Study Guide

Henry IV Part 2 Quotes

  • Power

    KING
    God knows, I had no such intent,
    But that necessity so bowed the state
    That I and greatness were compelled to kiss— (3.1.73-75)

    Gee, Henry IV sure has an interesting take on his deposition of King Richard II. Here, he maintains that he never intended to steal the crown from Richard when he returned from exile. (The deposition of Richard occurred in the first play of the tetralogy, Richard II. Henry has always claimed that he only confronted Richard because he wanted to recover his family's land, which Richard II stole after Henry's father, John of Gaunt, died.)

    We're not surprised here when King Henry remembers his usurpation of the throne as a moment in which he was "compell'd" or, forced to "kiss" greatness. Henry seems to suggest that he was "compell'd" by forces greater than himself to dethrone Richard, who was a lousy king that jeopardized the commonwealth's well being. This paints Henry as being passive, as if he was an unwilling participant in the usurpation of the throne. Yet, at the same time, Henry's description of the usurpation as a moment where he "kissed" greatness seems to also hint at his own desire for the crown. Is this some kind of acknowledgement that he's not as innocent as he outwardly claims to be?

    I know you all, and will awhile uphold
    The unyoked humor of your idleness.
    Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
    Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
    To smother up his beauty from the world,
    That, when he please again to be himself,
    Being wanted, he may be more wondered at,
    By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
    Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.
    If all the year were playing holidays,
    To sport would be as tedious as to work,
    But when they seldom come, they wished-for come,
    And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
    So when this loose behavior I throw off
    And pay the debt I never promisèd,
    By how much better than my word I am,
    By so much shall I falsify men's hopes;
    And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
    My reformation, glitt'ring o'er my fault,
    Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
    Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
    I'll so offend to make offence a skill,
    Redeeming time when men think least I will. (Henry IV Part 1, 1.2.202-224)

    Note: This passage is from Part 1 of Henry IV but we think it's worth repeating here because Hal's speech is so relevant to his path to kingship in Henry IV Part 2.

    Up to this point in Henry IV Part 1, we've seen the prince carousing with his loser pals and we've also heard his father's complaints about Hal's "dishonourable" behavior. Here, Prince Hal turns to the audience and claims that he's not actually the degenerate he appears to be. Rather, he has merely been pretending to be a sordid wild child so that he can stage a dramatic "reformation" that will shock and amaze his countrymen (and his father) when he reveals himself to be a stand-up guy. In other words, Hal suggests that he's merely playing a "role" (that of a degenerate), which will act as a "foil" to his true nature.

    Hal seems to realize that being an effective king requires strategy and what we now call public relations skills. (His father, King Henry IV, has already shown that a king can be knocked off his throne by unhappy and rebellious subjects.) As the man who stands to inherit the throne from his father, Prince Hal's got to figure out a way to keep his subjects in line.

    PRINCE
    Faith, it does me; though it discolors the complexion
    of my greatness to acknowledge it. Doth it
    not show vilely in me to desire small beer?
    POINS
    Why, a prince should not be so loosely studied
    as to remember so weak a composition.
    PRINCE
    Belike then my appetite was not princely got,
    for, by my troth, I do now remember the poor
    creature small beer. But, indeed, these humble considerations
    make me out of love with my greatness.
    What a disgrace is it to me to remember thy name,
    or to know thy face to-morrow, (2.2.4-14)

    Recall that, in Henry IV Part 1, Prince Hal revealed to us his plan to carouse with the commoners in order to disguise his true nature. If the kingdom believed he was a wild child with a penchant for a low-brow lifestyle, then he would be able to stage a dramatic "reformation" that would stun and amaze his subjects when he finally became king.

    Here, in Henry IV Part 2, it seems that Hal worries that he's becoming too much like the "role" he has been playing, as evidenced by his desire for "small beer" (the cheap, light beer favored by commoners, not princes). Hal knows that his taste for the low-life is inappropriate for a prince who will inherit the throne, as is his intimate friendship with Poins. Has Prince Hal's elaborate plot to stage his own "reformation" come back to bite him? Keep reading…

    PRINCE
    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?
    POINS
    I would think thee a most princely hypocrite.
    PRINCE
    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 roadway
    better than thine. Every man would think me an
    hypocrite indeed. And what accites your most worshipful
    thought to think so?
    POINS
    Why, because you have been so lewd and so
    much engraffed to Falstaff. (2.2.43-48; 50-60)

    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
    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, th' 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! (4.4.59-71)

    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" (4.5.137). (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.

    WARWICK
    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 looked upon and learned; which once attained,
    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. (4.4.72-84)

    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, 2.4.18). 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?

    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."

    KING
    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
       out,
    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."

    CHIEF JUSTICE
    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…

    KING
    You are right, justice, and you weigh this well.
    Therefore still bear the balance and the sword.
    And I do wish your honors may increase
    Till you do live to see a son of mine
    Offend you and obey you as I did.
    So shall I live to speak my father's words:
    'Happy am I, that have a man so bold
    That dares do justice on my proper son;
    And not less happy, having such a son
    That would deliver up his greatness so
    Into the hands of justice.' You did commit me,
    For which, I do commit into your hand
    Th' unstained sword that you have used to bear,
    With this remembrance, that you use the same
    With the like bold, just and impartial spirit
    As you have done 'gainst me. There is my hand.
                                                                  They clasp hands.
    You shall be as a father to my youth,
    My voice shall sound as you do prompt mine ear,
    And I will stoop and humble my intents
    To your well-practiced wise directions.
    And, princes all, believe me, I beseech you:
    My father is gone wild into his grave,
    For in his tomb lie my affections,
    And with his spirit sadly I survive
    To mock the expectation of the world,
    To frustrate prophecies and to raze out
    Rotten opinion, who hath writ me down
    After my seeming. (5.2.103-130)

    This is a major tuning point for Hal (a.k.a. Henry V), who embraces the Lord Chief Justice as a trusted advisor and a "father" figure. Hal insists that he has buried his "affections" (the "wild" behavior of his youth) along with his dead father. And, although Hal's father is dead and in his "grave," Hal says that Henry IV's "spirit" survives in him. Hal, then, is doing what he promised to do back in Henry IV Part 1. By adopting his father's "spirit" or persona, he's completing his staged "reformation" from errant prince to noble king. This seeming reformation will "mock the expectation[s] of the world," meaning, Hal is going to surprise everybody who expects him to be a degenerate monarch. (This, by the way, is a terrific passage for anyone who wants to think about the relationship between kingship and the theme of "Family," especially since the Lord Chief Justice has now replaced Falstaff as a surrogate father to Hal. See also 5.5 below.)

