Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 3
From King Henry the Fourth, second part. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
Stage Direction, the Archbishop. "This prelate, Richard
Le Scrope, was second son of Richard, Lord Scrope of Bolton,
who had been chancellor in the reign of Richard II. ... Nearly all
historians ... have made the mistake, fallen into by the poet, in
calling the archbishop a brother of the Earl of Wiltshire, who
was a Scrope of Masham" ... (French, S. G.): Hastings. "The
person here intended who took part in the archbishop's rebellion
was Sir Ralph Hastings, not 'Lord Hastings.'... Hume, who
calls him "Sir Ralph, says that his life was spared after the dispersion of the confederates; other writers, followed by the
dramatist, state that he was beheaded" ... (id.).
1. known, become acquainted with.
4. lord marshal. The title of Earl Marshal of England was and
still is hereditary in the family of the Duke of Norfolk. This
Lord Mowbray was the eldest son of Thomas Mowbray, Duke of
Norfolk, but on account of his father's attainder by Richard the
Second he never enjoyed the superior title, which however was
restored to his brother who succeeded him in consequence of his
dying without issue.
5. the occasion ... arms, what in 1.1 is called "our cause."
6-9. But gladly ... king, but should be glad to be shown at
greater length how in respect to our means we may expect so far
to improve our position as to be able boldly to meet the mighty
power in arms against us under the king.
10, 1. Our present ... choice, our present muster-roll of troops
which we can put into the field of battle amounts to five and
twenty thousand picked soldiers; file, list, line. Low Lat. fila, a
string of things.
12, 3. And our ... Northumherland, and we have large expectation of reinforcements from the Earl of Northumberland.
17. May hold up head, are capable of offering a confident
resistance; may originally meant 'to be able.'
20. step too far, take a step which we shall be unable to
21. had, should have: by the hand, close at hand, so near that
we can grasp it.
22-4. For in a theme ... admitted, for in a business of so
desperate a nature we cannot afford to trust anything to such
doubtful security as that of conjecture, etc. We must have
certainties not probabilities for a basis: incertain, Shakespeare
uses both this form and "uncertain."
26. It was ... Shrewsbury, this trusting to probabilities was
what caused Hotspur's downfall at Shrewsbury.
27. who lined ... hope, for he fed himself on, fortified his
determination with, mere hopes; cp. Pt. I. ii. 3. 86, "to line his
28. Eating ... supply, feeding upon the unsubstantial fare of
mere promises of succour; cp. Haml. iii. 2. 99, "I eat the air, promise-crammed" (sc. like the chameleon which was believed to
feed upon air).
29. 30. Flattering ... thoughts, vainly buoying himself up with
the idea of what he would do with reinforcements which turned
out to be utterly incommensurate with the lowest of his ambitious designs; for project, cp. M. A. iii. 1. 55, "she cannot
love, Nor take no shape nor project of affection, She is so self-endeared."
31, 2. with great ... madmen, with the extravagant ideas
peculiar to, characteristic of, madmen.
33. winking, closing his eyes to actual facts; blindly.
35. To lay down ... hope, to draw out formal estimates of what
we may hope for; to make, as it were, a budget of our income in
the matter of hope.
36-41. Yes, if this ... them. I have adopted Knight's punctuation of this passage, though without much feeling of certainty
that it is not corrupt. With this punctuation the meaning will be, Yes, it does do harm to lay down these likelihoods if the
circumstances of the war in which we are about to engage - or,
rather I should say, the emergency in which we are actually
placed, the matter being no longer one of consideration but one
in which action has been already taken, - afford no surer prospect
of ripening to success than buds which appear in an unusually
early spring do of maturity; for as in the case of those buds the
danger of their being nipped by frost is greater than the hope of
their developing into fruit, so in our case the danger of being
crushed is greater than the hope of overcoming our enemies.
Most modern editors adopt Malone's conjecture in for if; for
Indeed the principal conjectures are 'Impel,' 'Induc'd,' 'Indued,' .
'End in'; for instant, ' instanc'd,' and 'infant.' For which to
prove fruit, see Abb. § 354.
42. the plot, sc. of ground on which the building is to be
43. the figure, the architect's plan.
45. outweighs ability, is beyond our means.
47. In fewer offices, with fewer rooms for the servants, such as
the kitchens, pantries, butteries, etc. Cp. R. II. i. 2. 69,
"empty lodgings and unfurnish'd walls, Unpeopled offices"; for
or at least, Hanmer reads 'or else,' Capell 'or, at last,' and at
least is of course illogical as it would be a much greater change
of plans to give up building altogether than to modify the size of
49. Which is ... down, the object or plan of which is to, etc.
52. Consent ... foundation, determine upon a sure foundation
after deliberate consultation.
