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The Transformation of Prince Hal

            In "Henry IV," Shakespeare uses Prince Harry, the Prince of Whales, to exemplify the process of character transformation. Many consider Prince Harry, also known as Hal, a renegade of the Court and one who avoids his public responsibilities at all costs. His frequenting of the Boar's Head Tavern and keeping company with men of questionable character causes his father, King Henry, serious concerns, since Hal is heir to the throne. The Princes" character transformation unfolds in three distinct stages.
             The first stage of his transformation is when the Prince comes to the realization that his rebellious conduct must end and he must participate in his princely duties. As we see in Hal's soliloquy, it is quite apparent that he has given a great deal of thought to his somewhat lawless lifestyle and to the importance of being an honorable prince. This was also apparent in his response to participating in the highway robbery with Falstaff and Poins, when Hal says "Who, I rob? I a thief? Not by my faith" (Shakespeare 1.2, p 7). In the end, Hal decides to enlist in the robbery in order to play a practical joke on his friend Falstaff and to hear his "incomprehensible lies that this same fat rogue will tell" (Shakespeare 1.2, p 8). In the Tavern scene at the end of Act 2.4, Hal admits that even though he went through with the robbery, he promised to return all the money they stole from the travelers. In doing so, Hal is attempting to rationalize away misgivings; in part about the life he leads in Eastcheap, but more to ease his conscience for the fast that he crossed the boundary between defensible amusement and the genuine shamefulness.
             In these early scenes, the King is concerned with Hal's adolescent behavior, not only because he is the heir to the throne and lacks the respect of his own people, but also because the King's own honor and respect are in jeopardy. Therefore, the King proclaims that he would rather have Hotspur as his son, because Hotspur is a prime example of honor and respect a prince ought to represent.

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