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Henry IV Part 1 Principles Quotes

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

Quote #4

By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap
To pluck bright honor from the pale-faced moon,
Or dive into the bottom of the deep,
Where fathom line could never touch the ground,
And pluck up drowned honor by the locks,
So he that doth redeem her thence might wear
Without corrival, all her dignities. (1.3.206-212)

When Hotspur personifies "honour" as a "drowned" damsel in distress, he sounds more like a chivalric knight than a man plotting a rebellion against the king. Note: "personification" is just when a non-human thing (like honor) is talked about as though it's human. In this case, Hotspur suggests he can grab "honour" by "her" hair ("locks") and rescue her from the bottom of the ocean ("the deep"). See what we mean when we say he sounds more like a chivalric knight than a rebel? He also sounds a bit like a treasure hunter, one who's more interested in the prize than the principles behind the action.

While Hotspur's attitude and valiant deeds earn him accolades from the king (the very man Hotspur seeks to overthrow) and others, his overconfidence is problematic. His tendency to equate honourable action with impossible tasks (like "plucking" honor from the moon or the depths of the ocean) gets him into trouble on more than one occasion. One could say that Hotspur's overconfidence plays a large role in his downfall – he later ignores the advice and warnings of his peers, believes he can defeat the king's army without his father and Glendower, and rushes headlong into battle. Compare this passage to 4.1 below.

Quote #5

You strain too far.
I rather of his absence make this use:
It lends a luster and more great opinion,
A larger dare to our great enterprise
Than if the earl were here, for men must think
If we without his help can make a head
To push against a kingdom, with his help
We shall o'erturn it topsy-turvy down.
Yet all goes well; yet all our joints are whole. (4.1.79-87)

When Hotspur learns his father is (supposedly) too ill to join the rebel army, Hotspur refuses to postpone the impending battle. But why? Hotspur thinks that winning a seemingly impossible victory will give the entire "enterprise" a kind of "luster," which makes victory sound more like a shiny trophy than anything else. Note the way this passage recalls Hotspur's earlier speech about "plucking bright honour" from the moon (1.3 above). For Hotspur, a successful rebellion against the king would be all the more brilliant and glorious because of its degree of difficulty. (So, what happened to the principle of the rebellion? And, what about the outnumbered rebel soldiers who are bound to lose their lives?) We know, of course, that Hotspur's decision to move ahead without Northumberland is one of his fatal errors.

Quote #6

By the Lord, I knew you as well as he that
made you. Why, hear you, my masters, was it for
me to kill the heir apparent? should I turn upon the
true prince? Why, thou knowest I am as valiant as
Hercules: but beware instinct. The lion will not
touch the true prince. Instinct is a great matter.
I was now a coward on instinct. I shall think
the better of myself, and thee, during my life—
I for a valiant lion, and thou for a true prince. (2.4.278-286)

Falstaff's insistence that he was a "coward on instinct" during the second robbery at Gads Hill speaks to his remarkable (and hilarious) ability to think on his feet, don't you think? For our discussion of "Principles," however, Falstaff's antics (his lack of courage at Gads Hill and his fabrication of a preposterous story about what really happened), establish his character as the antithesis of honor. Falstaff's behavior here also anticipates the way he'll perform during the battle at Shrewsbury (playing dead and then stabbing Hotspur's corpse after Hal has killed young Percy). This passage also looks forward to Falstaff's famous speech about the meaninglessness of "honour" in Act 5, Scene 1.

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