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Henry IV Part 1

Henry IV Part 1


by William Shakespeare

Henry IV Part 1 Language and Communication Quotes

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

Quote #1

Nay, I will; that's flat!
He said he would not ransom Mortimer,
Forbade my tongue to speak of Mortimer.
But I will find him when he lies asleep,
And in his ear I'll hollo 'Mortimer.'
Nay, I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak
Nothing but 'Mortimer,' and give it him
To keep his anger still in motion. (1.3.227-234)

This passage reminds us of the important relationship between power, speech, and rebellion. Hotspur is furious when the king asserts his authority by refusing to ransom Mortimer from the Welsh, by demanding Percy's war prisoners and, more importantly, by forbidding Hotspur to "speak of Mortimer." Hotspur's refusal to let the king silence his "tongue" speaks volumes about his willfulness and his threat to scream "Mortimer!" in the king's ear as he "lies asleep" anticipates the way Hotspur will lead the rebellion against the king. This establishes an important concept that we should pay attention to in the play: those who control language have all the power.

Quote #2

Indeed, you come near me now, Hal, for we
that take purses go by the moon and the seven
stars, and not by Phoebus, […]
Marry, then, sweet wag, when thou art king,
let not us that are squires of the night's body be
called thieves of the day's beauty. Let us be Diana's
foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the
moon, and let men say we be men of good government,
being governed, as the sea is, by our noble and
chaste mistress the moon, under whose countenance
we steal. (1.2.13-16; 24-31)

As the reigning heavyweight champ of smack talk, Falstaff dazzles us with his elaborate puns and clever word play. Here, Falstaff insists that he and his criminal friends be called "squires of the night's body" (a rather fun way of referring to thieves who work at night, don't you think?). Though Falstaff has a tendency to lie and manipulate, here it's pretty clear he doesn't expect anyone to take him seriously – he knows there's nothing noble or chivalric about stealing "by the moon and the seven stars."

Falstaff insists that he and his thieving pals called "gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon" as a way to mock his status as a disgraced knight. But, at the same time Falstaff recognizes his own shortcomings, he also manages to thumb his nose at authority. While Falstaff isn't planning on rising up against the king any time soon, we can see how his masterful manipulation of language marks him as a very rebellious spirit. It's also the thing that seems to attract Prince Hal to his company (not such a good thing for the kingdom if Hal's supposed to be gearing up to take over as king). Does this make Falstaff just as dangerous as, say, Hotspur?

Quote #3

Why, what a wasp-stung and impatient fool
Art thou to break into this woman's mood,
Tying thine ear to no tongue but thine own! (1.3.244-246)

In a previous passage we saw how Hotspur's rebellious "tongue" is an important marker of his rebellious attitude. Here, Northumberland means to insult Hotspur as he scolds him for talking too much, like a "woman" in a foul "mood." Mouthiness, as it were, is frequently associated with effeminacy and unruliness in Shakespeare's plays. (Think of the way Petruchio sets out to "tame" Katherine's rebellious tongue in The Taming of the Shrew.) As Henry IV Part 1 progresses, we're led to believe that Hotspur's "womanish" lack of control and "impatient" tongue are markers of his unfitness to govern.

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