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King Henry IV, Part I

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ACT I SCENE I London. The palace.
KING HENRY IVSo shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils
To be commenced in strands afar remote.
No more the thirsty entrance of this soil5
Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood;
Nor more shall trenching war channel her fields,
Nor bruise her flowerets with the armed hoofs
Of hostile paces: those opposed eyes,
Which, like the meteors of a troubled heaven,10
All of one nature, of one substance bred,
Did lately meet in the intestine shock
And furious close of civil butchery
Shall now, in mutual well-beseeming ranks,
March all one way and be no more opposed15
Against acquaintance, kindred and allies:
The edge of war, like an ill-sheathed knife,
No more shall cut his master. Therefore, friends,
As far as to the sepulchre of Christ,
Whose soldier now, under whose blessed cross20
We are impressed and engaged to fight,
Forthwith a power of English shall we levy;
Whose arms were moulded in their mothers' womb
To chase these pagans in those holy fields
Over whose acres walk'd those blessed feet25
Which fourteen hundred years ago were nail'd
For our advantage on the bitter cross.
But this our purpose now is twelve month old,
And bootless 'tis to tell you we will go:
Therefore we meet not now. Then let me hear30
Of you, my gentle cousin Westmoreland,
What yesternight our council did decree
In forwarding this dear expedience.
WESTMORELANDMy liege, this haste was hot in question,
And many limits of the charge set down35
But yesternight: when all athwart there came
A post from Wales loaden with heavy news;
Whose worst was, that the noble Mortimer,
Leading the men of Herefordshire to fight
Against the irregular and wild Glendower,40
Was by the rude hands of that Welshman taken,
A thousand of his people butchered;
Upon whose dead corpse there was such misuse,
Such beastly shameless transformation,
By those Welshwomen done as may not be45
Without much shame retold or spoken of.
KING HENRY IVIt seems then that the tidings of this broil
Brake off our business for the Holy Land.
WESTMORELANDThis match'd with other did, my gracious lord;
For more uneven and unwelcome news50
Came from the north and thus it did import:
On Holy-rood day, the gallant Hotspur there,

Young Harry Percy and brave Archibald,
That ever-valiant and approved Scot,
At Holmedon met,55
Where they did spend a sad and bloody hour,
As by discharge of their artillery,
And shape of likelihood, the news was told;
For he that brought them, in the very heat
And pride of their contention did take horse,60
Uncertain of the issue any way.
KING HENRY IVHere is a dear, a true industrious friend,
Sir Walter Blunt, new lighted from his horse.
Stain'd with the variation of each soil
Betwixt that Holmedon and this seat of ours;65
And he hath brought us smooth and welcome news.
The Earl of Douglas is discomfited:
Ten thousand bold Scots, two and twenty knights,
Balk'd in their own blood did Sir Walter see
On Holmedon's plains. Of prisoners, Hotspur took70
Mordake the Earl of Fife, and eldest son
To beaten Douglas; and the Earl of Athol,
Of Murray, Angus, and Menteith:
And is not this an honourable spoil?
A gallant prize? ha, cousin, is it not?75
It is a conquest for a prince to boast of.
KING HENRY IVYea, there thou makest me sad and makest me sin
In envy that my Lord Northumberland
Should be the father to so blest a son,80
A son who is the theme of honour's tongue;
Amongst a grove, the very straightest plant;
Who is sweet Fortune's minion and her pride:
Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him,
See riot and dishonour stain the brow85
Of my young Harry. O that it could be proved
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged
In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,
And call'd mine Percy, his Plantagenet!
Then would I have his Harry, and he mine.90
But let him from my thoughts. What think you, coz,
Of this young Percy's pride? the prisoners,
Which he in this adventure hath surprised,
To his own use he keeps; and sends me word,
I shall have none but Mordake Earl of Fife.95
WESTMORELANDThis is his uncle's teaching; this is Worcester,
Malevolent to you in all aspects;
Which makes him prune himself, and bristle up
The crest of youth against your dignity.
KING HENRY IVBut I have sent for him to answer this;100
And for this cause awhile we must neglect
Our holy purpose to Jerusalem.
Cousin, on Wednesday next our council we
Will hold at Windsor; so inform the lords:
But come yourself with speed to us again;105
=TOP>For more is to be said and to be done
Than out of anger can be uttered.
WESTMORELANDI will, my liege.

Continue to Henry IV, Part I, Act 1, Scene 2

The play opens one year after the death of Richard II, and King Henry is making plans for a crusade to the Holy Land to cleanse himself of the guilt he feels over the usurpation of Richard's crown. But the crusade must be postponed when Henry learns that Welsh rebels, led by Owen Glendower, have defeated and captured Mortimer. Although the brave Henry Percy, nicknamed Hotspur, has quashed much of the uprising, there is still much trouble in Scotland. King Henry has a deep admiration for Hotspur and he longs for his own son, Prince Hal, to display some of Hotspur's noble qualities. Hal is more comfortable in a tavern than on the battlefield, and he spends his days carousing with riff-raff in London. But King Henry also has his problems with the headstrong Hotspur, who refuses to turn over his prisoners to the state as he has been so ordered. Westmoreland tells King Henry that Hotspur has many of the traits of his uncle, Thomas Percy, the Earl of Worcester, and defying authority runs in the family.


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 1
From Henry IV, Part I. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark and Maynard.
(Line numbers have been altered.)

3. New, other than those civil broils which had disturbed the beginning of Henry's reign.

5. Entrance, mouth. "The earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood." Gen. 4:11.

13. Close, grapple.

19. As far as, with destination as far as.

20. Now, we are now.

26. Fourteen hundred. Henry IV ascended the throne at the close of the fourteenth century.

30. Therefore, for that purpose; viz., to tell you that we mean to go.

31. My gentle cousin Westmoreland. Ralph Nevill, created Earl of Westmoreland by Richard II in 1397, had joined Bolingbroke's standard. Cousin (Lat. cum, together, and sobrinus from soror, sister) is the name of the child of a mother's sister. Its meaning was extended as here. Gentle means of gentle birth and breeding.

33. Dear expedience, important expedition.

34. Hot in question, a subject of eager discussion.

35. Limits, distinct specifications. So in Macbeth, ii. 2, "It is my limited service," my specified, appointed, or prescribed duty.

36. Athwart, perversely.

38. Mortimer. The Sir Edmund Mortimer of this play was brother of Henry Hotspur's wife, but not really Earl of March as Shakespeare, following Holinshed, has supposed. He was uncle to Edmund Mortimer fifth Earl of March, who, at this time only ten years old, was the rightful heir to the crown, but was in the custody of the king at Windsor.

40. Glendower. Owen Glendower, the great Welsh chieftain, had been an 'esquire of the body' to Richard II, and was strongly attached to that monarch. The Sir Edmund Mortimer of this play married Owen's daughter.

43. Corpse. for corpses. The same plural occurs in 2 Henry IV, i. 1.

50. Uneven, untoward.

52. Holy-rood day. Holy-rood or Holy-cross day is September 14. The battle of Holmedon (now Hambleton) Northumberland, was in 1402.

53. Young Harry Percy. So called because his father the Earl of Northumberland was also Henry Percy. Shakespeare, in this play, erroneously supposes that young Harry and Prince Hal were of the same age. Hotspur was at this time as old as the king himself, upwards of thirty-five.

59. Them, the news; here referred to by a plural pronoun, though we have news was in the preceding line. In modern usage the singular is preferred.

64. Stain'd with the variation of each soil, spattered with the mud through which he had ridden in such haste.

69. Balk'd, piled together in ridges. A balk, or baulk, is a ridge between two furrows.

71. Mordake, or Murdoch, was eldest son, not of Douglas, but of Robert, Duke of Albany, regent of Scotland. The poet was misled by the omission of a comma in Holinshed.

83. Minion, a favorite.

94. To his own use, to have ransom for them or to discharge them at his own discretion. Percy had a right to act thus, by the acknowledged law of arms. He was bound to give up to the king the Earl of Fife, who was a prince of the royal blood, his father being brother to King Robert III.

96. Worcester. Thomas Percy , Earl of Worcester, brother of the Earl of Northumberland.

How to cite the introduction:

Mabillard, Amanda. Introduction to King Henry IV, Part 1 (1.1). Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. King Henry IV, Part 1. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark and Maynard, 1885. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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