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Henry IV Part 1 Family Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.

Quote #7

Dost thou speak like a king? Do thou stand for
me, and I'll play my father.
FALSTAFF, rising 
Depose me? if thou dost it half so
gravely, so majestically, both in word and matter,
hang me up by the heels for a rabbit-sucker or a
poulter's hare. (2.4.447-452)

When Hal and Falstaff put on an impromptu skit at the Boar's Head tavern, Hal insists on taking over Falstaff's role as "King Henry." Falstaff jokingly suggests that Prince Hal has "deposed" him by taking over the role of king, which is clever, sure, but we're really interested in the way this comment speaks to Hal's relationship with his real father.

Later in the play we learn that King Henry is seriously concerned about whether or not his son wishes him dead so he can inherit the throne by lineal succession. It's only after Hal kills Douglas, saving Henry's life, that the king finally lets his guard down in Act 5, Scene 5. (But, the issue comes up again in King Henry IV Part 2, when Hal, thinking his father is dead, removes Henry's crown and places it on his own head. Henry's not happy when he wakes up and realizes what's happened!)

Shakespeare is very much interested in father-son relationships and explores the idea that, where primogeniture (the system by which eldest sons inherit their fathers' wealth, titles, lands, power, debt, etc.) is the rule, all sons (not just princes who stand to inherit kingdoms) inevitably look forward to their fathers' deaths. As long as one's father is alive, a son has very limited power and wealth, which can strain even the best father-son relationships. Shakespeare revisits this theme in other plays like King Lear (check out Edmund's relationship with Gloucester) and Hamlet (Hamlet's got serious issues with his dad and his uncle).

Quote #8

I understand thy looks. That pretty Welsh
Which thou pour'st down from these swelling
I am too perfect in, and but for shame
In such a parley should I answer thee. (3.1.206-210)

Even though father-son relations (male relations, really) dominate the play, Shakespeare also thinks about husbands and wives. Here, we see that Mortimer's tender relationship with his Welsh wife acts as a foil to the relationship we see between Lady Percy and Hotspur. Hotspur, as we know, loves warfare more than he loves his wife and is always telling Kate to be quiet and leave him alone. Mortimer, on the other hand, laments the fact that his wife speaks no English and he no Welsh. But, that doesn't stop her from singing for him and he lovingly and sensually describes her voice as a sound that "pour'st down from these swelling heavens."

Quote #9

Come, Kate, I'll have your song too.
Not mine, in good sooth.
Not yours, in good sooth! Heart, you swear
like a comfit-maker's wife. 'Not you, in good
sooth,' and 'as true as I live,' and 'as God shall
mend me,' and 'as sure as day'—
And givest such sarcenet surety for thy oaths
As if thou never walk'st further than Finsbury.
Swear me, Kate, like a lady as thou art,
A good mouth-filling oath, and leave 'in sooth,'
And such protest of pepper-gingerbread
To velvet-guards and Sunday-citizens.
Come, sing. (3.1.254-266)

When Lady Percy refuses to sing for her husband's colleagues on the eve of the rebels' departure for Shrewsbury, Hotspur mockingly upbraids her for speaking like an uptight, mealy-mouthed "com-fit maker's wife" (comfit-makers are not noblemen – they prepare candy-coated fruits and nuts for a living) instead of a sophisticated nobleman's wife. Aside from the fact that Hotspur appears to be throwing a tantrum here, what interests us about this passage is the way Hotspur's anger at Kate seems to come from his sense that her behavior is an embarrassing reflection on him. The only reason Hotspur asks Kate to sing is because Mortimer's wife has just finished a song and Hotspur doesn't want to be outdone. He's not upset that he's missing out Kate's lovely voice – in fact, he's always telling her to pipe down. Always competitive, Hotspur's little tantrum is about his failed attempt to use his wife to one-up another man. Kate, however, isn't having it and, with a firm hand, refuses to indulge her husband's childish behavior.

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