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Lord Chief Justice in Henry IV

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Hal is dynamic. We see definite changes in his character from our first encounter with him (in Henry IV part I) to when he is king (in Henry V). He starts out as a rebellious and seemingly care-free youth. He chooses to spend most of his time with his lower class friends at the tavern where they laugh and need not worry about much. Being heir to the throne, Hal is constantly rebuked for his childish attitude by the Lord Chief Justice and his father, the king. However, Hal reveals to us (in Henry IV Part I Act 1, Scene 2) that this foolish behavior is simply an act, and that he will change his lifestyle when the time is right. “I’ll so offend, to make offence a skill; Redeeming time when men think least I will.” – (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 186 in Henry IV Part 1)

This leaves us guessing whether Hal is the immature prince everyone thinks he is, or if he is actually more cunning and less care-free than people give him credit for. Hal realizes something that many kings failed to notice. You could look great, promise great things, and convince everyone that you are the best person to be king. You might even keep all those great promises, but that is not enough. Not only will people continue to expect miraculous deeds from you, but they will be disappointed or worse when the deeds don’t continue. Thus Hal takes the opposite approach. He sets the bar very low by purposefully disappointing those expecting anything of him. Hanging out with commoners helps Hal in more ways than one. It creates the reputation he wants before he is king; it teaches him to use wit and common sense; and it gives him an understanding for the people he is to be ruling. We don’t see much of Hal in the second play.

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In his first appearance (Act 2, Scene 2), he and Poins discuss Hal’s grief for his dying father. Hal feels that people would think of him as a hypocrite if he started mourning his father the way he wanted to. Though there seems to be something else on his mind. He asks his friend, “Doth it not show vilely in me to desire small beer?” – (Act 2, Scene 2, Line 5) Hal craves the cheap beer he drinks with his friends. He knows that he is above drinking it, but he still likes the taste.

Similarly, he knows that he cannot continue to fool around with his friends. He seems concerned that he might become the person he pretends to be. He behaves like a hooligan now so that when he is a decent king everyone will be amazed. However he did not expect to fall for his own act. Now that the king is dying, Hal must bring these fun days to an end. He spies on and questions Falstaff (Act 2, Scene 4), but wisely decides that Falstaff should not be anywhere near him when he is king. Thus Henry V (king Hal) banishes Falstaff from his presence. Not only does Hal reject his best friend in mischief, but he also requests the counsel of the Lord Chief Justice. This comes as bit of a shock, remembering how firm the Lord Chief Justice was with Hal. Hal tells the Lord Chief Justice that he will keep his position so long as he continues to be as ‘bold, just and impartial’ as he was with Hal.

At this point Hal wants to make the kind of decisions that a ‘reformed’ king would make, and he trusts the Lord Chief Justice to help him. After all, he had been spending a lot of time with Falstaff (who was not the best role model). On the one hand, Hal might have started as an obnoxious prince who simply rationalized his bad behaviour (in his soliloquy). However, this does not seem to be the case. On the stronger hand, he could have been a cunning prince who chose a better future for England over ‘small beer’. Either way, he becomes a wise and humble ruler. Thus whether Hal’s transformation is self-inflicted is irrelevant. He still changes and is therefore, dynamic.

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