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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 #1

No more the thirsty entrance of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood.
Nor more shall trenching war channel her fields,
Nor bruise her flow'rets with the armed hoofs
Of hostile paces. (1.1.5-9)

This passage from the play's opening speech gets at the unnaturalness of civil warfare, which King Henry portrays as a family affair. In the king's vivid metaphor, English soil becomes a cannibal mother, consuming the bloodied corpses of "her own children." This is a rather disturbing visualization of the burial of English soldiers in the earth's bowels, don't you think?

If the earth is a cannibal, then her own "children" are also guilty of gashing or, "trenching" and wounding the earth's "body." As armed cavalry soldiers march across the land and engage in earth-gouging combat, the violence of warfare seems to plant the "fields" with dead bodies, while destroying the small, tender flowers that spring from the soil.

Quote #2

Yea, there thou mak'st me sad, and mak'st me sin
In envy that my Lord Northumberland
Should be the father to so blest a son,
A son who is the theme of Honor's tongue,
Amongst a grove, the very straightest plant,
Who is sweet Fortune's minion and her pride;
Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him,
See riot and dishonor stain the brow
Of my young Harry. (1.1.77-85)

According to King Henry, his son brings nothing but shame and "dishonour" to his family, while Hotspur is the very definition of honor.

As Henry describes his envy of Hotspur's father, he puns on the word "plant" to describe the way Hotspur distinguishes himself from wild Prince Hal and even other members in the Hotspur's family (the Plantagenet line) by being the "straightest plant." What Henry means is that Hotspur distinguishes himself from prince Hal and also other members of the Percy family, which are portrayed as a crooked "grove."

King Henry's remarks about his "sin[ful]" "envy" of Northumberland for having such a "blest" son help the play establish Hotspur as a foil to the wild and rebellious Prince Hal. It's curious, though, that Henry thinks so highly of the young man who will later organize a rebellion in an effort to bump King Henry from the throne. Hmm. We wonder why that is.

Quote #3

I know not whether God will have it so
For some displeasing service I have done,
That, in his secret doom, out of my blood
He'll breed revengement and a scourge for me.
But thou dost in thy passages of life
Make me believe that thou art only marked
For the hot vengeance and the rod of heaven
To punish my mistreadings. Tell me else,
Could such inordinate and low desires,
Such poor, such bare, such lewd, such mean
Such barren pleasures, rude society
As thou art matched withal, and grafted to,
Accompany the greatness of thy blood,
And hold their level with thy princely heart? (3.2.5-19)

This isn't the first time a parent has complained about an unruly child being sent to earth by "God" as punishment for some past sin. Most parents (we hope) don't actually believe this, but Henry sure does. Hal's rebelliousness, he insists, is God's way of punishing him for deposing, and then ordering, the murder of King Richard II. Since it was believed that English monarchs were God's appointed leaders on earth, Henry's usurpation of the throne is a sin against God.

We're also interested in Henry's use of the term "grafted" to describe Prince Hal's relationship with the "rude society" of his friends at the expense of his relationship with his "blood" relatives. (Grafting is a horticultural term to describe the way a tree's tissue is fused with another tree so the sap of one tree circulates through the other.) Henry suggests that Hal's association with "rude society" is the worst kind of family disloyalty, one that threatens to transform his royal "blood" to something common and "base."

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