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Henry IV Part 2

Henry IV Part 2

Time Quotes

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Quote #10

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)

Henry IV has no confidence in his son's ability to rule England. When King Henry hears that Prince Hal is spending his time in the low company of men like Ned Poins, he says his "blood" weeps from [his] heart" when he envisions the "rotten times" that lay ahead. King Henry imagines that, once he's dead and gone, an out of control Hal will "fly" uncontrollably and inevitably toward "peril" and "decay."

It's also interesting that Henry refers to his son as the "noble image of [his] youth." Shakespeare frequently portrays children as mirror images of their parents but he's also doing more here than merely suggesting that Hal looks a lot like his father did when Henry was a young man. King Henry IV, as we know, was just as rebellious as Prince Hal. In fact, he overthrew a king and instigated years of civil unrest in England. So, when he refers to Hal as the "image" of his youth, he seems to be remembering his own "headstrong riot."

We know that King Henry couldn't be more wrong about his son. When Hal becomes King at the end of the play, he completes the "reformation" he has been planning since Henry IV Part 1. This is made especially clear when Hal (a.k.a. King Henry V) rejects his former friend, Falstaff, and says "Presume not that I am the thing I was […] I have turned away from my former self" (5.5.2). Whereas King Henry IV cannot imagine a future without seeing the wildness of Prince Hal's (and perhaps his own) past, King Henry V clearly defines the boundary between his past and the present (what he once "was" and what he is now). You can read more about Hal's reformation by checking out "Quotes" on "Power."

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