Prince Hal's representation of "self" in Part I Henry IV is deceiving to the reader. Hal is portrayed as being a cowardly drunkard and a disgrace to his father, King Henry. But, as the play progresses, the reader will soon see Hal's transformation from a low life to a noble warrior. Hall will reveal to the audience his method for madness, and when the time is right, Hal will accept his rightful possession of the throne. Shakespeare represents Hal's transforming "self" to increase the drama of the play.
Shakespeare introduces Prince Hal in Act I by having him compared to Hotspur, his rival. King Henry is very disappointed in his son's actions and wished he and Hotspur were switched at birth: "Then would I have his Harry, and he mine" (1.1.89). Prince Hal spends most of his time with Falstaff drinking and being a menace to society, which disappoints King Henry greatly, and makes him envious of Hotspur's father, lord Northumberland:.
Yea, there that mak'st me sad, and mak'st me sin.
In envy that my lord Northumberland.
Should be the father to be so blest a son-.
A son who is the theme of honour's tongue,.
Whilst I by looking on the praise of him .
See riot and dishonour stain the brow .
Of my young Harry. (1.1.77-85).
King Henry feels Hotspur possesses great honor while his son is a disgrace to the family throne. King Henry's disappointment will soon change as Hal reveals his true self. .
Hal unmasks his character to the reader in Act I Scene 2, when he performs a very important soliloquy:.
I know you all, and will a while uphold .
The unyoked humour of your idleness.
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,.
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds.
To smother up his beauty from the world,.
That when he may be more wondered at.
By breaking through the foil and ugly mists .
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him. (1.2.173-181).
Hal's deception is now revealed to the reader. His idling with the lower class was all an act, and when the need arises, he will cast off the act and reveal his true noble self.