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Though he was a capable and determined ruler in the earlier play, here Shakespeare presents him as an ailing King exhausted by loss of sleep and loaded with worries. He is a man worn out by the cares and troubles of ruling England, a country torn apart by civil wars. He is also tortured by the fact that he himself had been a rebel and was responsible for the death of Richard II, his predecessor. He considers himself a sinner and that he should endure this rebellion as a part of his punishment from God. He attributes his troublesome reign to the unjust ways he had adopted to usurp the throne. He believes that those who rebel against him are also sinners and are sure to be punished by God. He compares himself to a captive in a rich bed and like a restless mechanism in a watch case. He sorrowfully predicts that England will be in turmoil when Hal rules. Convinced of his son’s love and respect towards him, he speaks very lovingly to him. He advises his son to take the right path, and he is sure that Hal will have a peaceful reign because he has inherited the crown rightfully from his father. He prays to God to give his son a pleasant reign and also to forgive him for his beastly actions (of being responsible for Richard II’s death).
Hal, the heir apparent, is portrayed as an energetic and irresponsible young man. In the early part of the play he appears mainly in comic scenes. He is an unusually poised and gifted young man. He tolerates the unrestrained behavior of Falstaff. Despite his wit and wildness, he is actually very much concerned about his father, the King. In his conversation with Poins, he says that his heart bleeds out of grief for his sick father but he considers tears a sign of hypocrisy and not fit for a prince. In the Warwick’s comforting words to the desperate King, the real character of Prince Henry is revealed. Warwick says that the prince is schooling himself about the affairs of the country by mixing with people of all levels in the country. The King says that if the Prince is humored he is gracious and kind at heart, but if aroused he can be like a flint. Hal mixes freely with all sorts of people and he tolerates the pranks and follies of Falstaff and his men
The Prince’s philosophical knowledge is displayed when he comments on the troublesome nature of the crown. He says that the crown is a trouble maker and denies sleep and all other sensual pleasures to those who wear it. His generosity and magnanimity are revealed in his respectful confessions and promise to his dying father. He promises that he will defend his crown till the end and encourage the people to maintain law and order. Contrary to what was expected, that is, the Chief Justice would be dismissed in his rule, Hal asks the Judge to continue his service and help in the maintenance of law and order. In the last scenes we see him as a completely reformed and dignified ruler of England passing the order to banish the most leading representative of disorder in his kingdom, Falstaff. But he cannot be criticized as cold and severe because he is banishing his old and close friend; he does not leave Falstaff destitute, but suggests methods of reformation for the knight.