Henry IV Part 2
Henry IV Part 2
by William Shakespeare
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Henry IV Part 2 Act 1, Scene 3 Summary

  • At the Archbishop's palace in York, the rebel leaders (York, Mowbray, Lord Marshall, Hastings, and Lord Bardolph) hold a strategy meeting.
  • Mowbray says he's down with the rebel's cause but he'd feel a whole lot better if they had a decent plan because the king's got an awfully powerful army.
  • Hastings chimes in that the rebels have got 25,000 good soldiers now but they need Northumberland's forces if they're going to have a shot.
  • Lord Bardolph says they can't count on Northumberland's men as reinforcements. There's just too much on the line for them to base their strategy on mere speculation.
  • As an example, York and Lord Bardolph recall what recently happened to Hotspur at the battle at Shrewsbury. Hotspur was counting on his father's (Northumberland's) forces for backup but that didn't pan out (because Northumberland called in sick). Hotspur, like a fool, jumped headlong into battle anyway, leading his troops to their death. The remaining rebels don't want to repeat Hotspur's mistakes.
  • On the other hand, notes Hastings, there's nothing wrong with having a little "hope." (Note: "Esperance" (which means "hope" in French) was Hotspur's motto in Henry IV Part 1.
  • Lord Bardolph disagrees and, in a lengthy speech, warns that the rebels shouldn't be counting their eggs before they hatch. He says that hoping early spring buds will mature into fruit is a bad idea because a frost usually comes along and kills them off. Then Lord Bardolph uses a metaphor comparing the rebels to an architect who carefully plans for and designs a house before he starts building it. (Psst. Bardolph steals this from a biblical parable about a wise builder in Luke 14:28-30.) Lord Bardolph also says that if the rebels can't execute their plot, they need to scrap their plan and then come up with another. Then Lord Bardolph makes a little joke about his building metaphor – before the rebels build their kingdom, first they have to tear down the one that already exists. (That would be the one that belongs to King Henry IV.)
  • Hastings wants in on the fun metaphor game and he's not about to be outdone by Bardolph's plagiarized builder metaphor so, he compares the rebels' plan to a pregnancy and says he hopes the baby won't be "stillborn." Still, he thinks the rebels have a "strong enough" body to see this thing through.
  • Plus, says Hastings, the king's forces are pretty weak right now, especially because they're divided into three units: One division is busy fighting with Glendower's Welsh army and a second division is in the middle of a dustup with France. That leaves a paltry third division (just 25,000 men) to deal with the English rebels. Also, the king is broke, war being so expensive to finance and all.
  • York notes that it's not likely the king will pull his troops away from fighting the French and the Welsh to gang up on the rebels so things are looking good.
  • Archbishop York gives the green light for going public with their plan and says the commonwealth is "sick" of Henry and it's their own darn fault. He compares the commoners' love for the king to an eating disorder – they couldn't get enough of Henry, eating him up, so to speak, and gorging themselves in the process.
  • York goes on to call the commoners a "common dog" and a "beastly feeder" that throws up its food and then gobbles up its own vomit. (This, by the way, is a reference to the way the commoners once loved King Richard II but soon began to hate him. Now that Richard II is dead and gone, they want him back.)
  • Mowbray and Hastings say it's time to get this show on the road and the rebels set off to gather up their soldiers.

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