    FALSTAFF
    God save thee, my sweet boy!
    KING
    My Lord Chief Justice, speak to that vain man.
    CHIEF JUSTICE
    Have you your wits? Know you what 'tis to
       speak?
    FALSTAFF
    My king, my Jove, I speak to thee, my heart!
    KING
    I know thee not, old man. Fall to thy prayers.
    How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!
    […]
    Reply not to me with a fool-born jest.
    Presume not that I am the thing I was,
    For God doth know—so shall the world perceive—
    That I have turned away my former self.
    So will I those that kept me company.
    When thou dost hear I am as I have been,
    Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast,
    The tutor and the feeder of my riots.
    Till then I banish thee, on pain of death,
    As I have done the rest of my misleaders,
    Not to come near our person by ten mile.
    For competence of life I will allow you,
    That lack of means enforce you not to evils.
    And, as we hear you do reform yourselves,
    We will, according to your strengths and qualities,
    Give you advancement.   To the Lord Chief Justice.
       Be it your charge, my lord,
    To see performed the tenor of our word.—
    Set on. (5.5.42-48; 55-73)

    In the previous passage, we saw Hal promise to embrace the Lord Chief Justice as a "father" figure and to abandon his former wild ways. As evidence of Hal's promise, he rejects his old "tutor and the feeder of [his] riots," Falstaff. If Hal's success as a king depends on his willingness and ability to uphold law and justice in his kingdom, then Falstaff (a thief, a swindler, a corrupt military recruiter, and so on) has no place in his life. This is why many literary critics see Hal's rejection of Falstaff as a necessary and shrewd political move. On the other hand, some critics argue that Hal's banishment of his old friend is an unforgivable betrayal, which doesn't bode well for his reign as king. What do you think?

  • Family

    RUMOR
    ...Hotspur's father, old Northumberland,
    Lies crafty-sick. (Induction.36-37)

    When Rumour says that Northumberland "lies crafty-sick" at Warkworth castle, we're reminded of the way the earl betrayed his son, Hotspur, by pretending to be too ill to help him fight at the battle at Shrewsbury, where Hotspur lost his life. As if to emphasize the familial betrayal, Rumour refers to the old man not simply as "Northumberland," but as "Hotspur's father." It's also important to note that the reference to Northumberland's betrayal of his son occurs at the beginning of the play, in the Induction, which tips us off that father-son relationships will be an important theme in the play.

    NORTHUMBERLAND
    Let order die,
    And let this world no longer be a stage
    To feed contention in a lingering act;
    But let one spirit of the first-born Cain
    Reign in all bosoms, that, each heart being set
    On bloody courses, the rude scene may end,
    And darkness be the burier of the dead. (1.1.170-176)

    When Northumberland learns the news that his son, Hotspur, has been killed in battle, he calls for more rebellion and civil disorder – "let order die!" There's a whole lot to say about this passage but the point we want to make for our discussion of "Family" is this: the loss of his son incites Northumberland to call for the "spirit" of "Cain" to "reign" in the hearts of every man. Cain, as we know, is the firstborn son of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. He's also known for being the first person, ever, to commit murder (he killed his brother, Abel). So, when Northumberland imagines rebellion against the king, he imagines it as a form of domestic violence, which reminds the audience that civil strife is, in fact, a family affair.

    FALSTAFF
    For the box of the
    ear that the prince gave you, he gave it like a rude
    prince, and you took it like a sensible lord. I have
    checked him for it, and the young lion repents.
    [Aside.] Marry, not in ashes and sackcloth, but in
    new silk and old sack.
    CHIEF JUSTICE
    Well, God send the prince a better
    companion.
    FALSTAFF
    God send the companion a better prince! I
    CHIEF JUSTICE
    Well, the king hath severed you and
    Prince Harry. (1.2.197-208)

    In Henry IV Part 1, Prince Hal rebelled against his father, King Henry IV, and took up with Falstaff, who became a kind of surrogate father figure to the prince by tutoring him in the wild ways of life in Eastcheap, London. Here, Falstaff sounds like a parent when he claims he put Hal in check when the prince "boxed" the LCJ on the ears. Falstaff did no such thing, of course – he's mocking the Lord Chief Justice, who knows that Falstaff is a bad influence on Hal. When the Lord Chief Justice points out that Hal and Falstaff have been "severed" or separated, we're alerted to the fact that Hal and Falstaff don't spend much time together in Part 2. In fact, Hal and Falstaff will only have one personal encounter (in Act 2, Scene 4) before Hal becomes King Henry V and banishes Falstaff altogether in Act 5. Here, it seems that Hal and Falstaff have already begun to grow apart. Is Shakespeare preparing the audience for Hal's painful rejection of Falstaff? Check out "Power" is you want to think about this some more.

    NORTHUMBERLAND
    Alas, sweet wife, my honor is at pawn,
    And, but my going, nothing can redeem it.
    LADY PERCY
    O yet, for God's sake, go not to these wars.
    The time was, father, that you broke your word,
    When you were more endeared to it than now,
    When your own Percy, when my heart's dear Harry,
    Threw many a northward look to see his father
    Bring up his powers; but he did long in vain.
    Who then persuaded you to stay at home?
    There were two honors lost, yours and your son's. (2.3.7-16)

    As we know, Northumberland betrayed his son, Hotspur, when he faked an illness and stayed home from the battle at Shrewsbury. This move on Northumberland's part left Hotspur outnumbered by the king's forces. Here, Hotspur's wife, Lady Percy, blames her father-in-law for Hotspur's death and insists that Northumberland lost his "honour" when he abandoned his son. In both parts of Henry IV Shakespeare frequently reminds us that fathers cannot always be trusted to care for their children.

    NORTHUMBERLAND
    I pray thee, loving wife, and gentle daughter,
    Give even way unto my rough affairs.
    Put not you on the visage of the times
    And be, like them, to Percy troublesome.
    LADY NORTHUMBERLAND
    I have given over, I will speak no more.
    Do what you will; your wisdom be your guide. (2.3.1-6)

    Here, Northumberland argues with his wife and daughter-in-law about his role in the rebellion and plans to join the Archbishop of York's revolt against King Henry IV. What's interesting about this passage is the way in which Northumberland asks the women to be obedient to him (to "give even way to his rough affairs"). When Northumberland asks Lady Percy and his wife to "put not on the visage [face] of the times," he's asking them not to be rebellious and unruly. Perhaps inadvertently, he compares their disobedience (arguing with the head of the household) to the recent civil rebellion. In other words, the quarrelsome women are acting toward him in the exact same way that he and the other the rebels are acting toward King Henry IV. Northumberland's domestic quarrel, then, is aligned with civil rebellion. Compare this passage to 4.1, below.

    ARCHBISHOP
    So that this land, like an offensive wife
    That hath enraged him on to offer strokes,
    As he is striking holds his infant up
    And hangs resolved correction in the arm
    That was upreared to execution. (4.1.220-224)

    This is a bizarre passage, don't you think? When the Archbishop of York says that it's in King Henry's best interest to make peace with the rebel leaders, he reasons that Henry can't punish his enemies without also harming his friends. Because political alliances and relationships are so complex, executing one of the rebels might end up offending one of Henry's cherished allies. What's fascinating about the Archbishop's analogy is that he compares King Henry to a father and husband who might lift his hand to strike an "offensive wife" (the rebel leaders) but would stop if the "wife" held up his "infant" (Henry's cherished allies). This isn't the first time we've seen a comparison between civil strife and domestic violence and it's certainly not the last.

