Close Readings

The following are small analyses that we have done on certain passages within the text. Just as translating text from one language to another destroys some of its meaning, so does paraphrasing Shakespeare. More often than not, certain parts of the text need to be fully explained in order to understand their true significance in play.


Act 1:

Scene 1

The plot of 1 Henry IV is an outgrowth of dramatic historical events from England’s past. King Henry’s opening remark that “[t]hose opposèd eyes / Which . . . / . . . / Did lately meet in the intestine shock / And furious close of civil butchery” will no longer spill English blood on English soil refers to the recent power struggle between various English nobles (I.i.9–13). Shakespeare would have expected his audience to know the events to which Henry refers. Indeed, Shakespeare himself had dramatized them in one of his earlier plays, Richard II: as a result of a civil war in England, Henry managed to win the crown from Richard II, the previous king. Henry is now haunted by the violence that he used to gain the crown, and he must fight another civil war to stay in power. Henry is already worn down by a vague sense of guilt and by uneasiness about the legitimacy of his seat on the throne. Henry has blood on his hands, since he had Richard murdered after overthrowing him. Henry bears himself regally, but he is so concerned about the recent unrest in his country that he is “shaken” and “wan with care,” or pale with worry (I.i.1). Although he is not very old at the play’s opening, life has already fatigued him noticeably. Through other characters’ discussions, this scene also introduces Hotspur, a young man the same age as Prince Harry and something of a foil (a character whose emotions or attitudes contrast with, and thereby accentuate, those of another character) for him. Though they have the same given name (Henry), Hotspur and Harry are as different as night and day. Hotspur is bold, quick-tempered, and loves battle; Westmoreland and King Henry talk about his remarkable accomplishment in defeating the Earl of Douglas. Harry, on the other hand, appears to be lazy, cowardly, and self-indulgent. The comparison that King Henry makes between Hotspur and Harry is the first of many such comparisons that occur as the balance of power and honor shifts between the two young men. King Henry believes that Hotspur is “the theme of honour’s tongue” but that “riot and dishonour stain the brow / Of my young Harry,” that is, Prince Harry (I.i.80–84). Henry even wishes that Hotspur were his real son, since Hotspur is the one who seems to behave in a truly princely fashion. Harry eventually realizes the value of Hotspur’s qualities too, and he strives to match and surpass them as he grows into his princely role. Finally, the scene introduces us to some of the interesting cast of characters who later fight against Henry’s forces. Some of these figures are not English at all but instead lead native rebel bands from the countries bordering England, over which English rulers hold only tenuous control. Reports are made of the fearless Archibald, Earl of Douglas, a powerful Scottish leader who fought Hotspur near the northern border of England. Also discussed is “the irregular and wild” Owen Glendower, leader of a band of native guerrilla fighters in Wales (I.i.40). The English associate Glendower with the mysterious, dark sorcery native to Wales and conceive of him as a magician. The “beastly shameless transformation” that the Welsh women perform upon the bodies of the dead Englishmen—presumably a ritual castration or a related rite—is thought to be a kind of voodoo or mysterious native magic (I.i.42–46). This sort of nervous interest in the oppressed native cultures of Britain is a running motif throughout the play.
From Sparknotes

King Henry speaks with Westmorland about the fact that he has tried to lead a crusade to the Holy Land for over a year, but cannot due to the civil strife at home. He vows to end the civil wars within England. Westmorland, however, has news that Mortimer has been captured by the Welsh nobleman Glendower, and that he has married Glendower's daughter. This news is followed by positive news that Hotspur has defeated the Earl of Douglas up near Scotland and taken prisoners.
King Henry, although overjoyed by the news of the victory, is sad that his own son Harry, known affectionately as Hal, is a prodigal, spending time in taverns rather than fighting. He compares Hotspur, the son of Northumberland, with his son, and wonders whether they were switched at birth. "Then would I have his Harry, and he mine" (1.1.89).
From Grade Saver

Act I, scene ii is of considerable importance because it introduces one of Shakespeare’s most famous and beloved characters: Harry’s friend and mentor Falstaff. The Shakespearean critic Harold Bloom says of him that “no other literary character . . . seems to me so infinite in provoking thought and in arousing emotion.” This assessment may seem surprising since, after all, Falstaff is presented as a zany, antiquated criminal who does nothing but make outrageous puns. But Falstaff develops throughout the rest of this play and its sequel into something quite unusual: a cheerful, unembarrassed, self-confident lowlife whose value system runs counter to that of all the noblemen and kings who figure in the main plot of the play. On the one hand, Falstaff is obviously a criminal, as all his banter about judges and hanging and his extravagant references to himself and other highwaymen as “squires of the night’s body”—nocturnal thieves—suggest (I.ii.
21). More than that, however, Falstaff seems to live with a sense of gusto and enjoyment that is completely foreign to royalty. His approach to life and honor and the way he regards himself are very different from the rigid and complicated systems of pride and vengeance that cause the noblemen to fight bloody wars and attempt to overthrow kings.
Critics are intrigued by the complexity of Falstaff’s character: Falstaff is an opportunist, always turning a situation to his own advantage and usually not hesitating to step on other people as he does it. On the other hand, he seems to have no need for revenge—the lack of which differentiates him from the noblemen, including Harry. Falstaff does not hesitate to lie outrageously, but he is not concerned when he is caught. He sees no value in gaining honor by risking his life but instead believes he can find more honor in -keeping his life. In short, Falstaff is interested in his own self--preservation and in living and enjoying his life to the fullest. As Bloom states: “All the self-contradictions of [Falstaff’s] complex nature resolve themselves in his exuberance of being, his passion for being alive. Many of us become machines for fulfilling responsibilities; Falstaff is the largest and best reproach we can find.” Alongside the principal plot of kings and earls doing battle for the fate of a nation, Falstaff constantly provides a counterpoint to their logic and values. The relationship between Falstaff and Harry is complex. Falstaff seems to be fond of Harry, but it is strange that Harry enjoys spending time with Falstaff. This introductory scene demonstrates the apparently good-natured, joking sort of relationship that exists between them. But as Falstaff’s extraordinary facility with language and knowledge of the seedy underbelly of London come to light, it becomes clear that Harry is also learning from Falstaff. The older man is, in a sense, instructing Harry in a robust way of life quite outside the noble sphere—the life that Falstaff himself leads and the philosophy that governs it.
Harry’s unexpected monologue at the end of the scene reveals the complexity of his character. In stating that he will shock others’ expectations “[b]y how much better than my word I am,” Harry establishes a dichotomy between what his deeds compel others to think he is like and what he is actually like (I.ii.
188). He thus enjoys, and is aware that he enjoys, a certain power over others by being able to control how they perceive him. His belief that “[m]y reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault, / Shall show more goodly . . . / Than that which hath no foil to set it off” reflects the absolute deliberateness of his actions (I.ii.191–193). He sets himself up as his own “foil” in order to accentuate the seeming near miracle of his eventual transformation from lowliness to nobility. This monologue also emphasizes Harry’s plan to cast off his ruffian friends in order to cut a more impressive figure in the eyes of the world. But Harry’s plan is morally ambiguous. On the one hand, it is a movement toward the honorable conduct that his father and the other noblemen want for him, but, on the other, it is extremely deceitful. Harry is now concealing the truth from everyone—his current friends, his father, and the English people.
Modern adaptation of Henry IV
Modern adaptation of Henry IV

