page 2 of 2
Hal's musings as he looks at the crown on his father's pillow are similar to the earlier thoughts of King Henry himself. The Prince's question, "Why doth the crown lie there upon his pillow, / Being so troublesome a bedfellow?" (Iv.v.20-21) is a strong reminder of his father's earlier "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" (III.i.30-31). Clearly, Hal has started to view kingship as the weighty responsibility that it is; this is a clear sign that he has matured beyond his youthful hell-raising.
Hal has also started to manifest a strong devotion to his nation, his lineage, and his family inheritance as king. When, thinking his father dead, he puts the crown on is own head, he makes a strong statement about his sense of ancestral royalty: "[P]ut the world's whole strength / Into one giant arm, it shall not force/ This lineal honor from me. This from thee / Will I to mine leave, as 'tis left to me" (IV.v.42-46).
King Henry, of course, misinterprets Hal's actions when he awakes and immediately tries to use Hal's perceived theft of the crown as a lesson to his younger sons: "See, sons . . . / How quickly nature falls into revolt / When gold becomes her object!" (64-66). We also see a resurgence of one of King Henry's old insecurities: he seems to be completely convinced that his son hates him and that Hal cannot wait for him to die so that he can take the crown. "I stay too long by thee, I weary thee," he says, with a mixture of anger, grief, and bitterness. "Thy life did manifest thou lov'dst me not, / And thou wilt have me die assur'd of it" (93, 104-5).
King Henry follows this statement with his vision of what Hal will do once he becomes king. We saw the king earlier express his concern about the fate of the country when Hal's "headstrong riot hath no curb, / When rage and hot blood are his counsellors" (62-63). Now he tells Hal directly what he fears: that Hal will "[p]luck down my officers; break my decrees . . . / Harry the fift is crown'd! Up, vanity! Down, royal state! . . . / For the fifth Harry from curb'd licence plucks / The muzzle of restraint, and the wild dog / Shall flesh his tooth on every innocent" (117-120, 130-132). King Henry fears that Hal will get rid of his wise counselors, break the laws, remove the judges, and fill the court instead with his foolish, rascally friends--the "apes of idleness" (122). If he does that, King Henry knows, the result will be violence. Without the restraint of law, anarchy will burst forth, and England will become lawless and wild: "a wilderness again, / Peopled with wolves, [its] old inhabitants!" (156-7).
Hal's response is memorable and touching. He swears to his father that he is not really a rioter and vows upon his life to prove that his claim is true. He also explains that he understands the seriousness of the responsibility the crown confers. He says that when he took the crown from his father's pillow, he looked at it not as a treasure, but as "an enemy / That had before my face murder'd my father, / The quarrel of a true inheritor" (165-168).
King Henry's final words to his son recall the way in which Henry came to power. They also suggest that the civil wars that have plagued his reign are a direct result of that initial bloodshed: "It seem'd in me / But an honor snatch'd with boist'rous hand . . . / For all my reign hath been but as a scene / Acting that argument" (190-1, 197-8). He explains that he had always wanted to go to Jerusalem in order to atone for the murder of his predecessor, King Richard. Finally, he gives Hal some strategic advice; in order to prevent civil wars at home, he says, make war overseas: "[B]usy giddy minds / With foreign quarrels" (213-4). In this speech, Shakespeare quickly summarizes the events of this play's prequels and sequels: from Richard II, in which Henry IV rose to power, to Henry V, in which Prince Hal, now Henry V, will invade France.
Take a Study Break!