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Henry IV Part 2

William Shakespeare

Act V, Scenes i-ii

Summary Act V, Scenes i-ii

Many critics feel that this scene shows the final conclusion of Hal's inner journey from youth to maturity, from wildness to responsibility, and from "riot" to law and order. He no longer thinks that his royal birth is something that should make his life more carefree (if, in fact, he ever did); he has learned what his father knew, that "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" (III.i.30-31). That is, power brings with it more responsibility, not less, and a responsible ruler is, almost by definition, unfree. The understanding of these crucial paradoxes of power is finally visible in King Henry V's newly solemn bearing and powerful, humorless speech.

Henry V's decision to accept the Lord Chief Justice as his "father" is particularly significant. "You shall be as a father to my youth," he tells the Justice. "My voice shall sound as you do prompt mine ear, / And I will stoop and humble mine intents / To your well-practis'd wise directions" (118-121). Later, he actually addresses the Justice as "father" (140). Critics have long seen this as the penultimate step in Hal's rejection of Falstaff and everything he stands for--wild life, anarchy, violation of the law, and wit at the cost of responsibility. Falstaff was Prince Hal's father figure, but the Lord Chief Justice is King Henry V's father figure--the ultimate emblem of the rule of law and of responsibility and Falstaff's opposite.