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Henry IV

             In the beginning of Henry IV, King Henry seems pre-occupied with re-establishing his moral legitimacy to the throne. He talks of atoning for Richard II's death by going on a crusade, "to chase these pagans from those holy fields" (I.i.24). He never actually does anything to atone for Richard's death, the most he ever actually accomplishes is mentioning it, before the threat of other wars distracts him. The King is supposedly contrite about killing Richard, and realizes his own guilt, but he accuses his son of "riot and dishonor." The King seems more than a shade hypocritical, for the worst thing that Prince Hal ever does is commit a robbery as a joke. Hal is the adolescent prankster. He is dissolute and rude, but unlike his father, he has no ghosts to haunt him. He doesn't seem kingly in the bar-room scenes with Falstaff, but those scenes show Hal's good humor and humanity, which his father doesn't seem to admit room for in his zealous guard to keep the throne. Shakespeare seems to set up the dichotomy of humanity versus authority throughout this play. Hal is accused of debauchery and wild behavior by his father, which never truly harms anyone in the play, while the King praises Hotspur for his chivalrous deeds, most of which involve killing and capturing various people. Though of course, by the end of Henry IV: Part Two, Hal's change has become quite tangible. As soon as he is coronated, he refuses to recognize his old friends from the tavern. He becomes the king his father had wanted, and disowns his own friends, preferring wars over jokes, and in a sense, denying his own humanity in this act. .

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