    History Snack: The Archbishop's speech seems to echo the common 16th century political and social idea that a kingdom is much like a great big family. Check out what Desiderius Erasmus (a famous Renaissance humanist) wrote in his popular "how to" guide for monarchs:

    The good prince ought to have the same attitude toward his subjects, as a good paterfamilias [father] toward his household – for what else is a kingdom but a great family? What is the king if not the father to a great multitude? (The Education of a Christian Prince, 1516).

    PRINCE HENRY No; I will sit and watch here by the king.
                                                                              All but Prince and King exit.[...]
    Thy due from me
    Is tears and heavy sorrows of the blood,
    Which nature, love, and filial tenderness
    Shall, O dear father, pay thee plenteously.
    My due from thee is this imperial crown,
    Which, as immediate as thy place and blood,
    Derives itself to me. [He puts on the crown.] Lo,
       here it sits,
    Which God shall guard. And put the world's whole
       strength
    Into one giant arm, it shall not force
    This lineal honor from me. This from thee
    Will I to mine leave, as 'tis left to me.(4.3.166; 183-195)

    This is a rather tender moment, wouldn't you say? Here, Prince Hal sits beside his slumbering father and promises to defend the crown when he is king. Unfortunately, the king is sleeping when his son pours his heart out.

    PRINCE
    I never thought to hear you speak again.
    KING
    Thy wish was father, Harry, to that thought.
    I stay too long by thee; I weary thee.
    Dost thou so hunger for mine empty chair
    That thou wilt needs invest thee with my honors
    Before thy hour be ripe? O foolish youth,
    Thou seek'st the greatness that will overwhelm
       thee.
    Stay but a little; for my cloud of dignity
    Is held from falling with so weak a wind
    That it will quickly drop. My day is dim.
    Thou hast stolen that which after some few hours
    Were thine without offense, and at my death
    Thou hast sealed up my expectation.
    Thy life did manifest thou lovedst me not,
    And thou wilt have me die assured of it.
    Thou hid'st a thousand daggers in thy thoughts,
    Which thou hast whetted on thy stony heart
    To stab at half an hour of my life. (4.3.244-262)

    In one of the play's most striking moments, Prince Hal, thinking his father has died, takes the royal crown and leaves the room. When the king wakes up from his nap, he's ticked and goes off on his son, accusing Hal of hiding a "thousand daggers" in his "thoughts." In other words, Henry has always suspected that Hal doesn't love him and wants to see him dead so he, Hal, can get his hands on the crown. (Apparently, Henry has forgotten all about how Hal saved his life during battle in act five of Henry IV Part 1.)

    This passage speaks to the delicacy of lineal succession and the consequences of primogeniture (the system by which eldest sons inherit their fathers' wealth, titles, lands, power, debt, etc.). As long as one's father is alive, a son has limited power and wealth, which can strain even the best father-son relationships. Shakespeare explores the idea that all sons (not just princes who stand to inherit kingdoms) inevitably look forward to their fathers' deaths in other plays as well – particularly Hamlet and King Lear.

    We also want to point out Henry's witty remark that Hal "fathered" the idea that King Henry was dead. In other words, Henry claims that Hal "wish[ed]" his father was dead and, was therefore, quick to imagine that the old man had passed away when, in fact, he was only sleeping.

    PRINCE, placing the crown on the pillow
    O pardon me, my liege! But for my tears,
    The moist impediments unto my speech,
    I had forestalled this dear and deep rebuke
    Ere you with grief had spoke and I had heard
    The course of it so far. There is your crown,
    And He that wears the crown immortally
    Long guard it yours. (4.3.293-299).

    Hmm. Hal seems sincere when he apologizes to his father for laying claim to the crown prematurely. What do you think? Should we believe him?

    WARWICK
    My lord, I found the prince in the next room,
    Washing with kindly tears his gentle cheeks,
    With such a deep demeanor in great sorrow
    That tyranny, which never quaffed but blood,
    Would, by beholding him, have washed his knife
    With gentle eyedrops. He is coming hither. (4.3.235-240)

    Warwick, who seems to know Hal well, defends the prince after Henry IV flips out about Hal "trying on" the crown. In fact, Warwick reports that Hal went crying into another room when he thought his father was dead so, it seems that Hal was devastated. Yet, Warwick also says something kind of strange here. Apparently, Hal was sobbing so much that his tears could have "wash'd" a bloody knife. Of course, Warwick means to imply that Hal is sorrowful but, the image of "tyranny's" bloody knife in this passage seems kind of menacing, don't you think?

    KING
    O my son,
    God put it in thy mind to take it hence
    That thou mightst win the more thy father's love,
    Pleading so wisely in excuse of it.
    Come hither, Harry, sit thou by my bed (4.3.334-338)

    It's a good thing King Henry decides to forgive Hal for taking his crown because Henry's on his death bed. In the play, it's pretty important for Hal and his father to reconcile before Hal inherits the throne. In fact, it seems as though the well-being of the war-torn country depends on it, which you can read all about by going to "Quotes" for "Power."

  • Weakness

    RUMOR
    This have I rumoured through the peasant towns
    Between that royal field of Shrewsbury
    And this worm-eaten hold of ragged stone,
    Where Hotspur's father, old Northumberland,
    Lies crafty-sick. (Induction.33-37)

    When Rumour refers to the earl of Northumberland's castle as a "worm-eaten hold," the use of vivid imagery creates a sense of disease and decay that's associated with Northumberland's deception and betrayal. Northumberland has not only participated in efforts to overthrow the king (who was once his friend and ally), he also betrayed his own son when he phoned in sick instead of fighting at the battle at Shrewsbury in Part 1. So, when Rumour says the earl "lies crafty-sick," it implies that Northumberland has been faking his illness. (Lady Percy makes the same accusation later on in Act 2, Scene 3.) There's also a pun on "lies" at work here. It literally means that Northumberland has been laid up in bed and also emphasizes the point that he's a big old liar.

    NORTHUMBERLAND
    For this I shall have time enough to mourn.
    In poison there is physic, and these news,
    Having been well, that would have made me sick,
    Being sick, have in some measure made me well.
    And as the wretch, whose fever-weakened joints,
    Like strengthless hinges, buckle under life,
    Impatient of his fit, breaks like a fire
    Out of his keeper's arms, even so my limbs,
    Weakened with grief, being now enraged with
       grief,
    Are thrice themselves. Hence therefore, thou
       nice crutch!              [He throws down his crutch.]
    A scaly gauntlet now with joints of steel
    Must glove this hand. (1.1.149-162)

    When Northumberland learns two bits of terrible news (his son was killed in battle and the king's forces are on their way to Northumberland to arrest and/or kill him), he's suddenly feeling well enough to dispose of his "crutch" and get his battle on. (Funny how that happens. Too bad he wasn't inspired to fight sooner – his son might still be alive if he had.) Northumberland, who we have established is a big faker, indulges in a bit of crafty word play here as he insists that "in poison there is physic." In other words, the terrible news is like a "poison" to his system and makes him "sick" to hear it. The news has also left him feeling whoozy and weak in the knees. At the same time, he insists, this awful, sickening news has the effect of curing his (supposed) physical ailments (his "fever-weakened joints" and what not) because he's suddenly inspired to leap up and grab his weapon so he can fight the king.