Scene 2

Hal, who is the Prince of Wales, and his good friend Falstaff are in an apartment drinking and having fun. In dialogue laced with sexual innuendo, they speak about a tavern where both men like to flirt with the hostess. Their conversation turns to thieves, and Falstaff tells Hal that when he becomes the king he had better not hang a thief. Hal jokingly offers Falstaff the job of hangman for the thieves.
A thief named Poins enters, and soon he and Falstaff try to coax Prince Harry to join them in thievery. Hal reluctantly agrees, saying, "Well then, once in my days I'll be a madcap" (1.2.127). After Falstaff leaves, Poins tells him that they will play a trick on Falstaff. They plot to allow the other men, including Falstaff, to rob their target. After the robbery is complete, Hal and Poins will descend upon the robbers and rob them in return. Hal finally agrees to this, mostly for the anticipated fun of seeing Falstaff try to explain how he got robbed after committing his own crime.
Hal ends the scene with a brilliant soliloquy, saying, "I know you all, and will a while uphold / The unyoked humour of your idleness" (1.2.173-174). This soliloquy unmasks Hal, who tells the audience that he is only pretending to be a madcap prince. He claims that he is friends with the thieves in order to mask his true identity, which is that of a future king. "My reformation, glitt'ring o'er my fault, / Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes" (1.2.191-192). Thus Hal is hiding himself underground for now, but through his speech the audience knows that he will soon assume his rightful position as heir to the throne.

Scene 3

Hotspur’s dialogue in this scene is typical of his speeches throughout the play: he is a very eloquent speaker and can use words powerfully, but he has a hard time keeping his temper and is always interrupting others. The difficulty Northumberland and Worcester have in getting him to be quiet so that they can discuss their conspiracy indicates that Hotspur’s impatience, which helps win him glory on the battlefield, may cause him difficulty in his personal interactions. It also suggests that while he is a brave fighter, he is a bad strategist, since his rashness makes him prone to alienate even his own allies. Hotspur’s military, aggressive, masculine nature is behind his contempt for the effeminate messenger who chattered at Hotspur like a “popinjay” after Hotspur’s victory (I.iii.49). Based on the account that he gives to Henry, it seems that Hotspur reacted to the prissy courtier not only with scorn but also with an unreasonable anger (since he is using his reaction to the messenger as an excuse, however, he may be exaggerating the extent of his anger). In line with his soldierly existence, Hotspur is highly concerned with honor, which he demonstrates in his rants about his eagerness to face down Henry. His often-quoted words By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap
To pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon,
Or dive into the bottom of the deep,
And pluck up drownèd honour by the locks
(I.iii.
199–203)
emphasize not only that he is perpetually ready to face any danger in pursuit of glory but also that he has a very tangible conception of honor. Whereas Falstaff sees honor only as an abstract and therefore useless entity (“What is honour? A word. What is in that word ‘honour’? . . . Air” [V.i.
133–134]), Hotspur sees it as a physical object to be “pluck[ed] up,” a buried treasure at “the bottom of the deep.” But a comment by Worcester suggests the shallowness of this value system. Realizing that Hotspur is not paying attention to the important plan he is trying to explain, Worcester says of Hotspur: “He apprehends a world of figures here, / But not the form of what he should attend” (I.iii.207–208). Hotspur’s tendency to chase after ideals instead of thinking practically is a serious flaw in his ability to perform as a strategist and soldier. , in contrast, possesses the ability to hold back and think things through, as he demonstrates in his manipulation of his tavern friends. This scene also provides a window into the moral ambiguities at the center of the play. Many readers and critics feel that there is no clear-cut good or bad side in this and the other Henry plays. It remains ambiguous whether the Percys have a legitimate grievance, or if the king is right in dismissing their claims as the excuses of power-hungry rebels. Even the bare facts behind the coalitions are difficult or impossible to confirm. To some extent, the setup of the play urges identification with the side in power (King Henry and his allies). But the richness of the play derives from the ambiguous and mixed motives that drive its action and so many of its characters
.
King Henry, Hotspur and Northumberland meet together. Henry is furious about the fact that Hotspur has refused to hand over the prisoners he captured in Scotland. Hotspur, in his defense, says that he previously refused to hand over the prisoners because he was still on the battlefield, and disliked the young man who demanded them in the king's name.
King Henry does not accept Hotspur's argument concerning the prisoners, and is equally upset that Hotspur's brother-in-law Mortimer lost the battle in Wales to
Glendower. Henry believes that Mortimer is a traitor, a charge which Hotspur denies. However, there is a complication because Mortimer was also named by Richard II as his heir to the throne, which Henry IV usurped when he defeated Richard. After a final demand for Hotspur to release the prisoners into his custody, King Henry allows Hotspur and Northumberland to return home together.
Hotspur and Northumberland remain on stage after everyone exits. Hotspur tells his father that he will never release the prisoners, and that he will die trying to defend Mortimer's reputation. He even refers to Bolingbroke, King Henry's family name, implying that he does not recognize the legitimacy of Henry's claim to the throne.
Hotspur works himself into a frenzy about the injustices he is suffering, refusing to listen to Worcester or his father. Finally he calms down, and Worcester recommends that Hotspur deliver his prisoners to Henry, but make the son of Douglas his main ally in Scotland. He then tells Northumberland to make friends with the Archbishop of York, whose distant cousin Lord Scrope was killed by Henry. Together they plan to unite their armies in Scotland and York with
Glendower's forces in Wales, and then overthrow the king by splitting England into three portions.



