The Potean Prince Hal


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

"Presume not that I am the thing I was," King Henry V, no longer the familiar Prince Hal, tells Falstaff. "For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,/ That I have turn'd away my former self" (2 Henry IV V.v.56-58).1 Many critics have been vexed about the nature of the "former self" that he tells Falstaff he has turned away. The bald declaration of Hal's agenda in the soliloquy in Part 1, certainly, makes it clear that Hal has never been really in thrall to Falstaff, never really a member of the criminal rout at the tavern. In Part 2 he wearily wastes his time with them. When he "please[s] again to be himself," he tells us, he will "imitate the sun" ( I Henry IV I.ii.197, 200) : but if he has not been himself in the tavern, who has he been? What was he doing?

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