    MORTON
    But now the Bishop
    Turns insurrection to religion.
    Supposed sincere and holy in his thoughts,
    He's followed both with body and with mind,
    And doth enlarge his rising with the blood
    Of fair King Richard, scraped from Pomfret
       stones;
    Derives from heaven his quarrel and his cause;
    Tells them he doth bestride a bleeding land,
    Gasping for life under great Bolingbroke;
    And more and less do flock to follow him. (1.1.219-229)

    According to Morton, the Archbishop of York has quite the rebel following. Everyone thinks he's "sincere and holy" so he's managed to get his followers riled up against King Henry IV, who is responsible for the death of the late King Richard II. What's interesting to us about this passage is the way York tells his followers that the country "bleeds" and "gasps" for breath under the current king. The commonwealth of England was often imagined as a "body" politic and the Archbishop of York uses the idea that England is an ailing and suffering body as part of his propaganda.

    FALSTAFF
    Sirrah, you giant, what says the doctor to my
    water?
    Page
    He said, sir, the water itself was a good healthy
    water, but, for the party that owed it, he might
    have more diseases than he knew for. (1.2.1-5)

    Now this is a way to open a scene. Here, Falstaff demands to know from his errand boy what the doctor had to say about his, Falstaff's, recent urine sample. Apparently, Falstaff has more "diseases" than the doctor has even heard of. We know that Falstaff is obese, drinks constantly, eats way too much, and also frequents the brothels so it's not so surprising that the guy's got health issues. But, we can't help but notice that there's a whole lot of talk about Falstaff's body in this play. He frequently complains that he's "old" and we're privy to all kinds of embarrassing information about the effects of his excessive lifestyle. Keep reading…

    FALSTAFF
    A
    man can no more separate age and covetousness
    than he can part young limbs and lechery; but the
    gout galls the one, and the pox pinches the other,
    and so both the degrees prevent my curses.—Boy!
    […]
    I can get no remedy against this consumption
    of the purse: borrowing only lingers and lingers
    it out, but the disease is incurable.
    […]
    A pox of this
    gout! Or a gout of this pox, for the one or the other
    plays the rogue with my great toe. 'Tis no matter if I
    do halt. I have the wars for my color, and my
    pension shall seem the more reasonable. A good wit
    will make use of any thing. I will turn diseases to
    commodity. (1.2.234-238; 242-244; 250-256)

    Falstaff not only suffers from "gout" (a disease that causes inflammation of the joints and is associated with consuming alcohol and rich foods), he's also got a venereal disease (or two or three), which could explain some of his bodily discomfort. ("Venereal disease" is another way or saying "sexually transmitted disease.") Interestingly enough, Falstaff is also in serious debt and he likens his financial troubles to an "incurable" disease. Both debt and gout are problems that occur as the result of an excessive lifestyle. Falstaff eats, drinks, and spends way too much. His solution, to his money problems anyway, is to use his "good wit" – he plans to blame his ailments on his participation in the war so he can collect a wounded soldier's pension. Compare this passage to 1.3 below.

    HASTINGS
    I think we are a body strong enough,
    Even as we are, to equal with the king.
    LORD BARDOLPH
    What, is the king but five-and-twenty thousand?
    HASTINGS
    To us no more, nay, not so much, Lord Bardolph,
    For his divisions, as the times do brawl,
    Are in three heads: one power against the French,
    And one against Glendower; perforce a third
    Must take up us. So is the unfirm king
    In three divided, and his coffers sound
    With hollow poverty and emptiness. (1.3.68-77)

    Now this is interesting. Hastings makes a connection between bodily illness and monetary problems, which is similar to what we just heard Falstaff say (see 1.2 above). The comparison depends on the connection between the king's forces, a "body" that's divided or, has "three heads" (one army fights France, another fights against Glendower's men, and the third must deal with the rebels.) The king, therefore is "unfirm" (a word that denotes instability and illness and also recalls the king's physical sickness) in large part because his "coffers" are empty. We're left with a rather striking image of a sickly king that's plagued by "hollow poverty."

    ARCHBISHOP
    Let us on,
    And publish the occasion of our arms.
    The commonwealth is sick of their own choice.
    Their over-greedy love hath surfeited.
    An habitation giddy and unsure
    Hath he that buildeth on the vulgar heart.
    O thou fond many, with what loud applause
    Didst thou beat heaven with blessing Bolingbroke
    Before he was what thou wouldst have him be.
    And being now trimmed in thine own desires,
    Thou, beastly feeder, art so full of him
    That thou provok'st thyself to cast him up.
    So, so, thou common dog, didst thou disgorge
    Thy glutton bosom of the royal Richard,
    And now thou wouldst eat thy dead vomit up
    And howl'st to find it. What trust is in these
       times?
    They that, when Richard lived, would have him die
    Are now become enamoured on his grave.
    Thou, that threw'st dust upon his goodly head
    When through proud London he came sighing on
    After th' admirèd heels of Bolingbroke,
    Criest now 'O earth, yield us that king again,
    And take thou this!' O thoughts of men accursed!
    Past and to come seems best; things present
       worst. (1.3.89-114)

    The rebel Archbishop of York suggests the entire kingdom is "sick" of King Henry and talks as though the commonwealth is a unified body that has become ill by feeding on the king (a metaphor for loving him too much). York complains that the same thing happened with the former king, Richard II, who the people loved at first but eventually "vomit[ed] up." Here, the idea of purging (throwing up) kings is associated with rebellion, the only way to get rid of a king.

    PRINCE
    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. (2.2.45-48)

    Prince Hal reminds us that his father, the king, is literally ill and even though the Prince's "heart bleeds" at the thought of it, he doesn't show it on the outside. Instead, he continues to keep "vile company" with the likes of Poins and Falstaff. Hals' response to the king's illness also alerts us to the fact that Henry's life and reign are coming to a close. Part of Hal's trajectory in the Henry IV Part 2 is to reconcile, once and for all, with his father, before the king dies. This is especially important for the well being of the country, which Hal will lead after his father's death.

    KING
    Then you perceive the body of our kingdom
    How foul it is, what rank diseases grow,
    And with what danger near the heart of it.
    WARWICK
    It is but as a body yet distempered,
    Which to his former strength may be restored
    With good advice and little medicine.
    My Lord Northumberland will soon be cooled. (3.1.38-44)

    Even King Henry IV agrees the kingdom is "rank" with "disease." Unlike York, however, Henry believes the country is enfeebled because of the rebel uprising, not because he's a lousy monarch. The cure, according to Henry, depends on quashing the rebellion, which will "restore" the country's "strength."

    KING
    '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. (3.1.77-80)

    Here, King Henry recalls King Richard II's prophesy. (Remember, King Richard II is the guy King Henry IV bumped off the throne back in the first play of the tetralogy, Richard II.) We're interested in the language that Henry quotes here. According to him, Richard foresaw that Henry's "sin" (deposing a king) would gather to a "head" and then "break into corruption." In other words, Richard predicted that Henry's sin would lead to civil rebellion. At the same time, the description makes the rebellion sound a lot like the way puss comes to a "head" and then oozes from a sore. So, even though King Henry has previously said that the commonwealth's diseased body is all the rebels' fault, this passage suggests that Henry may feel as though he is the cause of the country's "illness." After all, he's the one who sinned. Compare this passage to 3.1 above.