Act 2


Scene's 1-3

1 Henry IV covers a wide range of terrain, both in terms of the literal geography of England and in terms of the classes of people in the play. Shakespeare interweaves high scenes, which feature noblemen engaging in debates about the nature of kingship or the strategies of war, with low scenes of commoners and criminals engaged in various petty plots. This combination was something fairly new for Shakespeare and for English drama as a whole, causing critics and readers alike to compare the play to Geoffrey Chaucer’s great Middle English work, The Canterbury Tales, written at the end of the fourteenth century. Scenes i through iii of Act II offer good examples of this contrast. Here Shakespeare moves beyond his frequently used locale of the Boar’s Head Tavern to conjure up the front yards of cheap roadside inns and the highway ambushes of dangerous—if bungling and cowardly—robbers. The robbery scene, with its lawlessness and violence, offers a low parallel to the high rebellion of the Percys later in the play and thus acts as both a mirror and a subtle instance of foreshadowing, hinting at the rapid disintegration of stability and peace in England. The carriers’ conversation (which, although lively, is almost unintelligible to contemporary readers without annotations) is an example of the sort of lower-class voice not usually found in the history plays of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. It also provides an example of the wide range of different dialects and modes of speech that Shakespeare presents throughout the play. These range from the noble language of the royal characters and the wittiness of -Falstaff to the foreign accents of the uneducated but lively voices of the robbers and the tavern hostess. The sheer diversity of speech in 1 Henry IV suggests a preoccupation with the richness and multiplicity of the English language as it is manifested in various social and cultural forms. The practical joke that Poins and Harry play on Falstaff, -Bardolph, Peto, and Gadshill, while amusing, further complicates the friendship between Harry and Falstaff. Harry seems to have no problem insulting Falstaff far more viciously than Falstaff ever insults him. Similarly, he doesn’t mind causing Falstaff discomfort, as when he and Poins steal his horse and force him to walk back to London. As Falstaff himself puts it, “Eight yards of uneven ground is threescore and ten [i.e., seventy] miles afoot with me, and the stony-hearted villains know it well enough” (II.ii.23–26). The ultimate point of the joke, moreover, is to humiliate Falstaff by catching him in the lie that Harry and Poins know he will tell about the affair. Harry’s attitude toward his friend and mentor is uneven: he often treats Falstaff affectionately, but he can also be sadistic. This ambivalence becomes increasingly important during this play and its sequel, 2 Henry IV. The joke also raises questions about whether Harry can regain the all-important honor that he has lost by behaving badly—the same honor that currently holds in the eyes of the populace and the king. This quest for honor becomes the central point of contention between Harry and his rival; as Shakespeare likes to make mirrors of important scenes and ideas, reflecting among the lowlifes what occurs among the nobility, a concern for honor shows up among the play’s lowlifes as well. Poins and Harry’s betrayal of the other highwaymen supports the old saying that there is no honor among thieves, an idea that Falstaff touches on when he says, “A plague upon’t when thieves cannot be true one to another!” (II.ii.25–26). Ironically, it is Harry—the crown prince himself—who is among the worst of the crew, not only participating in a robbery but also stabbing his friends in the back. This betrayal is done as a joke, but it is strangely at odds with Harry’s alleged goal of becoming the most honorable character of all, one worthy of being a king. The questions raised here eventually culminate in the full-scale assault that Shakespeare (in the voice of Falstaff) launches, in Act V, scene i, on the ideal of honor, which Harry and the other noblemen claim to follow.

Scene 4

Although this scene seems short and incidental, it is a telling portrait of gender and domestic life in the Renaissance. Hotspur’s obsession with strategy and war make him a bad husband; he appears to think of his wife only as a sideline to his life as a fighter. Lady Percy reveals the emotional deficiency of the valiant Hotspur and provides a glimpse of the marital relations of the Elizabethan era. Neither husband nor wife is shy of alluding to sex, or a lack thereof. Renaissance women were considered to have a right to sexual pleasure from their husbands. Lady Percy has her sexual needs in mind when she complains that Hotspur has “given my treasures and my rights of thee / To thick-eyed musing and curst melancholy” (II.iv.39–40). Despite this apparent liberation, Renaissance ideas of gender fell far short of promoting equal opportunity for men and women. Hotspur’s refusal to confide in his wife is not unusual, nor is his belief that women cannot keep a secret. His words to Lady Percy—“constant you are, / But yet a woman”—demonstrate how he allows the stereotype that women are gossip mongers to outweigh his knowledge that Lady Percy herself is of a “constant” nature (II.iv.99–100). Hotspur’s extreme machismo often endows him with a disturbingly violent perspective on the world, as when he bursts out: “This is no world / To play with maumets [dolls] and to tilt with lips [to kiss]. / We must have bloody noses and cracked crowns” (II.iv.82–84). In his thirst for war, Hotspur does not even admit love into his worldview; he is a knight without chivalry. For her part, Lady Percy has few options: she can only accept whatever confidence her husband chooses to give her. For instance, when Hotspur asks whether his plan to let her follow him the next day will content her, she answers bitterly, “It must, of force” (II.iv.109). Here and throughout the Shakespearean tetralogy that deals with the English House of, women generally have very little power. Both the dynamics of emotional attachment and the reshufflings of power occur solely among the male characters. Though Hotspur’s marriage is not really important to the overall plot of the play, Shakespeare still moves the plot forward considerably during this look into domestic life. By opening the scene with Hotspur reading the letter and concluding it with Hotspur preparing to leave for the rebellion, Shakespeare takes the civil war from its planning phase to the verge of actuality. Furthermore, by intertwining Lady Percy’s complaints with observations about Hotspur’s sleeplessness and preoccupation with war, we see not only Hotspur’s treatment of his wife but also the extent of his obsession with the rebellion. Thus, in an extremely short scene, Shakespeare offers us a much deeper insight into Hotspur’s character and also conveys the sense that the rebellion has undergone extensive planning and preparation. In this way, Shakespeare keeps the action moving forward without sacrificing the developing character studies at the heart of the play.

