Hal’s Relationship to His Father vs Falstaff in Shakespeare’s Henry IV

Table of Content

King Henry V is one of the greatest kings that ever ruled England and was a favorite among his people. One of the reasons behind this is the presence of two men in his life; his father, King Henry IV, and Sir John Falstaff, his lowlife friend and bar companion. Both men represent two opposite father – figures to the young prince. It is the Prince’s ability to take and acquire the best traits in each that makes him surpass both of them and become great. Prince Hal’s relationship with both men is one of conflict.

On one hand, his relationship with his father is tumultuous, while on the other his relationship with Falstaff is confusing. Though it is the main source of his father’s disapproval, Prince Hal learns a great deal from his relationship with Falstaff, more than he does learn from his father. This relationship, and the time he spends at the taverns, served him well, not only in “glitt’ring [his reformation] o’er [his] fault … show[ing] [it] more goodly, and attract[ing] more eyes,” but also in teaching him everything that he needs to know about his future subjects.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

He knows how they think, what their needs are, and most importantly, how to appeal to them. Such knowledge, however, will help him avoid the mistakes committed by Richard II and his father, King Henry IV, later on. In addition, Hal acquires the trait of deceit from Falstaff, though he channels it to serve good ends. He deceives Falstaff to uncover his lies, deceives the traitors who were bribed to kill him and finally he disguises himself to converse with the soldiers during the war to know their fears and deliver a speech that lifts their spirit the next day.

Up above all this, he deceives the whole nation and the adjacent countries into believing that he is a reckless young boy who is good for nothing and eventually surprises every one. Prince Hals’ relationship with his father alternates between feelings of disapproval and suspicion on his father’s part. At the very beginning of Henry IV Part I King Henry expresses his disappointment in his son and contrasts him with Hotspur wishing that Hotspur was his son. This gives Hal a constant sense of inaptness.

Knowing that his father thinks low of him drives him more towards Falstaff who praises him at all times, giving him the support he needs at such age. Hal’s disobedience is partly a stubborn reaction to his father’s criticism and partly a rebellion that is natural in his age. On the other hand, King Henry IV is haunted by a sense of guilt that is translated to a feeling of suspicion towards his own son. The source of this guilt is his usurping of the throne and, in a way or another, being a participant in the killing of Richard II, if not by giving the orders at least by turning a blind eye to it.

King Henry IV unconsciously harbors a belief that God will punish him for doing this through his son. He expects that it will either be the fall of Hal when he succeeds him or Hal overthrowing him and taking over the throne. However, both options lead the king to treat his son with caution. An example of this is his fury when he wakes up to find that his crown is missing and thinking that his son wishes his death to become the king. The relationship between Hal and Falstaff, however, is perplexing.

Hal is either using Falstaff to serve his ends and when he does not need him anymore he totally discards him or he truly loves the man but lost all hope in reforming him. Prince Hal used to put up with Falstaff, covering him, paying his bills and tolerating his lies, but if this is the price that the prince had to pay to keep Falstaff’s company temporarily till he is done with him, why did he later on put him in charge of recruiting foot soldiers for the war?

Furthermore, why did he bother to allot him a regular income not to return back to crime and tell him that he cannot come near him unless he becomes a virtuous man? The answer to these questions could be that Hal really loves Falstaff who is like a father to him, whom he does not fear and who supports him emotionally. Hal tries several times to give Falstaff chances but after losing all hope he banishes him.

In conclusion, Falstaff serves as the friendly, amusing, compassionate father-figure to Hal, while on the contrary King Henry IV serves as the disciplinary father-figure who instills in him the basic principles of honor and patriotism. The roles of these two men combined in Hal’s life and their impact on him is what makes him a special king. In fact, Hal loves Falstaff as much as he loves his father, a love which is manifested in the many chances he gives him to become a better man.

Cite this page

Hal’s Relationship to His Father vs Falstaff in Shakespeare’s Henry IV. (2017, Jan 20). Retrieved from


Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront