Publication Date



rumor, Prodigal Son, Shakespeare, fathers and sons


This article challenges traditional, critical interpretations of Shakespeare’s character Prince Hal by examining changes Shakespeare makes to sources he used, in particular the anonymous play Famous Victories of Henry V. Shakespeare does not portray a “prodigal” Prince Hal character as has often been argued by critics, but instead carefully follows Holinshed’s observations that the prince was virtuous in youth and that rumors about the prince’s supposed prodigal behavior were spread by those who were in the service of Henry IV. These rumors were aimed to cause conflict between father and son. Shakespeare’s inclusion of these two important details found in Holinshed, allows him to stage a historically realistic and complex Prince Hal through a powerful dramatization of the tension between rumor and virtue in the plays, and its role in the strained relationship between the prince and his father.