Scene 5

Harry’s interlude with the bartenders, which occurs offstage, humorously illustrates his project of self-education, as he appears at the beginning of the scene after drinking with the young tavern men in the cellar. Harry evidently believes that establishing a connection with the common people—in this case by getting drunk with bartenders and by speaking their slang—is part of a useful education for kingship, an idea that his father does not share. The men’s comment (as reported by Harry) that Harry is “but Prince of Wales yet … the king of courtesy” reflects how Harry’s royal birth does not preclude the commoners from taking him as their fellow (II.v.9). Falstaff’s hilarious cascade of lies in recounting his encounter with the thieves who assaulted him is characteristic of his blustery, self-aggrandizing style. He clearly does not expect to be believed, since he changes his mind about the number of attackers at every other line; rather, he wants to entertain himself and his listeners. There are few better examples of Falstaff’s resourcefulness and wittiness than his reaction to Harry’s revelation that Harry and Poins were the only attackers. Without having to think about it for a moment, Falstaff responds with the brilliant response about not wanting to have to injure Harry that puts him in the right for having fled. His assertion that he recognized the pair allows him to praise himself along with Harry and to change the subject by ordering more wine. The role-playing in which Falstaff and Harry engage at the end of the scene is both a spectacular display of wit and a complicated statement about the way the two think about each other and themselves. The style of Falstaff’s speech to Harry, as he plays the role of King Henry, derives from the over-the-top tragedies of Shakespeare’s day; when Falstaff speaks “in King Cambyses’ vein,” he mocks the bombastic style of monarchs in such plays (II.v.352). Unsurprisingly, Falstaff praises the virtues of the “goodly, portly man” with whom Harry keeps company—Falstaff himself (II.v.384). When Harry takes over as King Henry, however, his mode of addressing Falstaff (now Harry) is harsher. The joke turns somewhat ugly; when he insults Falstaff, he does it thoroughly and painfully, labeling him “[t]hat villainous, abominable misleader of youth, . . . that old white-bearded Satan” (II.v.421–422). There is a charged, foreboding sincerity in Falstaff’s final plea to Harry in the role of the king. He begs Harry to banish the other ruffians “but for sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack -Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff . . . Banish not him thy Harry’s company, / Banish not him thy Harry’s company” (II.v.432–437). Falstaff’s description of himself as “sweet,” “kind,” “true,” and “valiant” rings hollow, since Falstaff is quite clearly a cowardly robber who loves to exaggerate. But the repetition of his entreaty that Harry not banish him seems to endow his plea with a degree of seriousness and even melancholy, as if he senses that he ultimately will be banished. Indeed, Harry’s brief, strange reply—“I do; I will”—has ominous overtones (II.v.439). This answer comes back to haunt Falstaff at the end of 1 Henry IV’s sequel, 2 Henry IV, when Harry does what seems unthinkable now: he does actually banish his dearest friend, along with the rest of the Eastcheap crowd. Yet, in the conclusion of this tavern scene, Harry demonstrates an apparently spontaneous affection and goodwill toward Falstaff in lying outright to protect him from the sheriff. Falstaff, with typical casual ingratitude, has fallen asleep where he concealed himself. Harry’s response of emptying out Falstaff’s pockets—which contain nothing of value—seems a fair play among tavern regulars.

Act 3

Scene 1

Hotspur’s quick temper and insolence flare up once again in this scene: with a few rude words, he alienates the extremely powerful Owen Glendower, one of his family’s most important allies. By this point, Hotspur’s immaturity is apparent as the negative side of his boldness and sharp military instincts. As Worcester insightfully notes, Hotspur’s greatest asset—his boldness and quick temper—is also his worst flaw; he is valiant in battle but cannot manipulate or work with people behind the scenes. This flaw eventually proves a deadly weakness for Hotspur, since manipulation and diplomacy are among the greatest strengths of Prince Harry, his archrival. This tension emphasizes the importance the play places on understanding the qualities of true leadership. This scene also provides us with a strong taste of Welsh culture and tradition, which Glendower embodies. The English regarded the ancient Welsh customs and supernatural traditions with mingled disdain and unease. On the one hand, they felt that a more advanced civilization (as they considered themselves) should have no fear of ancient superstitions. On the other hand, however, no one could be sure that the Welsh were not really magicians. This scene recalls the horror with which Westmoreland speaks, in Act I, scene i, about the ritualistic mutilations that the Welsh women performed upon the English dead. Glendower himself is a fascinating mix of the Welsh and English worlds. As he rather sternly reminds the insolent Hotspur, he was “trained up in the English court” and speaks fluent English as well as his native Welsh (III.i.119); as Mortimer further notes, he is “exceedingly well read”—a quality associated with gentlemanliness and urban sophistication (III.i.162). But Glendower’s claims to be a magician able to summon demons, along with his insistence on the significance of the omens that he believes filled the sky and earth on the day of his birth, reflects his strong commitment to his pagan heritage. Even Mortimer implies that he believes in Glendower’s magic arts, testifying that Glendower is “profited / In strange concealment's,” or supernatural skills (III.i.162163). Hotspur rudely trivializes Glendower’s claims to magic and justified patriotism. To Glendower’s boasts about defeating Henry’s attempted invasions and sending him home “[b]ootless,” Hotspur exclaims in mock surprise, “Home without boots, and in foul weather too!” (III.i.64–65). Given the gravity of the situation, Hotspur’s punning response at Glendower’s expense is inappropriate. Mortimer’s inability to communicate with his own wife is a further manifestation of the cultural barriers between the English and the Welsh. Unlike Hotspur, however, Mortimer at least shows himself to be aware of the value of understanding other cultures and tongues, despairing, “O, I am ignorance itself in this!” when he cannot understand his wife (III.i.206). The presumably exotic song that Shakespeare has Lady Mortimer sing in Welsh would probably have established a sense of the foreign and the mysterious for an Elizabethan audience—a taste of the “irregular and wild” world that lay just beyond the bounds of late medieval and Renaissance English civilization (I.i.40).

Scene 2

This critical scene is positioned at the midpoint of the play, halfway through the third act. Shakespeare often places the important turning point of a play at the midpoint, neatly dividing the action into prelude and result. The most obvious importance of this scene is that Harry vows to abandon his vagabond ways and behave as a royal prince should. He has long planned to undergo this transformation, as he earlier reveals (he plans to redeem himself “when men think least I will” [I.ii.195]). Evidently, with his father despairing and war looming nearer, Harry decides that the time is right to make his move. The crucial moment, when it comes, is surprisingly brief and understated. In the midst of his father’s long speech of reproof, Harry gives a reply of a single sentence, saying simply, “I shall hereafter, my thrice-gracious lord, / Be more myself” (III.ii.92–93). Harry’s words imply that the seedy, lazy image he has projected to the public is not his real self and that he has only been playing an elaborate game. Now, it appears, he feels it is time to throw off the pretense and reveal his true, kingly nature. Harry follows this brief but heartfelt promise with a much longer and more elaborate speech after his father has finished speaking. Here, he makes clear the terms of his commitment to reform and vows to do specific things to prove it: he acknowledges his past faults, begs his father’s forgiveness, swears never to return to those ways again, and promises to prove himself by fighting and defeating Hotspur. Harry finally makes concrete the connection between himself and Hotspur that Shakespeare has hinted at all along—that Hotspur is winning the glory that rightly should belong to Harry. Harry’s belief that Hotspur is merely his “factor,” or stand-in, and that Hotspur’s defeat will prove Harry’s nobility contributes to the sense that a final confrontation between the two young Harry's is inevitable (III.ii.147). The confrontation between the royal father and son in Act III, scene ii echoes several earlier moments. Shakespeare is fond of symmetries and often repeats scenes, conversations, or even characters. Harry and Hotspur form a symmetrical pair, as do Falstaff and Henry—both are father figures to Harry, but Harry can accept them only alternately, one at a time. The scene itself mirrors the role-playing game that Harry and Falstaff stage in the latter half of Act II, scene iv. But it also echoes Harry’s own vow to himself at the end of Act I, scene ii, especially in terms of its use of language and metaphor. Most noticeable is the use of the sun as a symbol of the king and his reign. While Henry alludes to the lack of “sun-like majesty” of the previous king, Richard II (III.ii.79), Harry earlier states that he will “imitate the sun, / . . . / By breaking through the foul and ugly mists” (I.ii.175–180). Since Harry has now cast off his pretense of idleness, he will presumably soon burn through the clouds and begin to shine with the sun’s terrifying radiance.

Scene 3


This little scene is largely an exercise in wit, full of Falstaff’s easy bantering with Bardolph, the hostess Mistress Quickly, and Harry. Like so many of Falstaff’s other scenes, this one entertains and adds a depth and humor to the play (especially in performance), but unlike some of the play’s other seemingly incidental scenes, this one carries little in the way of plot development. On some level, Falstaff’s jokes must simply be enjoyed rather than analyzed in depth. We do see an excellent example here of Falstaff’s ability to adapt swiftly to change. His reaction to being trapped in a lie is the same as in the earlier scene of the foiled highway robbery: he pretends he was managing the situation all along and turns it to his advantage. In this case, he turns the fact that he was pickpocketed into an accusation of the hostess, enabling him to deflect her demands for payment. Falstaff exaggerates the cheap “eightpenny matter” of his lost ring (III.iii.
94) into a valuable object worth the large sum of “forty mark” (III.iii.73), and he pretends that the shirts the hostess bought him were made of coarse material. He lets no opportunity for his own betterment slip by, even at the cost of telling quite extraordinary lies. When Harry catches him barefaced in his falsehood about the lost money, Falstaff weasels out with marvelous adroitness and lands on his feet by making himself the victim of Harry’s thievery. He is so successful in turning the situation on its head that he even forgives the hostess and compels her to fetch him breakfast. This scene also spotlights the continuing ambivalence in the relationship between Harry and Falstaff. Their verbal sparring here seems to be largely affectionate, and Harry has done Falstaff another unsolicited kindness: after hiding him from the sheriff the night before, he has paid back in full the money that Falstaff’s party stole on the highway. While Harry considers himself a “good angel” to Falstaff for returning the money, it seems possible that the desire to protect himself from any serious criminal charges is also one of Harry’s motivations, since he is, after all, partially responsible for the theft (III.iii.163). Furthermore, while Harry has procured -Falstaff a good position—a command of infantry soldiers—in the upcoming war, in doing so he has rehashed the Act II, scene ii joke about Falstaff’s distaste for walking. Despite the comedy attached to the notion of Falstaff on foot again, Harry has begun to take the war very seriously. His remark that “[t]he land is burning, Percy stands on high, / And either we or they must lower lie” reveals his understanding of the gravity of the situation—he is well aware that one side and one side only will prevail in this high-stakes battle (III.iii.187–188). Falstaff acts as a foil for Harry: whereas Harry respects his opponent, Falstaff issues a cynical declaration of praise about the Percy clan (“Well, God be thanked for these rebels—they offend none but the virtuous” [III.iii.174–175]). Additionally, whereas Harry focuses on the upcoming battle, Falstaff thinks of nothing but gratifying his physical desire for food, shouting, “Hostess, my breakfast come!— / O, I could wish this tavern were my drum!” (III.iii.189–190). His silly closing rhyme of “come!” and “drum!” parodies Harry’s solemn closing rhyme of “high” and “lie.”

Act 4

Scene's 1-2

Just as the play builds in drama to Harry’s vow to redeem himself in Act III, scene ii, it now builds toward resolution: the Battle of Shrewsbury (which occurs in Act V). The course that the play must take from here, however, is already becoming clear: the cascade of bad news that pours in on the Percys in Act IV, scene i seems to indicate the beginning of the end. Abandoned by their allies one by one, the rebels—already the underdogs against the entrenched power and divine right of King Henry—are seeing their chances for victory worsen by the minute. We get a sense of the Percys’ poor prospects for victory from Worcester’s reaction to the developments. Throughout the play, he has shown himself to be the mastermind behind the Percys’ schemes and to be a sounder judge of character and policy than his impulsive nephew. Against Worcester’s pragmatic assessment of the situation, Hotspur’s rather maniacal and desperate insistence on optimism begins to look unrealistic. Hotspur even begins to sound a bit absurd, as, in response to the news that his father will not be bringing his troops, he declares that Northumberland’s absence is “[a] perilous gash, a very limb lopped off. / And yet, in faith, it is not” (IV.i.43–44). With characteristic rashness, he leaps to a conclusion without thinking it through or justifying it. Furthermore, he proves as resolved in his decisions to act as in his opinions. Intoxicated by the prospect of approaching war and in fierce denial about the weakened chances of his side, Hotspur departs with a sort of mad cheerfulness, declaring, “Come, let us take a muster speedily. / Doomsday is near: die all, die merrily” (IV.i.134–135). While the laconic Douglas, who seems to pride himself on his fearlessness and his few words, agrees with Hotspur’s baseless self-confidence, Worcester is more thoughtful and, thus, more concerned about the situation. He realizes that other leaders upon whose help the Percys depend may believe that Northumberland is staying away out of fear and lack of trust. It would be disastrous, Worcester notes, if fear on the part of other rebel forces were to “breed a kind of question in our cause” (IV.i.68). Worcester realizes that if the rebels fail to present a united front, they may find their supporters slipping away in a disastrous chain reaction. Indeed, with Vernon’s announcement that Glendower will not be able to bring his troops until it is too late, the chain reaction seems to have begun. Whether Glendower has decided to hold back because he has heard of Northumberland’s decision or because of some superstition, it is clear that the fortunes of war are turning against the Percys. This scene also continues the symbolic establishment of Harry and Hotspur as opposites. Through Vernon’s report, Shakespeare presents the newly reformed Prince Harry, making good on his promises to his father. Vernon’s famous description of Harry shows us a deft, handsome, and thoroughly impressive young warrior-prince, “[a]s full of spirit as the month of May, / And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer; / Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls” (IV.i.102–104). When Vernon compares Harry to “feathered Mercury” (the Roman messenger god, who wore winged sandals and a winged hat) and an “angel” riding Pegasus (the famous winged horse of Greek mythology), Hotspur cuts him off abruptly, unable to stomach hearing about his illustrious rival (IV.i.107–110). With this language, Shakespeare makes it clear that Harry has at last come to challenge Hotspur for his glory: the images of divine warriors and particularly the emphasis on “noble horsemanship” have been attributed to Hotspur in the past (IV.i.111). (Hotspur’s nickname itself suggests a fiery-tempered, impatient horseman.) Like Harry, Hotspur knows now that he must challenge Harry, since only one of them can claim the honor that they both want. His statement that “Harry to Harry shall, hot horse to horse, / Meet and ne’er part till one drop down a corpse” (IV.i.123–124) echoes Harry’s earlier declaration that “[t]he land is burning, Percy stands on high, / And either we or they must lower lie” (III.iii.187–188).

Scene's 3-4

The heart of Act IV, scene iii is Hotspur’s recounting of the history behind the Percys’ grievances against King Henry. Shakespeare’s audience would have been familiar with the events that Hotspur describes, since they were then a matter of relatively recent history. Moreover, other plays of the era had related these events, including Shakespeare’s own Richard II, which appeared about a year or so prior to 1 Henry IV. Hotspur’s accusations in this scene are somewhat hypocritical, since he seems to imply that his father, Northumberland, only helped Henry to power because he believed that Henry would not overthrow the rightful king (“he heard him swear and vow to God / He came but to be Duke of Lancaster” [IV.iii.62–63]). The reality is, of course, somewhat more complicated, however, and it seems that Northumberland and the other Percys must have known perfectly well from the outset that Henry wanted to become king. Their choice to throw their power behind Henry in a claim to lands being held by King Richard could owe only to their confidence that Henry would overtake Richard, for if Henry were to fail, they would face serious retribution from King Richard. The complexity of the characters’ mixed political motivations seems to cast doubt on Hotspur’s own claim that he and his family have gathered their current army only in order to preserve their own safety. Hotspur’s statement that the rebels may decide to accept Henry’s offer of peace is rather unexpected given Hotspur’s generally warlike character. It is completely at odds with his vow in the preceding section to fight Harry to the death. It is also an important point to bear in mind when Shakespeare reveals, in Act V, that Worcester is keeping certain facts from Hotspur because he fears that his nephew will be inclined to settle the debate peacefully. Worcester, not wanting a peaceful solution, thus secretly squelches any opportunity for Hotspur to follow through on the rational impulse that he shows in this scene. The Archbishop of York’s only appearance in 1 Henry IV occurs in this scene, whose purpose is to set up plot threads that extend into the next play in Shakespeare’s sequence—2 Henry IV. We do not learn much about what the archbishop’s letters contain, but their effects imply that plots are being laid that will continue to haunt Henry even after the Battle of Shrewsbury concludes. Indeed, when the battle has scarcely ended, in Act V, scene v, Henry must almost immediately divide and disperse his forces again—half northward toward York and Northumberland, where the archbishop and the one remaining Percy are arming themselves, and half to Wales to deal with Glendower and his rebels.

