being wanted, he may be more wand " red at... (I ii 209-205) In this speech Prince Ha regards himself as the sun who under the smothering pestilence of the clouds will as a result become more missed and therefore more victorious among the populous. Shakespeare relates the same desire to humble thyself before masses in order to gain their admiration to Henry IV, while arguing with his son the strategies he used in the usurpation of the crown from Richard II by suggesting himself as, A fellow of no mark nor likelihood.
By being seldom seen, I could not stir But, like a comet, I was wondered at... (Act III ii 45-47) With the repetition of words as "wondered at" Henry IV also seeks the people's favor through humility, so the people of England will welcome him to their throne. Henry V becomes an inspirational figure to win their admiration as a leader, in contrast to the loathsome tavern setting that Prince Hal is associated, in order to gain the commoners praise as an equal. In the development of Prince Hal within the tavern setting during his youth, which he uses as an institution for learning common society in preparation for kingship, there comes a point of detachment from the former self.
The first semblance of partition comes during a game where Falstaff playing the Prince ask, "banish Pe to, banish Bardolph, banish Point, but for sweet Jack Falstaff... banish not him... ." (II iv 475-479). Prince Hal, as the King, replies "I do, I will," thus foreshadowing Falstaff's banishment by the Prince when he is crowned King of England. The Prince's lasting gesture in the declaration of independence from Falstaff is on the battlefield when the Prince loses his sword and asks Falstaff to lend him one, and the jovial Falstaff replies, "Hal, if Percy be alive, thou gets not my sword; but take my pistol if though wilt." (V iii 50-51) Prince Hal reaches for his pistol only to discover a bottle of sack; in disgust the Prince throws it at him. This scene reinforces the character of Falstaff as one of "jest" and depicts within Prince Hal his maturation over such folly.
The final duty in Prince Hal's independence from tavern life is winning his father's favor and becoming a leader of stern will and political prowess. King Henry IV is contributed with the ideals of Machiavellianism where political gain is priority at any cost. This belief structure constitutes the right of action over words and proving worthiness as a leader through the battlefield. Prince Hal proves his loyalty and worthiness to his father by way of force when he comes to his father's rescue during a fight where he storms on to the scene and proclaims, "It is the Prince of Wales that threatens the, Who never promise th but he means to pay." (V iv 41-42) In fear the offender flees for his life and the King announces, "Thou hast redeemed thy lost opinion, and showed though mak " st some tender of my life," (V iv 47-48) therefore winning the heart of his father and the future throne of England.
The final act of detaching himself from the low life associated with Falstaff and his gang comes during Henry IV, part II when upon the coronation of Hal as Henry V, he banishes Falstaff. This is his first assertion of power as the King of England and the final act of defiance against his rebellious childhood. There is positive and negative as well as gains and losses in his quest for kingship, like the eventual loss of a friend in Falstaff. In addition to the deliverance of power that Hal asserts, his character also develops a stern and vigor unlike his light hearted deposition during his youth with Falstaff, and it too is a sign of his maturation, although it can be discerned as a negative affectation. A former father figure to the Prince, Falstaff was also out for personal gain through friendship with Hal. This is evident when Fla staff states, ...
when thou art King, let us that are squires of the night's body be called thieves of the day's beauty. Let us be Diana's foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon... (I ii 22-25) Therefore Falstaff not only loses a figural son, but also hopes for a prosperous life in the King's court. Prince Hal's assertion of justice as a King is questioned when Falstaff ask, "Do not thou, when thou art King, hang a thief," (I ii 63-64) and the Prince replies, "No; thou shalt." (I ii 65) In the same conversation the Prince states "I mean, thou shalt have the hanging of the thieves and so become a rare hangman," (I ii 68-70) suggesting Falstaff is a thief and alluding to the reason behind the banishment of Falstaff when Hal becomes King. Falstaff is known by Hal to be a thief and justifiably could be hanged, and in fact in Henry, the King does hang Bardolph a former tavern crony for stealing from a church, and it reinforces Prince Hal's assertion of kingship as a just institution. Positively Hal's intuition, stern, and political prowess gain him the throne of England and consequently a successful reign.
Prince Hal's character matures through ideology set forth by his father, and his quest for the throne has both positive and negative results. One of the negative results is the loss of former friends along with gaining characteristics that may be characterized as cold, stern and domineering. However, it is this personality that wins the favor of King Henry IV and eventually the throne of England. It is also the attributes that allow him to reign successfully in a just manner without being usurped. The tavern allows Hal to develop these characters and adept himself with the common people of England to gain their favor but also become aware of how better to serve their needs, thus Prince Hal develops a universal character that proves worthy of a king.