Henry IV Part 2
How we cite our quotes:
'Tis not 'ten years gone
Since Richard and Northumberland, great friends,
Did feast together, and in two years after
Were they at wars: it is but eight years since
This Percy was the man nearest my soul,
Who like a brother toil'd in my affairs
And laid his love and life under my foot,
Yea, for my sake, even to the eyes of Richard
Gave him defiance. But which of you was by--
You, cousin Nevil, as I may remember—(3.1.5)
King Henry IV looks on his past with regret. Northumberland and King Richard II, he recalls, were friends once. There was also a time when he and Northumberland (his enemy now) were close. Northumberland was like a "brother" to Henry and played an instrumental role in his usurpation of the throne from Richard II. Is Henry feeling guilty for his part in the rebellion against King Richard? His speech continues below…
When Richard, with his eye brimful of tears,
Then cheque'd and rated by Northumberland,
Did speak these words, now proved a prophecy?
"Northumberland, thou ladder by the which
My cousin Bolingbroke ascends my throne;"
"The time shall come," thus did he follow it,
"The time will come, that foul sin, gathering head,
Shall break into corruption:" so went on,
Foretelling this same time's condition
And the division of our amity. (3.1.5)
King Henry recalls a moment (from Richard II) where Richard predicted that Northumberland and Henry would eventually be at odds. Henry is convinced that Richard had prophetic powers and was able to see into the future.
Note: In case you want to do some comparison, here's the passage from Richard II where Richard tells Northumberland that he and Henry (called Bolingbroke before he was crowned king) would have a falling out. Notice, Henry is nowhere around when Richard speaks these lines. It's possible he heard about Richard's speech from someone else.
Northumberland, thou ladder wherewithal
The mounting Bolingbroke ascends my throne,
The time shall not be many hours of age
More than it is ere foul sin gathering head
Shalt break into corruption: thou shalt think,
Though he divide the realm and give thee half,
It is too little, helping him to all;
And he shall think that thou, which know'st the way
To plant unrightful kings, wilt know again,
Being ne'er so little urged, another way
To pluck him headlong from the usurped throne.
The love of wicked men converts to fear;
That fear to hate, and hate turns one or both
To worthy danger and deserved death. (Richard II, 5.1.3)
There is a history in all men's lives,
Figuring the nature of the times deceased;
The which observed, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, which in their seeds
And weak beginnings lie intreasured.
Such things become the hatch and brood of time;
And by the necessary form of this
King Richard might create a perfect guess
That great Northumberland, then false to him,
Would of that seed grow to a greater falseness;
Which should not find a ground to root upon,
Unless on you. (3.1.5)
In the previous passage (Henry's speech at 3.1.5 above), we heard King Henry IV describe the late Richard II as a man with prophetic powers who accurately foretold how Northumberland would rebel against Henry. The ever practical Warwick, however, isn't buying this and sets out to disprove the idea that anyone could have prophetic powers. He says that by "observ[ing]" the past, one can accurately predict what the future might hold. King Richard II, he says, predicted that Northumberland would turn against King Henry IV because Northumberland had already proved himself to be a traitor to one king. (In other words, there's nothing supernatural about it.) Warwick insists that events from the past are like "seeds" that develop naturally into future events. Richard II, then, didn't have any special powers. He simply made a logical deduction or, a "perfect guess."