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Henry and Sovereignty

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Being independent from external factors defines sovereignty. A nation or an individual can be described as sovereign when it is evident that they rely upon themselves, in making decisions and handling their issues rather than looking up to others who may be regarded as having higher authority. The relationship between the father- son relationship, between King Henry and Prince Hal, is used by Shakespeare in Henry IV to outline personal sovereignty to the Queen of England.

King Henry views the son, Prince Hal with lack of confidence in the way he handles his life and personal issues within the royal family. The future heir to the throne of England wastes his time with fellows of low regard in taverns; further ruining his reputation among the people and straining the father and son relationship between him and the king. In scene 4 of Act 5 in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, the father and son are alongside each other in battle when the son gets injured (Evans and Tobin 12). As the King Henry urges his son to get of the battle field, Prince Hal stands his ground stating that he cannot think of the idea of himself leaving his duty instead of fighting alongside other nobilities and soldiers for the country.

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In contradicting the King’s opinion and the low confidence he has on the prince, Shakespeare points out to the queen that personal sovereignty is of greater essence than political sovereignty. In spite of being politically obligated to fight for his country as the Prince, and having the chance to abdicate this responsibility after the king’s dismissal, Prince Hal makes the personal choice to continue with the fight. Using the father - son relationship, Shakespeare illustrates the greatness of personal sovereignty to the queen, as the king accepts the son’s choice.

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King Henry expects the prince to be a leader, which he considers him not to be for a long time, like Hotspur, son to Northumberland. Despite the strained ties between father and son, Prince Hal respect and honors his father’s call to fulfill his obligations as heir in the fourth scene of act 5 (Evans and Tobin 13). The king has crown sovereignty in making this request, or demand, to the prince. It can be noted however that, the son accepts and rises to perform his duty, not in response to the king’s command but rather from his own volition. Shakespeare outlines to the Queen of England that individual sovereignty, pictured by the prince Hal’s personal choices, proves to be greater than the crown’s sovereignty.  Personal freewill is of greater eminence in deciding the choices made by the prince, instead of the king’s authority over him.

Using the father-son relationship, Shakespeare also points out the fact that great leaders can and will come out of the royal linage to lead the country. These leaders will emerge by their own individual sovereignty and rule the country to greater prosperity, by their own inclinations and not by the authority of the crown. Scene IV has the prince stating his position when confronted by the Hotspur, stating that he cannot deny his name and the honor of the royal family in spite of the insinuations made by people around him (Evans and Tobin 13).

Shakespeare uses the prince to point out to the Queen that leadership in the monarchy can only come from within the individual heirs to the throne; the choices they make and stand, they adopt as independent individuals. Through the father-son relationship, Shakespeare illustrates personal sovereignty, and how strong leaders will emerge from it to guide the country, without being forced to by others or responsibilities assigned to them.

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