  • Time

    CHIEF JUSTICE
    Do you set down your name in the scroll
    of youth, that are written down old with all the
    characters of age? Have you not a moist eye, a dry
    hand, a yellow cheek, a white beard, a decreasing
    leg, an increasing belly? Is not your voice broken,
    your wind short, your chin double, your wit single,
    and every part about you blasted with antiquity?
    and will you yet call yourself young? Fie, fie, fie, Sir
    John. (1.2.181-189)

    The Lord Chief Justice chides Falstaff for referring to himself as a "youth." Although Falstaff insists on his youthful zest for life throughout both parts of Henry IV, his body tells quite a different story. As the LCJ points out, Falstaff's got a "white beard," a fat "belly," an old man's cracked "voice," and sallow looking skin. We also know that just a few moments before Falstaff's confrontation with the Lord Chief Justice, he discussed the recent urine sample he gave his doctor and his Page joked that the doctor said Falstaff's body is riddled with disease. (Check out "Quotes" for "Weakness" if you want to know more about this.) So, Falstaff knows better than anyone that he's no longer a young man. The LCJ doesn't understand that Falstaff is being ironic when he refers to himself as being in the "vanguard of [his] youth." Later, in fact, Falstaff will notoriously exclaim "I am old, I am old" (2.4.265). So, Shakespeare goes out of his way to show us that even the larger than life Falstaff is subject to the ravages of time, a move which lends itself to the play's melancholy tone.

    HASTINGS
    We are time's subjects, and time bids begone. (1.3.116)

    As Mowbray and Hastings prepare to gather their rebel forces against the king, Hastings notes that they are "time's subjects." In other words, there's no time to waste if the rebels are going to wage a successful rebellion against King Henry so they better get a move on.

    Yet, we can also read these poignant lines as emblematic of the play's obsession with the passage of time. We've already seen that Falstaff (Prince Hal's rowdy and out of control friend) is time's "subject." (See 1.2.110 above.) Even the rebels (Mowbray, Hastings, York, etc.), who refuse to be the king's literal "subjects," are helpless against the power of time. The play also reminds us that King Henry, who spends most of the play on his death bed, is powerless to the passage of time. So, even though Hastings may not be aware of the implications of what he says to Mowbray in this passage, his words are arguable one of the most poignant lines in the play.

    LADY PERCY
    Had my sweet Harry had but half their numbers,
    Today might I, hanging on Hotspur's neck,
    Have talked of Monmouth's grave. (2.3.43-45)

    Lady Percy insists that if Northumberland's troops had fought at Shrewsbury, her dear Hotspur would be alive today. Henry IV Part II is full of poignant moments just like this one. Characters frequently look on the past and try to imagine what the present and the future would be like if things had only been different.

    SHALLOW
    Ha, cousin Silence, that thou hadst seen that that
    this knight and I have seen!—Ha, Sir John, said
    I well?
    FALSTAFF
    We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master
    Shallow.
    SHALLOW
    That we have, that we have, that we have. In
    faith, Sir John, we have. Our watchword was 'Hem,
    boys.' Come, let's to dinner, come, let's to dinner.
    Jesus, the days that we have seen! Come, come. (3.2.218-226)

    As Silence and Shallow enthusiastically recall the heady days of their youth, Falstaff agrees that, yes, they have "heard the chimes at midnight." Falstaff's words are poignant but he's also somewhat dismissive of these two men. Later, he complains that old men are the biggest "liars." He says "This / same starved justice hath done nothing to prate to / me of the wildness of his youth, and the feats he / hath done about Turnbull Street: and every third / word a lie" (3.2.293-296). Falstaff points out that old men often misremember the past and inject the days of their youth with a glory that wasn't actually there.

    Brain snack: Falstaff's famous line lends itself to the title of Orson Welles's study of Falstaff's character, Chimes at Midnight, You can watch Welles's film adaptation of this scene on YouTube.

    PRINCE
    By heaven, Poins, I feel me much to blame
    So idly to profane the precious time
    When tempest of commotion, like the south
    Borne with black vapor, doth begin to melt
    And drop upon our bare unarmèd heads.—
    Give me my sword and cloak.— Falstaff, good
    night. (2.4.368-374)

    As King Henry IV lay ill and the rebel forces gather against the king, Prince Hal expresses guilt for wasting time in a seedy tavern with commoners. His father doesn't have much time to live so Hal is running out of opportunities to come to terms with the king.

    We can't help but notice the way this passage recalls Henry IV Part 1, where Hal says "I'll so offend, to make offence a skill; / Redeeming time when men think least I will" (1.2.214-215). In other words, Prince Hal, who wastes his time carousing with the commoners in Part 1, insists that his reformation (from a wild prince to a responsible monarch) will redeem the actions of his misspent youth. Here, in Part 2, however, Hal seems to be growing impatient and weary.

    KING
    O God, that one might read the book of fate
    And see the revolution of the times
    Make mountains level, and the continent,
    Weary of solid firmness, melt itself
    Into the sea, and other times, to see
    The beachy girdle of the ocean
    Too wide for Neptune's hips; how chances mocks
    And changes fill the cup of alteration
    With divers liquors!  (3.1.45-53)

    This is one of the most pessimistic speeches in the play. Here, King Henry IV is full of despair. He sees the future as inevitably "fat[ed]" for apocalyptic ruin, where the mountains are leveled and the land "melts" into the sea. As he imagines a young man reading the "book of fate" and then giving up all hope of the future by sitting "down" to "die," he seems to be talking about himself. Although Henry is certainly no longer a "youth," he seems, like the young man in his story, to have given up all hope as he approaches his death. The speech continues below.

    KING
    '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 toiled 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—
    [To Warwick.] You, cousin Nevil, as I may
    remember—(3.1.57-67)

    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…

    KING
    When Richard, with his eye brimful of tears,
    Then checked 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. (3.1.68-72; 76-80)

    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)

    WARWICK
    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 intreasurèd.
    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. (3.1.81-93)

    In the previous passage (Henry's speech at 3.1 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."

    KING
    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, th' 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! (4.4.59-71)

    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" (5.5.59-61). 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."

  • Rules and Order

    RUMOR
    Why is Rumor here?
    I run before King Harry's victory,
    Who in a bloody field by Shrewsbury
    Hath beaten down young Hotspur and his troops,
    Quenching the flame of bold rebellion
    Even with the rebels' blood. (Induction.22-27)

    Although King Henry IV's army has been victorious at the battle at Shrewsbury, "quenching the flame of bold rebellion" (by dousing it with the rebels' blood, no less), Henry's still got some major problems to deal with. The Archbishop of York is leading another rebellion against the king. Not only that, but wild rumors are circulating throughout the kingdom, which is very much in turmoil.

