Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
King Henry IV
King Henry IV, the first Lancastrian monarch. Weighed down by the troubles of high office, he is despondent over having deposed his predecessor Richard II and profoundly pessimistic about prospects for the nation when Prince Hal, his successor, becomes king. Beset by rebellions from two quarters, he is inclined to credit exaggerated reports of rebel strength. Following assurances from wise counselors that he will prevail, the king reaffirms his intention to lead a crusade to the Holy Land after peace has been restored. Illness cuts short his plan. As he lies dying, he is reassured by Prince Hal that his counselors will be retained and heeded. He advises Hal to involve the nation in a foreign war to promote domestic unity.
Prince Henry, often called Prince Hal, the prince of Wales and later King Henry V in the drama. After being dismissed from the king’s council for striking the Chief Justice in court, the witty Hal turns his attentions to enjoying himself with Falstaff and his companions at the Boar’s Head Tavern. When he hears of the king’s illness, he conceals his grief because, he thinks, people would regard sadness on his part as hypocritical. Visiting his father before his death, Hal takes away the crown and must explain to the king’s satisfaction why he did something seemingly so callous. Although his response restores the king’s confidence, he is compelled to quiet the justifiable fears of others after the king’s death. Through magnanimity to the Chief Justice, severity toward Falstaff, and professed allegiance to his father’s memory, Hal convinces members of the court that he will become a worthy monarch.
Prince John, Hal’s younger brother. A man of few words, he is tough and ruthless. As commander of the king’s army, he convinces the...
(The entire section is 768 words.)
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