Henry IV

The father and son relationship is one of the
most important aspects through the youth of a
young man. In Shakespeare’s play Henry IV, he
portrays the concept of having "two fathers".
King Henry is Hal’s natural father, and Falstaff is
Hal’s moral father. Hal must weigh the pros and
cons of each father to decide which model he will
emulate. Falstaff, who is actually Hal’s close
friend, attempts to pull Hal into the life of crime,
but he refuses. Hal seems to lack honor at the
commencement of the play, but near the end we
see him display a different kind true honor which
will be explained more in depth. Hal also shows
his honor when he rejects the requests put forth
by his good friend Falstaff and sides with his
natural father to fight loyally. Even though Henry
views Hal as an unworthy candidate for the
thrown, Hal proves him wrong by displaying
attributes that are very honorable.

In King Henry’s point of view, Hal doesn’t seem
much like an heir to his thorwn. Instead of living
at the court to aid his father govern England, he
frolics in the Taverns of Eastcheap with a group
of petty thieves. There are two different views
that the audience can perceive as to why Hal
constantly goes to the Tavern. Firstly, it might be
so that he can escape his responsibilities. Second,
it could be so that Hal can learn the lives of the
people that he will eventually be governing.
Depending on which one you believe, it will
show your own decision as to whether you
conceive Hal as being responsible and honorable
or vice versa. Falstaff who seems to be Hal’s role
model while in the Tavern, is putting forth a great
deal of effort to have Hal conform into the
lowlife that he himself has made himself out to
be. Falstaff teaches Hal how to lie, cheat, and
steal, but Hal seems to have a mind of his own.
He tells his father that at any given moment he
can change his character and be what his father
wants him to be. Henry declines to believe these

Before the final battle Falstaff asks for Hal’s
protection. Hal’s response is, "Say thy prayers,
and farewell. Why, thou owest God a
death"(5.1.124-126). This statement gives the
impression that Hal has had a change of heart. In
Act 5.2, Hal shows a different kind of honor
when he attempts to take away all of Hotspur’s
honor. Hal isn’t as interested in gaining honor for
its own sake as he is in forcing Hotspur to render
up all of his. This scene displays how Hal is
honorable for himself and for himself only. Hal
and his true father go into battle versus Hotspur
and his father Douglas. Just when King Henry is
cornered, Hal comes to the rescue and then kills
Hotspur. This immediately gives Henry a change
of heart, and for the first time, he is proud of his

As shown in this paper Hal is only honorable to a
certain extent. He is dishonorable at the beginning
of the play by stealing for fun, but he changes his
ways and finds his true self by the end of the
play. He shows true honor in the final act of the
play by finally realizing that the right thing to do
is to stick with his "real" family, and not put your
friends before your blood.

Shakespeare, William. Henry the Fourh: Part
One. Ed. M.A. Shaaber. New York: Kingsport
Press Inc., 1957.

Category: History