    PAGE
    Sir, here comes the nobleman that
    committed the Prince for striking him about
    Bardolph. (1.2.56-58)

    Here, Falstaff's Page tells us that the Lord Chief Justice once threw Prince Hal in the slammer for boxing him on the ears. Why does this matter? Well, it establishes the Lord Chief Justice as a foil to rowdy Falstaff, who has been a mentor to Hal's riotous ways in Henry IV Part 1. We wonder what will happen to the Lord Chief Justice when Hal becomes king…

    LORD BARDOLPH
    The question then, Lord Hastings, standeth thus:
    Whether our present five-and-twenty thousand
    May hold up head without Northumberland.
    HASTINGS
    With him we may.
    LORD BARDOLPH
    Yea, marry, there's the point.
    But if without him we be thought too feeble,
    My judgment is, we should not step too far
    Till we had his assistance by the hand.
    For in a theme so bloody-faced as this
    Conjecture, expectation, and surmise
    Of aids uncertain should not be admitted.
    ARCHBISHOP
    'Tis very true, Lord Bardolph, for indeed
    It was young Hotspur's case at Shrewsbury. (1.3.16-28)

    In Henry IV Part 1, Hotspur led a bold and reckless charge against the king, running headlong into battle without sufficient preparation or support. In Part 2, we see a very different strategy. The rebel leaders proceed with much more caution. Here, Lord Bardolph and York deliberate about whether or not they have a chance against the king's army without the additional support of Northumberland's troops. Later, when the rebels confront Prince John's army, they agree to call a truce before any blood is shed. Of course, the rebel leaders are arrested soon after. Still, the rebellion is decidedly anti-climatic, don't you think?

    PRINCE
    Before God, I am exceeding weary.
    POINS
    Is 't come to that? I had thought weariness durst
    not have attached one of so high blood.
    PRINCE HENRY
    Faith, it does me; though it discolors the complexion
    of my greatness to acknowledge it. Doth it
    not show vilely in me to desire small beer? (2.2.1-6)

    Prince Hal spent most of his time in Henry IV Part 1 thumbing his nose at authority and raising hell with Falstaff. In Part 2, the Prince is much more subdued. He even complains here that he's "exhausted." He also seems to be worried that his sordid lifestyle and association with the commoners has rubbed off on him, as evidenced by his embarrassment that he's developed a taste for "small beer" (the cheap beverage of choice for common men).

    DOLL
    Hang him, swaggering rascal! Let him not come
    hither. It is the foul-mouthed'st rogue in England.
    HOSTESS
    If he swagger, let him not come here. No, by
    my faith, I must live among my neighbours. I'll no
    swaggerers. I am in good name and fame with the
    very best. Shut the door. There comes no swaggerers
    here. I have not lived all this while to have
    swaggering now. Shut the door, I pray you. (2.4.72-79)

    When Doll Tearsheet complains that Pistol is the most "foul-mouthed'st rogue in England," we know that the "swaggering" Pistol has got to be bad, especially since Doll Tearsheet won't exactly be sipping tea at the palace any time soon. Given that Tearsheet and Mistress Quickly get into a huge brawl with Pistol just a few short lines later, we wonder if these saucy women aren't more dangerous and out of control than the rebel leaders who want to bump King Henry IV off the throne. (The rebels, after all, don't even engage in battle in this play. Doll Tearsheet, on the other hand, whips out a knife and threatens to stab Pistol in the "cheeks.")

    NORTHUMBERLAND
    I pray thee, loving wife and gentle daughter,
    Give even way unto my rough affairs.
    Put not you on the visage of the times
    And be, like them, to Percy troublesome. (2.3.1-4)

    Northumberland (one of the rebel leaders) uses an interesting analogy when he asks his wife (Lady Northumberland) and daughter-in-law (Lady Percy) to be more obedient to him. (They've been giving him a hard time about his involvement in the rebellion and don't want him to go to war.) Here, he asks that they not put on "the visage [face] of the times," meaning, he doesn't want them to quarrel with and rebel against him in the way he and others have rebelled against the king. Hmm. Why is it that all of the play's female characters are associated with rebellion and disorder? Check out "Gender" if you're interested in this question.

    WESTMORELAND
    When ever yet was your appeal denied?
    Wherein have you been galled by the King?
    What peer hath been suborned to grate on you,
    That you should seal this lawless bloody book
    Of forged rebellion with a seal divine
    And consecrate commotion's bitter edge?
    ARCHBISHO
    My brother general, the commonwealth,
    To brother born an household cruelty,
    I make my quarrel in particular. (4.1.92-100)

    When Westmoreland asks the Archbishop of York about his beef with the king, York evades the question. In fact, we never learn what it is, exactly, that the rebels want from King Henry. (There's a list of grievances, but we're never told what's on it.) Instead of offering specifics, York says he's fighting on behalf of his "brother" or, the "commonwealth" in general. Yet, this doesn't hold much water because York is always criticizing the commonwealth. As an example, he calls the people a "common dog" that eats its own vomit (1.3.97). A more likely reason for York's rebellion is a desire for power.

    SILENCE
    Be merry, be merry, my wife has all,
    For women are shrews, both short and tall.
    'Tis merry in hall when beards wag all,
    And welcome merry Shrovetide.
    Be merry, be merry
    . (5.3.32-36)

    Justice Silence doesn't talk much but once he's had a few glasses of wine at Justice Shallow's dinner table, he starts belting out rowdy tunes. (When Falstaff hears this, he's pleased as punch that the justice has cut loose.) What's interesting about this little ditty is the reference to "merry Shrove-tide." Shrovetide is a time of festivity when people can cut loose and party before Lent (since Lent requires that they spend all their time in prayer, self-denial, and penitence for a period of time that leads up to the celebration of Easter). Shakespeare seems to be tipping us off that, even though Falstaff and his crew have been cutting loose and living life like it's one big Shrovetide festivity, the partying is definitely coming to an end soon.

    FALSTAFF
    The laws of England are at
    my commandment. Blessed are they that have been
    my friend, and woe to my Lord Chief Justice! (5.3.139-141).

    When Falstaff learns that Henry IV is dead and Hal has been named King Henry V, he thinks that his friendship with Hal will give him free license to run amok. Not only that, but he seems hell bent on making his nemesis, the Lord Chief Justice, suffer. What Falstaff doesn't know, however, is that Hal has recently taken the Lord Chief Justice on as a "father" figure and a trusted advisor. So, where does that leave Falstaff?

    KING
    I know thee not, old man. Fall to thy prayers.
    How ill white hairs become a fool and jester.
    I have long dreamt of such a kind of man,
    So surfeit-swelled, so old, and so profane;
    But being awaked, I do despise my dream.
    Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace;
    Leave gormandizing. Know the grave doth gape
    For thee thrice wider than for other men.
    Reply not to me with a fool-born jest. (5.5.47-55)

    We knew this moment was coming (Hal promised to "banish plump Jack" back in Act 2, Scene 4 of Henry IV Part 1) but it's still painful. Now that Hal is a king who has embraced the Lord Chief Justice as his new mentor, Falstaff, who is nothing but a "fool and jester," is no longer an appropriate companion. If Hal is going to be a monarch who restores civil order to the kingdom, then publicly banishing Falstaff and ordering him to Fleet Prison is symbolic of Hal's readiness and willingness to uphold justice in England.

