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The King is disapproving of
the crowd that Hal has chosen to associate himself with, casting them off as ‘rude
society’ (Act 3, Scene 2, l.14). The King is berating Hal for his actions, as
well as for choosing to hang around people of a much lower class. Hal seems to accept
what his father is saying, and so aims redeem himself. Although he enjoys the
company of Falstaff, it is clear by his soliloquy in Act One, Scene Two, that
he plans to reform himself and act like his father wishes him to, saying: My reformation, glittering o’er my fault, Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes Than that which hath no foil to set it off.I’ll so offend to make offence a skill, Redeeming time when men think least I will (Act 1, Scene
2, ll.188-192) This shows that Hal intends to step up and be
the man that his father wants him to be, and be the prince that his country
needs him to be in a time of political upheaval.

Because Prince Hal is the heir to the throne
by lineal succession, the King’s strained relationship with his son is nearly
inseparable from matters of state. This links to the theme of royalty,
succession and the legitimacy of rulership in the play, as the relationship
between the two plays a big part in these aspects of the play. Because Henry IV, Part I is
set amid a rebellion, the play is naturally concerned with the idea of
rulership. The concept of legitimate rulership is deeply connected in the play
with the concept of rebellion. Legitimate rulership can be said to be either due
to the will of the people or to the will of God. Therefore, the doubt in the
King’s power may result from his own fear that his rule is illegitimate since
he stole the crown from Richard II. Next in line for the throne after Henry IV
is Prince Henry, Hal, as he is the eldest of the king’s sons. The King worries
about Hal’s ability to govern after his death and often laments that he’s the
father of such a terrible child. He also feels that God has sent Prince Hal to
earth as a personal form of punishment for his sins against King Richard II. In
fact, Henry frequently comments that he wishes Hotspur were his son and that
fairies had exchanged Hal and Hotspur at birth, and according to Henry IV, the
young Percy would be a terrific king. This allows Shakespeare to meditate on
the similarities between kingship and parenting, a point that’s never lost in a
play that imagines civil warfare as a kind of large-scale family dispute. Moreover,
Shakespeare seems to be interested in the way King Henry’s relationship with
his son demonstrates some common issues surrounding primogeniture, the system
by which eldest sons inherit their fathers’ wealth, titles, lands, and power.
When King Henry reveals he’s been afraid that Hal wants to see him dead so he
can be king, he shows his anxiety that his son is looking forward to his
death. The play reminds us that, in this case, the civil war and the struggle
for the crown is a family matter, and it highlights the struggles
between fathers and sons, especially those who are royal. 

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