Henry IV Part 2 Power Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.
JOHN OF LANCASTER
O, who shall believe
But you misuse the reverence of your place,
Employ the countenance and grace of heaven,
As a false favorite doth his prince's name,
In deeds dishonorable? You have ta'en up,
Under the counterfeited zeal of God,
The subjects of His substitute, my father,
And both against the peace of heaven and him
Have here up-swarmed them. (4.2.265-273)
When Prince John meets with the rebel leaders at Gaultree Forest, he chides the Archbishop of York (a.k.a. Scroop) for abusing his religious authority in order to lead a rebellion against King Henry IV. Prince John reminds York that the king is God's "substitute" on earth, which is a reference to a political theory know as the doctrine of "divine right." This doctrine says that kings are appointed by God to be his earthly representatives and therefore, subjects should never challenge the monarch's authority.
History Snack: There seems to be some topical relevance here. Queen Elizabeth I (who ruled England at the time this play was written) faced the Northern Rebellion of 1569, which was led by the Percy clan (relatives of the same rebellious Percies depicted in the Henry plays) and the Catholic Bishop of Ross. The rebels wanted to bump Elizabeth off the throne so they could install her Catholic cousin, Mary Stuart. The rebellion was quashed, and soon after, Elizabeth mandated that all churches in England read aloud a sermon (on a regular basis), called "Homily Against Disobedience and Willful Rebellion." Rebellion, according to the sermon was not only an act of treason, it was seen as a "great a sin against God."
Come hither, Harry, sit thou by my bed
And hear, I think, the very latest counsel
That ever I shall breathe.
The Prince rises from his knees and sits
near the bed.
God knows, my son,
By what bypaths and indirect crook'd ways
I met this crown, and I myself know well
How troublesome it sat upon my head.
To thee it shall descend with bitter quiet,
Better opinion, better confirmation,
For all the soil of the achievement goes
With me into the earth. It seemed in me
But as an honor snatched with boist'rous hand,
And I had many living to upbraid
My gain of it by their assistances,
Which daily grew to quarrel and to bloodshed,
Wounding supposèd peace. All these bold fears
Thou seest with peril I have answerèd,
For all my reign hath been but as a scene
Acting that argument. And now my death
Changes the mode; for what in me was purchased
Falls upon thee in a more fairer sort.
So thou the garland wear'st successively.
Yet, though thou stand'st more sure than I could do,
Thou art not firm enough, since griefs are green;
And all my friends, which thou must make thy friends,
Have but their stings and teeth newly ta'en out;
By whose fell working I was first advanced
And by whose power I well might lodge a fear
To be again displaced; which to avoid,
I cut them off and had a purpose now
To lead out many to the Holy Land,
Lest rest and lying still might make them look
Too near unto my state. Therefore, my Harry,
Be it thy course to busy giddy minds
With foreign quarrels, that action, hence borne
May waste the memory of the former days.
More would I, but my lungs are wasted so
That strength of speech is utterly denied me.
How I came by the crown, O God forgive,
And grant it may with thee in true peace live. (4.3.338-379)
King Henry IV's reconciliation with Prince Hal prompts him to dispense fatherly and political advice to his son, which, interestingly enough, leads into a kind of death-bed confession where Henry overtly acknowledges that his path to the crown was "crook'd."
It's clear in this passage that Henry blames his tumultuous reign on his usurpation of the throne – he sees his deposition of Richard II as a "soil[ed]" "achievement." Yet, he's also hopeful of the future because he believes that, since Prince Hal will inherit the crown by lineal succession, his son's reign will be recognized as more legitimate than his own and will, therefore, be much more stable. Still, Henry urges Hal to "busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels" when he is king. That is, he urges Hal to start a war on foreign soil as a way to distract both his friends and enemies from stirring up trouble for him at home. Henry also suggests that this is the real reason why he's always talked about leading a crusade to the Holy Land, which you can read more about by going to "Quotes" for "Warfare."
I then did use the person of your father;
The image of his power lay then in me.
And in th' administration of his law,
Whiles I was busy for the commonwealth,
Your highness pleasèd to forget my place,
The majesty and power of law and justice,
The image of the king whom I presented,
And struck me in my very seat of judgment,
Whereon, as an offender to your father,
I gave bold way to my authority
And did commit you. (5.2.74-84)
Once King Henry IV dies, the Lord Chief Justice must defend himself to Hal, who confronts the LCJ for once having Hal arrested and thrown in jail after the prince boxed the LCJ on the ears. Here, the Lord Chief Justice defends his actions as he explains that his job was to embody or represent the late king's "majesty and power of law and justice." Therefore, when Hal struck him, it was as though he was striking "the image of the king." In short, the Lord Chief Justice holds his ground and is unapologetic for doing his job. Hal's (a.k.a. King Henry V) response? Keep reading…