53. know ... estate, ascertain clearly what our means are.
54, 5. How able ... opposite, how far we are in a position to
undertake the work in such a way as shall be adequate to the
difficulties in our path: here the figurative and the literal meanings are blended together, his opposite meaning in the former
that which is opposed to our estate, in the latter 'our opponents'; from our means the pronoun 'we' is to be inferred.
57. Using ... men, trusting to a paper-army only.
59. who, half through, and then, having got half through his
60. his part-created cost, his expensive erection only partly
61. A naked ... clouds, exposed to the downpour of rain from
the clouds which seem to bewail the builder's folly.
62. waste, a subject for destruction.
64. Should he still-born, should come to no happy birth, should
be as futile as a child born dead.
64, 5. and that we ... expectation, and that we cannot look
for a single man beyond what we have already; possess'd rather
than possess as of a matter already settled and done with.
67. to equal with, to meet on equal terms.
68. What ... thousand? i.e. five and twenty thousand strong.
69. To us no more, so far as we are concerned, so far as concerns
the force we have to deal with, that is the whole of his strength.
70, 1. For his divisions ... heads, for owing to the various
quarrels in which he is involved, his forces are cut up into three
71. against the French, "During this rebellion of Northumberland and the Archbishop, a French army of twelve thousand
men landed at Milford Haven, in Wales, for the aid of Owen Glendower" (Steevens). Henry, however, did not meet them
till after the defeat of the rebels.
73. Must take up us, must deal with us, encounter us; cp.
H. V. ii. 4. 72, "Take up the English short": unfirm, insecurely
seated on his throne.
74, 5. his coffers ... emptiness, his coffers ring hollow from
being so empty. Cp. H. V. iv. 4. 70-3, "I did never know so
full a voice issue from so empty a heart; but the saying is true,
'The empty vessel makes the greater sound.'"
76. his several strengths, his divided resources; but in reality
they seem never to have been divided.
78, 9. If he should ... unarm'd, Abbott, § 371, on conditional
sentences, remarks, "Sometimes the consequent is put graphically, in the present merely for vividness."
80. Baying ... heels, following him closely and barking at him;
to bay is a curtailed form of abay, from F. abbayer, to bark at.
81. like, likely.
82. The Duke of Lancaster. Malone points out that this is an
anachronism, Prince John not having been created a duke till the
second year of Henry the Fifth's reign.
84. is substituted, acts as the king's deputy; the substantive
in this sense is frequent in Shakespeare.
85. notice, information.
87. their own choice, sc. Henry.
88. hath surfeited, has gratified itself to excess, and now is
beginning to nauseate that in which it once so delighted.
91. thou fond many, thou foolish multitude; fond is originally
formed, the passive participle of the verb fonnen, to act foolishly;
many, here used as a substantive, as in Cor. iii. 1. 66, "The
mutable, rank-scented many."
92. beat heaven, with the reverberations of their cries; cp.
R. J. iii. 5. 21, "the lark, whose notes do beat The vaulty
94. trimm'd ... desires, decked out in the blessings which you
courted, sc. the accession of Henry to the throne.
96. That thou ... up, are so eager to vomit him up, get rid of
him, that you do not wait to be provoked to the action, but actually provoke yourselves to do so: an allusion to the taking
of emetics in order to stir up the stomach to reject food that is
obnoxious to it.
97. thou common dog, the comparison is to a low-bred hound
that will greedily eat any food; with a play on the word common
in reference to the common people, the commonalty.
98. glutton, gluttonous; cp. V. A. 399, "his glutton eye";
iii. H. VI. ii. 3. 138, "venom toads"; and see Abb. § 22:
bosom, (1) heart in which you once cherished him, (2) stomach.
99. And now thou ... up, and now you would again feast on
that which you have vomited up, your dead king; an allusion
to Proverbs, xxvi. 11, "As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool
returneth to his folly."
100. And howl'st ... it, and utter cries of eager desire to find it.
102. on, of.
103. Thou, that ... head, see R. II. v. 2. 4-6, "At that sad
stop, my lord. Where rude misgovern'd hands from windows'
tops Threw dust and rubbish on King Richard's head."
104, 5. When through ... Bolingbroke, when at the heels of the
admired Bolingbroke he rode in such sad plight through London,
then rejoicing at his downfall.
109. draw our numbers, assemble our forces; cp. K. J. iii. i.
339, "Cousin, go draw our puissance together."
110. We axe ... gone, time bids us move forwards, and we must
obey its commands.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. King Henry IV, second part. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1911. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/2kh4_1_3.html >.