    We're also interested in the way Hal attacks Falstaff's enormous size ("thrice-wider" than other men). Hal chides that Falstaff's body is a reflection of his excessive and indulgent lifestyle. (A point that Shakespeare makes throughout the play.) Falstaff's spent his entire life "gormandizing" (eating gluttonously and drinking non-stop) and his body is "surfeit-swell'd." Hmm. This harsh attack reminds us of Justice Shallow's reference to Shrovetide festivities (see 5.3 above). If Falstaff has lived his life as though it were one great big Shrovetide festival, then the party (and the gluttony) has definitely come to an end here.

  • Warfare

    NORTHUMBERLAND
    The times are wild. Contention, like a horse
    Full of high feeding, madly hath broke loose
    And bears down all before him. (1.1.12-14)

    Northumberland sure likes his similes. (A simile is a comparison of one thing directly to another.) Here, Northumberland says that civil warfare is like a horse that's broken out of its stall. In other words, the times are wild and unpredictable.

    LORD BARDOLPH
    As good as heart can wish.
    The king is almost wounded to the death,
    And, in the fortune of my lord your son,
    Prince Harry slain outright; and both the Blunts
    Killed by the hand of Douglas; young Prince John
    And Westmoreland and Stafford fled the field;
    And Harry Monmouth's brawn, the hulk Sir John,
    Is prisoner to your son. O, such a day,
    So fought, so followed, and so fairly won,
    Came not till now to dignify the times
    Since Caesar's fortunes. (1.1.18-28)

    Lord Bardolph is reporting false information to Northumberland here. The truth is that Hotspur has been killed at the battle at Shrewsbury, where the king's forces have been victorious. Consequently, the remaining rebels proceed with more caution in Henry IV Part 2, planning each of their steps carefully instead of running headlong into battle like Hotspur did in Part 1.

    NORTHUMBERLAND
    Let order die,
    And let this world no longer be a stage
    To feed contention in a lingering act;
    But let one spirit of the firstborn Cain
    Reign in all bosoms, that, each heart being set
    On bloody courses, the rude scene may end,
    And darkness be the burier of the dead! (1.1.170-176)

    When Northumberland learns that his son is dead, he calls for a major battle to "end" the "lingering" rebellion against the king once and for all. When he says let the "spirit of the first-born Cain / Reign in all bosoms," he imagines an entire country fighting and murdering their "brothers" until everyone is dead and buried in "darkness." Harkening all the way back to the first son's murder of his brother in the book of Genesis, Northumberland anticipates an apocalypse (end of the world).

    We also notice that Northumberland uses a theater metaphor here when he says the world should stop being a "stage" where civil strife is dragged out in prolonged action (like a really long play). Instead, he wants the "rude scene" to "end." When we think about it, the metaphor conjures a vivid image of corpses scattered all over a theater stage, which is exactly what a stage looks like at the end of a tragedy. For funzies, you might to compare this passage to the end of Hamlet.

    KING
    I will take your counsel.
    And were these inward wars once out of hand,
    We would, dear lords, unto the Holy Land. (3.1.110-112)

    King Henry IV has been talking about leading a crusade ever since he started feeling guilty about the deposition of King Richard back in Richard II. So, we're not surprised here when he says he wishes the civil war were over so he could lead an army to Jerusalem. Why is Henry so eager to rumble with the "pagans" in the Holy Land? Be sure to check out 4.5 below.

    BARDOLPH
    Sir, a word with you. I
    have three pound to free Mouldy and Bullcalf.
    FALSTAFF
    Go to, well. (3.2.252-254)

    Falstaff's corrupt draft practices continue in Part 2. Here, he takes bribes from Mouldy and Bullcalf, who don't want to serve in the military. This recalls Falstaff's behavior in Henry IV Part 1, where he abused his powers as the Captain of a troop of foot soldiers. Not only did he take bribes from able bodied soldiers, "yeoman's sons" whose families could afford to buy their way out of service, he also amassed a group of "ragged" troops, many of whom are fresh "out of prison" (Henry IV Part 1, 4.2.4).

    ARCHBISHOP
    So that this land, like an offensive wife
    That hath enraged him on to offer strokes, (4.1.220-221)

    When the Archbishop of York says that King Henry is like a husband who raises his hand to strike his "wife," he compares the civil war to domestic violence. If you're interested in thinking about this some more, check out "Quotes" for "Family."

    ARCHBISHOP
    Wherefore do I this? So the question stands.
    Briefly, to this end: we are all diseased
    And with our surfeiting and wanton hours
    Have brought ourselves into a burning fever,
    And we must bleed for it; (4.1.56-60)

    Archbishop of York claims that a little blood shed during battle is just the thing the "diseased" country needs in order to heal. What the heck is he talking about? How is it possible to "heal" a country with bloodshed? Basically, York is punning on the old school medical practice of "bleeding" sick patients. The idea was that the human body was made up of four basic elements, called humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. These elements were supposed to influence a person's general health, disposition, and mood. When someone got sick, one of the first things a physician did was check to make sure all the "humors" were in balance (by inspecting blood, stool, urine, mucous, and so on). If it was looking like a person had too much blood, then the solution was to drain some of it (using blood-sucking leeches or a sharp knife). Check out "Quotes" for "Weakness" if you're interested in learning more about the play's portrayal of disease.

    WESTMORELAND
    Good tidings, my Lord Hastings, for the which
    I do arrest thee, traitor, of high treason.—
    And you, Lord Archbishop, and you, Lord Mowbray,
    Of capitol treason I attach you both. (4.1.362-365)

    If Henry IV Part 1 portrayed dramatic battle scenes, the show-down between the king's forces and the rebels in Part 2 is decidedly anti-climactic, you know? The fact that Prince John tricks the rebels into disarming suggests the play is more about political strategy than physical warfare.

    KING
    Therefore, my Harry,
    Be it thy course to busy giddy minds
    With foreign quarrels, that action, hence borne
       out,
    May waste the memory of the former days. (4.5.371-374)

    Hmm. Why is Henry IV advising Prince Hal to drum up a foreign war when he becomes king? To "busy giddy minds," of course. In other words, a foreign war might be just the thing to keep idle minds from thinking about waging a civil war against the king. This bit of fatherly advice seems to suggest that Henry IV has wanted to lead a crusade (for the past three plays) in order to distract his enemies, no?

    JOHN OF LANCASTER
    The king hath called his parliament, my lord.
    […]
    I will lay odds that, ere this year expire,
    We bear our civil swords and native fire
    As far as France. (5.5.104; 106-108)

    Henry IV Part 2 ends with a hint that, in the play's sequel, England will be at war. This turns out to be an accurate prediction. In Henry V, Hal decides to invade France and reclaim some territories that his family has always believed belonged to them.

  • Lies and Deceit

    RUMOR
    Upon my tongues continual slanders ride,
    The which in every language I pronounce,
    Stuffing the ears of men with false reports. (Induction.6-8)

    The play opens in a pretty striking way – Rumour enters the stage and announces that it's been busy spreading lies and false reports. This not only prepares the audience for the multiple and incompatible accounts given about the battle at Shrewsbury in the play's opening scene, but also reminds us that it's difficult to tell whose version of the truth we can believe in this play.