Scene 2, Lines 66-68: "Food for powder, food for powder; they 'll fill a pit as well as better." (Act 4, Scene 2) This is one of the most famous quotes from the play. It is said when Falstaff speaks about the feeble group of men he has gather to make up his army. The Prince questions about why they are so bare and thin and he replies by telling him soldiers are soldiers, it makes no difference. However, the most interesting part about these men is that Falstaff only chose them so that he could make a profit. By giving soldiers a chance to pay their way out of fighting he lost all of the noble, stronger, wealthier men and only gathered those men who could not offord to bail their way out. He therefore, gathered a group of poor men who barely had enough to cover their own feet. The quote saying food for powder means generally speaking, does it matter who they are, they will die either way? This is an awful attitude to have when entering battle.

Act 5

Scene's 1-2

There is some foreshadowing that one can pick up on in scene one of act 5. "Where you did give a fair and natural light, and no more an exhald meter."(5.1,19-20) These are the words that king Henry uses to first describe Woresters disobedient acts of treason. Although in act 3 scene 2 the king describes himself as a comet, "But I a Comet I was wonderd at"(3.2,49). So this can be seen as the king relating himself to the rebels, making them not all that bad. Almost admitting to his own acts of treason. Later in the scene the confrontation between Worcester and King Henry in Act V, scene i almost duplicates the one in Act IV, scene iii, in which Hotspur accuses Blunt in similar terms. Worcester’s speech and Henry’s reply help to remind us of the ambiguity that surrounds all the political motivations in the play: Worcester offers a formidable list of justifications for the Percys’ rising against Henry, citing the king’s “unkind usage, dangerous countenance, / And violation of all faith and troth” (V.i.69–70). In a rebuke loaded with disdainful sarcasm, Henry points out that “never yet did insurrection want / Such water-colours to impaint his cause”—that is, insurrections always find a way to color their cause as the righteous one (V.i.79–80). It remains ambiguous whether Henry is right, or if the Percys are justified in their complaints. As usual, Shakespeare refuses to offer us a simple answer. In Act V, scene i, Harry appears onstage manifesting his kingly nature for the first time since his memorable vow of redemption in Act III, scene ii. In both acknowledging his former follies—“I may speak it to my shame, / I have a truant been to chivalry”—and in offering, in highly respectful terms, to meet Hotspur in single combat, Harry demonstrates that he has indeed matured into a man fit to lead (V.i.93–94). It is clear that the “noble deeds” and fine qualities that Harry praises in Hotspur are those that he himself aims to attain (V.i.92). Falstaff’s monologue on honor at the end of Act V, scene i offers key insight into his character. Falstaff seems to be trying to undermine the very standards that the noble contenders hold so dear: in this famous speech, he weighs the emptiness of the proud word “honor” against the losses its pursuit can bring. He says that “honour pricks me on,” parroting the party line; but he then discredits it, complaining, “[y]ea, but how if honour prick me off [kills me] when I come on? How then?” (V.i.129–130). Honor, he muses, cannot replace or heal a lost or wounded limb. It is of no use to the living, and the dead cannot use it either. He concludes that “Honor is a mere scutcheon”—a heraldic device used at funerals, nothing more than a flimsy decoration for the coffins of the dead (V.i.138). Falstaff’s worldly and philosophical logic throws a harsh light on the values that drive the nobility into a battle certain to leave thousands dead. In Act V, scene ii, Worcester reveals himself to be quite a -manipulator. His decision to conceal Harry’s and Henry’s offers-from Hotspur in order to protect his own future welfare comes as a -surprise. His reference to his nephew as “hare-brained Hotspur, govern’d by a spleen [a hot temper]” also reveals Worcester’s awareness of Hotspur’s inherant and intellectual limitations (V.ii.19). He has read Hotspur perfectly, for Hotspur sends a challenge to Henry the moment he hears about the alleged slurs against his family. With his usual haste, Hotspur is taken in by Worcester’s words and, fulfilling the king’s prediction in Act V, scene i, commits his army to a bloody war for which it may not be ready.

