Henry IV Part 2
How we cite our quotes:
Alas, sweet wife, my honour is at pawn;
And, but my going, nothing can redeem it.
O yet, for God's sake, go not to these wars!
The time was, father, that you broke your word,
When you were more endeared to it than now;
When your own Percy, when my heart's dear Harry,
Threw many a northward look to see his father
Bring up his powers; but he did long in vain.
Who then persuaded you to stay at home?
There were two honours lost, yours and your son's. (2.3.2)
As we know, Northumberland betrayed his son, Hotspur, when he faked an illness and stayed home from the battle at Shrewsbury. This move on Northumberland's part left Hotspur outnumbered by the king's forces. Here, Hotspur's wife, Lady Percy, blames her father-in-law for Hotspur's death and insists that Northumberland lost his "honour" when he abandoned his son. In both parts of Henry IV Shakespeare frequently reminds us that fathers cannot always be trusted to care for their children.
I pray thee, loving wife, and gentle daughter,
Give even way unto my rough affairs:
Put not you on the visage of the times
And be like them to Percy troublesome.
I have given over, I will speak no more:
Do what you will; your wisdom be your guide. (2.3.1)
Here, Northumberland argues with his wife and daughter-in-law about his role in the rebellion and plans to join the Archbishop of York's revolt against King Henry IV. What's interesting about this passage is the way in which Northumberland asks the women to be obedient to him (to "give even way to his rough affairs"). When Northumberland asks Lady Percy and his wife to "put not on the visage [face] of the times," he's asking them not to be rebellious and unruly. Perhaps inadvertently, he compares their disobedience (arguing with the head of the household) to the recent civil rebellion. In other words, the quarrelsome women are acting toward him in the exact same way that he and the other the rebels are acting toward King Henry IV. Northumberland's domestic quarrel, then, is aligned with civil rebellion. Compare this passage to 4.1.10, below.
So that this land, like an offensive wife
That hath enraged him on to offer strokes,
As he is striking, holds his infant up
And hangs resolved correction in the arm
That was uprear'd to execution. (4.1.10)
This is a bizarre passage, don't you think? When the Archbishop of York says that it's in King Henry's best interest to make peace with the rebel leaders, he reasons that Henry can't punish his enemies without also harming his friends. Because political alliances and relationships are so complex, executing one of the rebels might end up offending one of Henry's cherished allies. What's fascinating about the Archbishop's analogy is that he compares King Henry to a father and husband who might lift his hand to strike an "offensive wife" (the rebel leaders) but would stop if the "wife" held up his "infant" (Henry's cherished allies). This isn't the first time we've seen a comparison between civil strife and domestic violence and it's certainly not the last.
History Snack: The Archbishop's speech seems to echo the common 16th century political and social idea that a kingdom is much like a great big family. Check out what Desiderius Erasmus (a famous Renaissance humanist) wrote in his popular "how to" guide for monarchs:
The good prince ought to have the same attitude toward his subjects, as a good paterfamilias [father] toward his household – for what else is a kingdom but a great family? What is the king if not the father to a great multitude? (The Education of a Christian Prince, 1516).