Riding back to the rebel camp, Worcester tells Vernon that he’s not going to deliver King Henry’s message honestly because he doesn’t believe that King Henry would really pardon the rebels as he says he will. Worcester thinks that, if they accept the king’s peace offering, King Henry would forever after remain suspicious of the rebels as “interpretation will misquote our looks.” Because Hotspur is just a hot-headed youth, his father Northumberland and Worcester himself would end up paying for his offenses, a risk Worcester doesn’t want to take. Vernon says he’ll go along with whatever version of King Henry’s message Worcester delivers to Hotspur.
A crucial turning point in the play that intertwines the themes of language and warfare. Worcester’s decision to change King Henry’s language and misrepresent his message makes the Battle of Shrewsbury inevitable. Had he been true to King Henry’s words, the violence might have been avoided.
Hotspur and Douglas enter with officers and soldiers and Worcester tells Hotspur that, despite his own attempts at peace-making, King Henry mercilessly summons the rebels to immediate battle. Worcester also recounts Prince Hal’s invitation to Hotspur to fight one-on-one and describes Hal as a sweet, modest, self-deprecating young man in awe of Hotspur’s praiseworthy honor. Hotspur accuses Worcester of being wrongly enamored with Hal, who is not sweet at all but wild and foolish.
Not only does Worcester misquote King Henry, he also uses his own language to spin the truth about Prince Hal in a way he knows will be particularly riling to Hotspur.
Hotspur calls his troops to arms, telling them to put themselves in the mood for battle since he lacks “the gift of tongue” to “lift your blood up with persuasion.” A messenger enters with letters for Hotspur but Hotspur pushes them away, saying he’s in too much of a rush to waste time reading. When another messenger enters to announce that King Henry has charged, Hotspur says he’s glad to be interrupted since “I profess not talking.” He draws his sword, excited to win glory or die an honorable death. All exit.
Hotspur has time for neither spoken nor written language and expects his men to charge into battle spurred by the same bloodthirstiness that drives him.