The Unruly Son

We learned that the word “blood” appears more than fifty times in Richard II.  We find this word again in Henry IV several times, which strengthens the connection between these two plays even further.  In 3.2, King Henry mentions the importance of blood when talking to Prince Harry.  He’s disappointed that his son has not followed in his footsteps because he has royal blood and should hold himself a certain way in front of the public eye.  Harry has been hanging around commoners and is not showing an interest in becoming king, and Henry believes that he is being punished by God for having such a difficult son.  “I know not whether God will have it so for some displeasing service I have done, that in his secret doom out of my blood he’ll breed revengement and a scourge for me” (4-6).  This is a typical example of the common parent-disappointed-in-child storyline where the young son is not meeting the expectations of his proud father.  This is seen all over the place in books, movies, and television shows and we have to ask ourselves – who is right?  Personally, I understand King Henry’s motives in getting his son to accept that he is of royal blood, but he does it in a very harsh way.  If I were Harry, I would have a lot of trouble hearing my father speak to me the way that Henry does.

                What is also very important about the word “blood” making an appearance here is that it is not only alluding to Richard II, but Henry even brings him up when speaking to his son.  He tells Harry that Richard “mingled his royalty with cap’ring fools”  and that he was “being daily swallowed by men’s eyes, they surfeited with honey, and began to loathe the taste of sweetness” (63, 70-73).  After explaining everything that Richard had done wrong during his rule, he tells his son, “And in that very line, Harry, standest thou” (84).  It’s very interesting and shocking that Henry compares Harry to Richard.  He is telling him that he is doing everything wrong, which is setting himself up to become a bad king, like Richard was.  This is slightly ironic, because Henry was the one who de-throned Richard and indirectly was the reason that he was killed.  And now there is already a group of rebels who believe that Henry is a bad king, so should Harry even be taking Henry’s advice?  Also, we have to wonder if the vast amounts of pressure that Henry is putting on Harry will ultimately kill him, just like he killed Richard.

4 thoughts on “The Unruly Son

  1. Sam Montagna

    You pose some good questions here. Harry should take his father's words into account because he is Harry's father and the King of England. Also, a group of rebels saying Henry is a bad king is not surprising. There is always opposition and no King will be able to please everyone. What will make Henry a good king is whether or not he will be able to overcome all his obstacles, even his disobedient son. Henry's words do get through to Harry and Harry promises to change. Also, Henry is taking action against his rebels while Richard simply gave up without a fight. This is the difference between Richard and Henry.

  2. Brittany M

    While it is certainly true that Henry seems to be a bit harsh on Hal, I genuinely believe that he is only looking out for Hal’s best interest. Henry notices similarities between his son and Richard, which troubles him greatly. Like Richard, Hal has a life style characterized by surfeit and excess. Acknowledging that Hal is the next in line to the throne, Henry wants to make sure Hal is going to be an effective king demonstrating control and restraint. Henry has seen firsthand how Richard corrupted England, and does not want his son to follow suit. As for the rebels opposing Henry, even a good king will have those who oppose him. Too many different minds make it impossible for a ruler to be liked by everyone. I would say Henry is a much better king than Richard ever was.

  3. Tori Holm

    When reading this post I keep thinking of one quote; "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it". Henry has not learned anything from his actions against Richard and he seems to be falling into the same hole that he put Richard in himself. There is a sad irony about this, which you talked about and I cannot help but wonder if this is a cycle that is never ending in history or something that Shakespeare has just decided to make fun of. Richard, in my opinion, seemed to have fought somewhat for his crown but in the end he lost all hope and I am not sure as to whether or not Henry is as folding as Richard was. Regardless, I am sure that Henry will fall into some type of misfortune within the coming acts and during that time not only will we see the true colors of Henry IV but of his son's decisions as well as Shakespeare's intentions.

  4. Ally Farzetta

    I really like how your post (and many of the responses above) touches on the "endless cycle" we have seen of overthrowing Kings. However, based on the title of our next play, we can safely surmise that King Henry is not overthrown and Prince Harry will eventually take the throne as Henry V. ButI definitely don't blame King Henry for being concerned with his "unruly son." He is looking out for the legacy of his bloodline. However, since Harry opens up to the audience in soliloquy, we know what the King does not know. Harry confides to the audience who he really is inside and how his "bad boy" image is only an act. He tells us that he will take his role as King seriously. Therefore, we (the audience) can see past the comparisons King Henry makes to Richard II because we know that there's more to Harry than meets the eye.


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