Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Nina Levine

Abstract

Contrary to much criticism of the past thirty years that regards Shakespeare’s Prince Hal as the epitome of unfettered Machiavellian subjectivity, Hal should be regarded as a teenaged male navigating the contradictory discourses of early modern masculinity in order to perform an integrated, consistent masculinity for his audience. His acceptance of hegemonic masculinity is complicated by his father Henry IV’s usurpation of the throne. The resulting ambivalence in Hal results in his participation in the countermasculine world of Eastcheap. However, once Hal “chooses” his role as Prince of Wales, he finds it difficult to sacrifice his personal self, or body natural, for the sake of his public persona as king, or body politic. While Hal successfully transforms his youthful riot into kingly masculine self-control, becoming the legendary King Henry V, he still longs for the fraternity he experienced before his accession, desires that others recognize his inherent superiority, and approve him for “who he is” rather than his social position. However, toward the end of Henry V, he seems to have doubts about the masculinity he has so successfully presented to others, and, when denied relationship with others, asserts his dominance over them in a show of “breaking bad.” Not receiving free approval of his masculinity from them, he coerces their acceptance to prove his manhood to himself.

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