Henry IV Part 1
Rules and Order Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
What, shall we be
merry? shall we have a play extempore? (2.4.27)
Falstaff and Hal sure do like to play-act, don't they? In the infamous scene in the Boar's Head, Falstaff and Hal turn the tavern into a mock "castle" and play the roles of "King Henry" and "Prince Hal," which is an incredibly rebellious thing to do. By dramatizing a little play-within-the play, Shakespeare reminds us that the Elizabethan theater was in fact associated with rebellion and disorder. Check out our discussion of "Art and Culture" for more on this, but get right back because we're not done here.
Who, I rob? I a thief? not I, by my faith. (1.2.20)
It's pretty obvious that Hal's a rebellious son – he lies, steals, cheats, hangs with criminals and commoners, and takes every opportunity to thumb his nose at authority. We love this moment where Hal plays coy after his friends invite him to take part in a highway robbery, which he does, by the way. But, at the same time, Hal's "who, me?" remark reminds us that after his pals rob the king's exchequer (treasury) at Gads Hill, Hal returns the stolen loot. Perhaps Hal is telling the truth when he claims (at the end of Act 1, Scene 2) that he's not really a bad boy, he's just pretending to be one for now.
Why, yet he doth deny his prisoners,
But with proviso and exception,
That we at our own charge shall ransom straight
His brother-in-law, the foolish Mortimer;
Who, on my soul, hath wilfully betray'd
The lives of those that he did lead to fight
Against that great magician, damn'd Glendower,
Whose daughter, as we hear, the Earl of March
Hath lately married. (1.3.3)
Here, King Henry calls the English Mortimer a traitor and refuses to ransom him from his Welsh captors. (It's likely Henry wants Mortimer to remain in Wales because he was declared heir to the throne by King Richard II.) What interests us about this passage is the way it draws our attention to Mortimer's marriage to Glendower's Welsh daughter, which, for Henry, is evidence that Mortimer is the worst kind of traitor. Throughout the play, disobedience and disorder are frequently associated with women. In fact, the only three female characters in the play – Mistress Quickly (who runs a wild tavern), Lady Percy (married to Hotspur), and Lady Mortimer (daughter of the Welsh rebel leader and wife to the traitor Mortimer) are directly linked to rebellion. What's up with that? Check out our discussion of "Gender" for some of our thoughts.