Scene's 3-5


These very short, very busy scenes, which show us the progress of the battle at Shrewsbury, represent the main climax toward which the earlier portions of the play have been building. Nearly all the factions have finally been brought together in a single compressed, action-packed battle—marked by frenetically paced entrances and exits and clashes in single combat. Falstaff’s battlefield interpretation of honor in this final section of the play provides both amusement and food for thought. When he stumbles across the body of Sir Walter Blunt (slain, ironically, because he is thought to be King Henry), his immediate comment is: “Sir Walter Blunt. There’s honour for you. Here’s no vanity” (V.iii.
32–33). His jab about “vanity” is ironic. Falstaff seems to be commenting sarcastically on the extreme vanity, or folly, of Blunt’s death—if “honor” is what has led to his lying cold on the ground, then “honor” seems utterly useless. Falstaff’s thoughtful linking of honor with death and his preference for life are vividly illustrated in the next scene, when Falstaff seems to die and then return to life. In some respect, Falstaff enacts a bizarre and playful mockery of war and death: in addition to -carrying around a bottle of wine where his gun should be, he pretends to be killed honorably in battle, receives a eulogy from Harry, and then rises up, pretending that he has conquered a nobleman. Not even the danger of the field can stop him from punning. With his inimitable Falstaffian logic, he defends his own honor in these actions: “The better part of valour is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life” (V.iv.117–118). Falstaff’s views on honor, though they are unlike those of the noblemen fighting and dying on the battlefield, are oddly convincing—perhaps especially so because, unlike so many of the noblemen, Falstaff ends up alive. Harry resolves two of his own important conflicts during this battle. First, he finally resolves the tension between himself and his father. When he rescues Henry from the attack of the Douglas, Henry’s response is complex but wholly approving. Not only is he proud of his warlike son, but he also seems to have been genuinely concerned that his son did not care about him (“Thou hast redeemed thy lost opinion, / And showed thou mak’st some tender of my life” [V.iv.47–48]). Harry responds in equally heartfelt terms—“O God, they did me too much injury / That ever said I hearkened for your death”—that further distinguish him from Hotspur; for while Hotspur seeks to overthrow Henry, Harry seeks to preserve him (V.iv.50–51). Second, Harry finally confronts Hotspur, and the two engage in their long-anticipated duel. Harry’s commanding announcement when he faces Hotspur that “[t]wo stars keep not their motion in one sphere” shows his perception of them as rivals who cannot coexist (V.iv.64). While both men idealize valor, in the end, they seem to have somewhat different approaches to the question that Falstaff raises earlier about the relationship between honor and death. Even as he is dying, Hotspur mourns more for his glory than for his life: “I better brook the loss of brittle life / Than those proud titles thou hast won of me” (V.iv.77–78). But Harry, contemplating Hotspur’s corpse, brings forth a famous contemplation on the humility enforced by death: When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound,
But now two paces of the vilest earth
Is room enough.
(V.iv.
88–91)
No matter how great one’s life, one’s honor can never outlast one’s life, Harry states, since death reduces one to so little. Henry’s division of his forces at the very end of the final scene, as he announces his plan to send John and Westmoreland up to fight Northumberland and his own intent to take Harry to Wales to put down
Glendower, leaves the door wide open for the play’s sequel, 2 Henry IV, in which these dangling plot threads are resolved. In many ways, Henry IV is a play without a conclusion. Critics often refer to the two Henry IV plays as a single play with ten acts; under that interpretation, the real play is now only half over.

Act 5 (from Gradesaver)


The fundamental difference between Hal and Hotspur emerges when Hotspur tries to rally his troops. The speech is a disaster, with Hotspur even admitting his inability to speak, "That I, that have not well the gift of tongue" (5.2.77). Not only are his words poorly chosen, but he is interrupted twice by messengers, making the speech a complete disaster with news of King Henry's imminent arrival.
The relationship between Falstaff and Hal comes to a breaking point while on the battlefield. Hal orders Falstaff to draw his sword and fight, an order which Falstaff refuses to obey. He instead pulls out a bottle of sack, at which Hal cries out, "What, is it a time to jest and dally now?" (5.3.54). The inability of Falstaff to realize the serious of the situation is marked by Hal throwing the bottle at his former friend.
Previously Hal was able to imitate Hotspur, an ability that emerges even more strongly when he kills Hotspur. Hotspur, mortally wounded, says "No Percy, thou art dust, / And food for -..." Trailing off, Prince Harry picks the very words out of Hotspur's mouth, saying, "For worms, brave Percy" (5.4.85-86). This can be understood in the sense that Hal has taken the best qualities of Hotspur for himself, and thus has been able to defeat Hotspur. It is further telling because of the relationship between the words "worms" and "words." Hotspur is left as food for worms, but he has died because he lacked words, which are Hal's strongest asset.
Douglas asks Henry, "What art thou / That counterfeit'st the person of a king?" (5.4.26-27). This question alludes to the fact that King Henry IV resorts to trickery and duplicity at the Battle of Shrewsbury in order to win the battle. His technique is remarkably similar to that of Henry VII in Richard III, when he too uses his noblemen as decoys to avoid getting killed himself. However, the use of multiple Henrys also indicates a fact about the play: the King can be multiplied and played by other characters.
The concept of using multiple kings shows up in Richard III, and as in that play is says a great deal about the character being imitated. Henry IV's position has now become contested, meaning that he is no longer the only man who can be King of England. His position as a figure of rule and authority is severely undermined by the ability of other men to pretend to be him.
This is a problem which Hal does not have. As the young prince shows numerous times, he is able to be many people, but virtually no one is able to become him. This talent of his, allowing him to act out several parts, will make him a great king in the Machiavellian sense. This is a talent which Henry IV clearly lacks, since rather than defend himself by pretending to be someone else, he is forced to make others pretend to be him.
This use of multiple characters also ties into images of doubling. Characters who are doubled end up struggling to establish their own identity, as seen in the Comedy of Errors and in A Midsummer Night's Dream. This becomes relevant in the final words of the play, where Henry says "we divide our power." This line is not only literally true, i.e. he is splitting his army in half, but also figuratively. Henry has already split himself into many kings in order to win the battle, and his challenge will be to find a way of reunifying himself.
There is a frequent correlation in Shakespearian plays between the state of the king and the state of the country. Indeed, not only is England split but so is Henry. His final act of splitting the army into two parts is almost a symbolic recognition of England's divided nature. The psychological divide within Henry is that fact that he strives to attain the goal of a peaceful England, yet realizes that warfare is the only way to achieve this goal.
Hal's pardon of Douglas at the end of the play marks a shift in the way he will rule as king versus how Henry rules. Henry orders Vernon and Worcester to be put to death for their crimes, Hal instead chooses to take a risk and pardon his enemy. This relates to the fact that Hal is a redeemer of England, a role he can only play by creating peace. In pardoning Douglas, Hal shows not only great statesmanship, but also confidence in his own abilities to win Douglas' support in the future.

Sources for Research: