Heather Folkvord as Prince Hal
Heather here playing Prince Hal in the all-female cast of Henry IV Part One. Prince Hal is a complex character and a real pain-in-the-a#* for his father, King Henry IV. First of all, he hangs out in seedy Eastcheap. A place where he carouses with his drinking buddies, plans a highway robbery, and takes every opportunity to thumb his nose at authority. Why does he do this? That’s a question I have asked myself more than once.
It turns out, though, there is a reason in a weird Machavellian way. Hal surprises the audience by letting them in on a little secret: his bad behavior is just a disguise. The truth is that he’s been pretending to be a degenerate in order to stage a dramatic “reformation” that will amaze everyone and make him a better king.
Acting like a rebellious teenager and breaking the law is a good thing for the country?
Um, okay. But it really does work. By the play’s end, Hal redeems himself on the battlefield by saving his father from Douglas. He even kills Hotspur, who’s been running around telling everyone that Hal’s a loser and a pansy. As a war hero, Hal shrugs off his bad boy reputation, steals Hotspur’s honor, and demonstrates his ability to govern. Hooray!! A piece of cake for an actor to play. Ha!
But, staging a “reformation” isn’t the only way Hal prepares for his future. Hal’s time in Eastcheap is all part of his “dress rehearsal” for kingship. He prepares for his future is by hanging out with the commoners in Eastcheap: finding out how the “other half” live, how their society works, and how he can relate to them. Then there’s good ole Falstaff. To Hal, the old drunken knight is more than just a buddy. I think Hal sees him as a surrogate father. I can see the appeal of hanging out with Falstaff, who’s always down for a little fun and spends lots of quality time with Hal. Hal misses his daddy. (Emo? Maybe a little.) It’s possible that even some of the cruelty Hal shows toward Falstaff is a way for the prince to express his anger at his father without paying the consequences of being a total ass to the king.
I’m just getting started on this journey to throne. I hope you enjoyed some of my beginning thoughts on Hal and why he does the things he does. Feel free to send me your thoughts and I’ll see you all out there.