| Quote #1
[…] the noble Mortimer,
In the first scene of the play, Westmoreland reports that, after 1,000 English soldiers were "butchered" by the Welsh in a border skirmish, the corpses of the Englishmen were subject to "beastly shameless transformation" at the hands of the Welshwomen. Shakespeare is discrete here, but we know from other sources (such as Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles) that the Welshwomen were said to have mutilated the genitals of English soldiers. The actions of the women, reported very early in the play, firmly establish the women (and Wales as a whole) as a serious threat to masculinity and English power.
History snack: We give you a link to Volume III of Holinshed's Chronicles (a major source for events in the play) in "Best of the Web," but here's a brief excerpt of the material Shakespeare most likely read:
The shameful villainy of the used by the Welshwomen towards the dead carcasses was such as honest ears would be ashamed to hear and continent tongues to speak thereof.
| Quote #2
Came there a certain lord, neat, and trimly dress'd,
The first time we hear directly from Hotspur, he offers up a rather lame excuse about why he refused to turn over his war prisoners to the king. (There may be some truth in his account, but we also know that Hotspur refuses to give up his prisoners because he wants Henry to ransom Mortimer from the Welsh.) This passage is interesting for what it reveals about Hotspur's notions of gender. Here, Hotspur is outraged by the presence of a "certain lord" who talks like a "gentlewoman," smells of perfume, and is perfectly groomed on his battlefield. For the hyper-masculine Hotspur, effeminacy has no place in warfare.
| Quote #3
By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap,
We discuss this passage in "Principles" but we think it's worth mentioning in our discussion of "Gender" also. When Hotspur compares the pursuit of "honour" to the dramatic rescue of a "drowned" maiden, it becomes clear that masculinity is synonymous with courage and valor. We're also not surprised that "drowned honour" is figured as both a damsel in distress and a sunken treasure to be retrieved from the bottom of the ocean. For Hotspur (and the chivalric tradition in general) women are never anything much more than a prize.