Shakespeare Henry the Fourth, Part II, Act II
Uploaded by tamii on Oct 26, 2011
This paper examines Shakespeare’s use of the word / concept “wholeness” in the second act of this play. (4 pages; 1 source; MLA citation style.
Shakespeare wrote two plays that deal, in essence, with the maturation of a young man from a rogue into a king. The Prince Hal who “hangs out” with Sir John Falstaff, participates in street brawls and robberies, who drinks and gambles and womanizes, becomes in the end one of England’s greatest kings.
In this paper, we’ll examine the word “wholeness” and the ways in which Shakespeare uses it in Act II of Henry the Fourth, Part I.
As in the first act, I’ve been unable to find the word “wholeness” used in Henry the Fourth, Part II, Act II. Nor have I found a pattern of usage of any of the word’s common synonyms. Once again, then, we have to explore the text itself and the ideas presented to discover Shakespeare’s meaning with regard to wholeness, rather than taking a linguistic approach.
Act I deals not with wholeness, meaning either “complete” or “undiseased”, but with its opposite: divisiveness. There is an armed rebellion in the kingdom, and Prince Hal is playing the part of a young punk; i.e., assuming a dual identity, which we can view as a sort of “split personality”—even though his actions are deliberate and not the result of illness. The act is full of doubles of all kinds.
Shakespeare doesn’t use the word “wholeness” in the second act, so as we did with Act I, we have to look at the larger picture to see how the concept might apply.
There are three main actions in this act: the robbery; Hotspur’s scene with his wife; and the moment when Falstaff, at the prince’s urging, pretends to be the king. The first shows us Hal, Falstaff and the others playing pranks on each other; the second shows us a different view of Hotspur than we’ve seen previously; and the last also shows us a different view of Prince Hal. When Falstaff says “… banish plump Jack, and banish all the world,” Hal replies, “I do, I will.” (II, ii, 480-481). Falstaff is joking but Hal is deadly serious and it’s a very chilling moment in theater, for we know that Hal will, in the end, turn his back on Falstaff and break the old man’s...