    RUMOR
    This have I rumored through the peasant towns
    Between that royal field of Shrewsbury
    And this worm-eaten hold of ragged stone,
    Where Hotspur's father, old Northumberland,
    Lies crafty-sick: (Induction.33-37)

    After Rumour announces that it's been circulating around the world spreading lies, Rumour makes a pit-stop at Northumberland's pad, which is lovingly described as a "worm-eaten hold." This is where Northumberland has been pretending to be sick so he wouldn't have to fight at the battle at Shrewsbury. Compare this passage to 3.2 below.

    BULLCALF
    O Lord, sir, I am a diseased man.
    FALSTAFF
    What disease hast thou?
    BULLCALF
    A whoreson cold, sir, a cough, sir, which I
    caught with ringing in the king's affairs upon his
    coronation-day, sir. (3.2.185-189)

    Gosh, everybody in this play has got the sniffles – even Bullcalf, who attempts to beg off when Falstaff tries to recruit him into the army. Like Northumberland, Bullcalf is likely lying to avoid fighting in the war. Though, it's interesting that he claims his loyalty to the king is what caused his ailment in the first place. Apparently, Bullcalf celebrated Henry IV's coronation so enthusiastically that he wound up with a "whoreson cold."

    PRINCE
    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?
    POINS
    I would think thee a most princely hypocrite.
    PRINCE
    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?
    POINS
    Why, because you have been so lewd and so
    much engraffed to Falstaff. (2.2.44-48; 50-60)

    In Henry IV Part 1, Hal told us that he was playing the role of the bad-boy prince so he could stage a dramatic "reformation" when he became king, which would amaze everyone and endear him to his subjects. By the time we see Hal in Henry IV Part 2, it seems like he's trapped in the role he's created for himself. Although he's inwardly sad that his father is ill, he can't show his true feelings because he's created a "wild Prince" persona 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.

    FALSTAFF
    My lord, this is a poor mad soul; and she says
    up and down the town that the eldest son is like
    you. She hath been in good case, and the truth is,
    poverty hath distracted her. (2.1.108-111)

    When Falstaff wants to discredit Mistress Quickly, who has filed a lawsuit against him, he lies to the Lord Chief Justice and claims that Mistress Quickly has been telling people the LCJ is the father of her child. Later in the play, Falstaff tries to discredit Poins when he lies to Prince Hal and claims that Poins has been telling everybody Hal is going to marry his sister. Are you noticing a pattern here? What's with Falstaff and all the lies about women and sexual relationships? Falstaff's as petty as an online gossip column. Falstaff, then, seems to be associated with the figure of Rumour, who also spends a lot of time spreading stories.

    FALSTAFF
    What is the gross sum that I owe thee?
    HOSTESS
    Marry, if thou wert an honest man, thyself
    and the money too. Thou didst swear to me...
    […]
    as I was washing thy
    wound, to marry me and make me my lady thy wife.
    Canst thou deny it?
    […]
    And didst
    thou not kiss me and bid me fetch thee thirty shillings?
    I put thee now to thy book-oath. Deny it if
    thou canst. (2.1.87-89; 94-96; 104-107)

    Mistress Quickly files a lawsuit against Falstaff, who has borrowed a bunch of money that's never going to be repaid. Mistress Quickly also reveals that Falstaff broke his promise to marry her, even after she took care of him when he was wounded. We know Falstaff's not the most honest guy in the world but taking advantage of Mistress Quickly seems pretty despicable, don't you think? Is Shakespeare setting it up so that we don't get too sentimental when Falstaff is eventually banished by Hal?

    JOHN OF LANCASTER
    I like them all, and do allow them well,
    And swear here, by the honor of my blood
    My father's purposes have been mistook,
    And some about him have too lavishly
    Wrested his meaning and authority.
    [To the Archbishop.] My lord, these griefs shall be
       with speed redressed;
    Upon my soul, they shall. If this may please you,
    Discharge your powers unto their several counties,
    As we will ours, and here, between the armies,
    Let's drink together friendly and embrace,
    That all their eyes may bear those tokens home
    Of our restorèd love and amity.
    ARCHBISHOP
    I take your princely word for these redresses. (4.1.301-314)

    Pay close attention to what Prince John says here as he and the Archbishop of York reach a peace agreement. It sounds like Prince John is promising that things will be cool between the rebel leaders and the king's forces – they'll all be sipping cocktails and "embrac[ing]" as friends before the day is over. Now take a look at what happens in the passage below.

    WESTMORELAND
    Good tidings, my Lord Hastings, for the which
    I do arrest thee, traitor, of high treason.—
    And you, Lord Archbishop, and you, Lord Mowbray,
    Of capitol treason I attach you both.
    MOWBRAY
    Is this proceeding just and honorable?
    WESTMORELAND
    Is your assembly so?
    ARCHBISHOP
    Will you thus break your faith?
    JOHN OF LANCASTER
    I pawned thee none.
    I promised you redress of these same grievances
    Whereof you did complain, which, by mine honor,
    I will perform with a most Christian care.
    But for you, rebels, look to taste the due
    Meet for rebellion and such acts as yours. (4.1.362-374)

    After cutting a deal with the rebel leaders, who agree to disarm if Prince John redresses their grievances, Westmoreland goes, "Ah ha! You're all under arrest!" So, we're thinking Mowbray makes a completely valid point when he asks if this "proceeding is just and honourable." You might want to revisit Prince John's promise at 4.2 (above) and then see if it jives with what he has to say in this passage. Is Prince John a "break[er] of faith"? If so, is he any different than the swindling Falstaff?

    SHALLOW
    Yea, Davy. I will use him well. A friend i' th'
    court is better than a penny in purse. Use his men
    well, Davy, for they are arrant knaves, and will
    backbite. (5.1.30-33)

    So much for the idea that things are simpler and less corrupt in the countryside (Gloucestershire) where Justice Shallow lives. When Shallow tells his servant that he plans to use Falstaff, who might have valuable connections at court, it seems that there's not a place in the entire country of England where corruption and deception don't exist.

    FALSTAFF
    Master Shallow, I owe you a thousand pound.
    SHALLOW
    Yea, marry, Sir John, which I beseech you to
    let me have home with me.
    FALSTAFF
    That can hardly be, Master Shallow. Do not
    you grieve at this. I shall be sent for in private to
    him. Look you, he must seem thus to the world.
    Fear not your advancements. I will be the man yet
    that shall make you great.
    SHALLOW
    I cannot well perceive how, unless you
    should give me your doublet and stuff me out with
    straw. I beseech you, good Sir John, let me have five
    hundred of my thousand. (5.5.74-85)

    In the previous passage, we saw that Justice Shallow planned to use Falstaff in order to curry favor at court. Here, it seems that Falstaff has got the better of Shallow, who loaned Falstaff a bunch of money when he thought Falstaff would be a close companion to the newly crowned king. If you're interested in Falstaff's tremendous debt, check out "Quotes" for "Weakness."