Study Guide

Henry IV Part 2 Family

By William Shakespeare

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Throughout the tetralogy, Shakespeare is interested in family bonds (especially father-son relationships), particularly when they intersect with politics. Even though Prince Hal saved his father's life at the battle of Shrewsbury in Henry IV Part 1, the troubled relationship between the king and his heir continues to parallel the civil rebellion in England. It also threatens the possibility of reestablishing any kind of political unity and order. As King Henry IV nears his death, he accuses Prince Hal of wanting him dead, an issue that Shakespeare also explores in plays like King Lear. Hal's success as a king seems contingent upon his making amends with his father and rejecting his surrogate father-figure, Falstaff. Hal's banishment of Falstaff and his acceptance of the Lord Chief Justice as a new "father" confirm his "reformation" from a wayward son to a monarch who will uphold civil order.

Questions About Family

  1. In the Induction (prologue), Rumour makes reference to Northumberland, who "lies crafty sick" at his castle at Warkworth. What are/were the consequences of Northumberland's fake illness for his family and for the country? Tip: You might refer to Lady Percy's accusations against Northumberland in Act 2, Scene 3.
  2. Falstaff is somewhat of a surrogate father figure for Prince Hal in Part 1 of Henry IV. What role does he play in Hal's life here in Part 2? Is it different or similar? What textual evidence would you use to support your claim?
  3. Why does King Henry accuse Prince Hal of wishing for his speedy death (4.5)? What makes him think Hal wants him dead? Is he right? How does Hal respond to the accusation?
  4. How does Prince Hal respond to his father's death?

Chew on This

In the play, civil unrest is frequently compared to domestic violence.

In order to restore and ensure civil harmony in England, Prince Hal must first make amends with his father, King Henry IV and reject his old surrogate father-figure, Falstaff.

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