Henry IV Part 2
How we cite our quotes:
[…] But I tell
thee, my heart bleeds inwardly that my father is so
sick: and keeping such vile company as thou art
hath in reason taken from me all ostentation of sorrow.
What wouldst thou think of me, if I should weep?
I would think thee a most princely hypocrite.
It would be every man's thought; and thou art a
blessed fellow to think as every man thinks: never
a man's thought in the world keeps the road-way
better than thine: every man would think me an
hypocrite indeed. And what accites your most
worshipful thought to think so?
Why, because you have been so lewd and so much
engraffed to Falstaff. (2.2.8)
In the previous passage we saw that Hal worries he's become too accustomed to the "wild prince" role he's been playing. In this passage, he describes another problem associated with his plot. Here, he suggests that he's become trapped in the role he's created for himself. He confesses to Poins that he's devastated by his father's illness – his "heart bleeds inwardly" – but he cannot show his true feelings in public because he's created a bad-boy reputation that everyone expects him to live up to. If Hal were to openly grieve for his father now, everyone would think he was a "hypocrite" and that his tears were disingenuous because he's spent so much time thumbing his nose at his father and hanging out with the likes of Falstaff.
KING HENRY IV
Most subject is the fattest soil to weeds;
And he, the noble image of my youth,
Is overspread with them: therefore my grief
Stretches itself beyond the hour of death:
The blood weeps from my heart when I do shape
In forms imaginary the unguided days
And rotten times that you shall look upon
When I am sleeping with my ancestors.
For when his headstrong riot hath no curb,
When rage and hot blood are his counsellors,
When means and lavish manners meet together,
O, with what wings shall his affections fly
Towards fronting peril and opposed decay! (4.4.8)
When King Henry IV learns that Hal is hanging out with Poins in London, he launches into a speech about how the kingdom is in for serious trouble when Hal inherits the throne. Henry compares Hal's base companions to an infestation of "weeds," which echoes an idea Shakespeare cultivates in Richard II and Henry IV Part 1. Here, as before, England is imagined as a ruined garden in a state of "decay." Later on (here in Part 2) Henry warns that when Hal is king, England will become a "wilderness" (4.5.8). (Tip: If you're interested in tracing this concept, check out "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" in our guide to Henry IV Part 1.) We're also interested in the way Henry refers to Hal as the "noble image of [his] youth." It seems like Henry sees himself when he looks at his son, which may explain why he's so disappointed in Hal. Henry, as we know, was just as rebellious as Hal. Although Henry didn't consort with commoners, he did rebel against King Richard II.
My gracious lord, you look beyond him quite:
The prince but studies his companions
Like a strange tongue, wherein, to gain the language,
'Tis needful that the most immodest word
Be look'd upon and learn'd; which once attain'd,
Your highness knows, comes to no further use
But to be known and hated. So, like gross terms,
The prince will in the perfectness of time
Cast off his followers; and their memory
Shall as a pattern or a measure live,
By which his grace must mete the lives of others,
Turning past evils to advantages. (4.4.2)
King Henry's advisor, Warwick, seems to know Prince Hal a lot better than the king does, wouldn't you say? After Henry IV complains about Hal keeping company with the likes of Ned Poins, Warwick insists that Hal associates with the commoners in order to "study" them (like a foreign "language") so that he'll be in a better position to rule his subjects when he's king. This, you may recall, is exactly what Hal suggests he's doing back in Henry IV Part 1 when he brags that he can "drink with any tinker in his own language" (Part 1, 2.4.2). Warwick assures the king that, when the "time" is right, the prince will "cast off his followers" and behave in a manner befitting his title. If Warwick recognizes this, why can't King Henry?