Study Guide

Lady Kate Percy in Henry IV Part 1

By William Shakespeare

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Lady Kate Percy

Kate Percy is Hotspur's neglected wife and the sister of Mortimer. Though she doesn't appear in many scenes of the play, Kate is witty, patient, and playful with her husband, Hotspur, who acts like a jerk around her. Kate famously complains of her husband's disinterest in sex and, on more than one occasion, threatens to "break" his penis. Although the threat is playful, this aligns her with the "unnatural" Welshwomen we hear about in Act 1, Scene 1 (they mutilated the genitals of dead English soldiers off stage). Hotspur's aversion to sexual intimacy with his wife seems to register the play's concern with gender and sexuality. Hotspur worries that physical intimacy with Kate will make him "soft" and unable to fight. Kate, then, is associated throughout the play with fears of emasculation.

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