Henry IV Part 2

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Henry IV Part 2 published in 2006.
Induction Quotes

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

Related Characters: Rumor (speaker)
Page Number: Ind.6-8
Explanation and Analysis:

In the first lines of the play, Shakespeare sets the tone for a drama about the struggle for truth. Over the course of the play, Henry IV and his son, Hal, will try to control their unruly subjects and prove their own legitimacy. In order to do so, they'll have to control rumors; i.e, the flow of information throughout the kingdom.

In other ways, too, Rumor is an appropriate figure with which to begin the play--like an invocation to the Muse in a Greek epic--because of its intimate connection to language. It's suggested that for one to control the kingdom, one must control the rumors and the language of the kingdom. One's legitimacy as king is only as good as everyone agrees that it is, no matter what the real "truth" may be. And for the time being, Rumor roams free--there's a lot of controversy about Henry IV's legitimacy as a monarch, and Henry IV himself doesn't know what to do about it.


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Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

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-weaken'd 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,

Weaken'd with grief, being now enraged with grief,

Are thrice themselves. (13–22)

Related Characters: Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sickness
Page Number: 1.1.150-159
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Northumberland has just gotten some bad news: the rebel troops have been defeated by Henry IV, and many of his friends and family members have probably been killed. Northumberland tries, desperately, to spin the bad news as good, arguing that bad news will energize him and force him to fight even harder, in much the same way that a poison can sometimes provide a sick man with strength and fortitude. This is just one of many references to sickness and disease in the play--both the literal diseases of the characters, and the overall sickness of a nation filled with rumors, mistrust, and discord.

Northumberland's speech establishes him as something of a rhetorician: he's trying to use verbal cleverness to save face, despite the clear evidence that he's suffered a major defeat. We're reminded of Falstaff, who also uses language to spin humiliations as blessings--the difference being that Falstaff used his language for relatively-peaceful, selfish reasons, whereas Northumberland tries to use language to continue his rebellion.

Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

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! (155-160)

Related Characters: The Lord Chief Justice (speaker), Sir John Falstaff
Related Symbols: Sickness
Page Number: 1.2.181-189
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Falstaff--now an elderly, feeble man--tries to convince the Chief Justice, a local authority, that he's really young and healthy. In a bullying, aggressive tone, the Justice tells Falstaff that he's clearly old, fat, and weak.

It's important to note that the Justice's descriptions of Falstaff's body convey a sense of withering and shriveling up. In the past, Falstaff "inflated" himself with language and rhetoric--and yet his body itself seems to be getting smaller (except for his belly) as it approaches death. There's something heroic about Falstaff's attempts to deny his own weakness: he's like Don Quixote, using imagination (and delusion) to transcend his old age. And yet at the end of the day, Falstaff is delusional: he refuses to accept the cold, hard facts of his time and sickness.

A man
 can no more separate age and covetousness than a'
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. (198-200)

Related Characters: Sir John Falstaff (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sickness
Page Number: 1.2.234-238
Explanation and Analysis:

Falstaff here continues the discussion of his own disease and his decaying body. Falstaff makes the point that he has suffered from every disease because he's lived a long, successful life: as a young man, he was lustful, and therefore he has venereal disease now. As an old man, he's been greedy and gluttonous, resulting in gout. In short, Falstaff's diseases "tell a story"--he's had a rich life, full of sin but also adventure.

Falstaff's monologue shows his attempts to use language and humor to transcend his own weaknesses. Despite the pain he's probably experiencing, Falstaff finds ways to joke about his problems. For all his amoral, selfish nature, these roguish denials and rhetorical tricks make Falstaff remain (usually) a sympathetic character.

Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

The commonwealth is sick of their own choice:
Their over-greedy love hath surfeited…
…Thou, beastly feeder, art so full of [King Henry IV]
That thou provokes 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. (87-98)

Related Characters: The Archbishop of York (speaker), King Henry IV
Related Symbols: Sickness
Page Number: 1.3.91-103
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Archbishop of York, a rebel sympathizer, advises the rebels to begin their attack on Henry IV very soon. The Archbishop argues that the people of England are ready for a new king: everywhere, he can sense that the people are "stuffed" with Henry IV, and are on the verge of vomiting him up.

The Archbishop makes an interesting point when he compares Henry IV to his predecessor, Richard II, whom Henry IV dethroned. In a way, Henry IV is a victim of his own rebellion. By overthrowing Richard, Henry set the precedent for rebelling against the English monarch whenever the people feel "sick" of him--something that would have been nearly inconceivable before Richard's time. Now, Henry IV must suffer the same fate as his predecessor, it would seem: be overthrown by an angry, unruly people.

Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

Prince Hal: 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 Hal: Faith, it does me; though it discolours the 
complexion of my greatness to acknowledge it. Doth 
it not show vilely in me to desire small beer? (1-5)

Related Characters: Prince Hal/King Henry V (speaker), Ned Poins (speaker)
Page Number: 2.2.1-6
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Prince Hal makes a simple admission; he's feeling tired. His associate, Poins, is surprised to hear a prince admit to weakness of any kind, and Hal realizes that Poins has a point. Hal realizes that he needs to do a better job of pretending to be strong and majestic. His days of drinking in taverns are drawing to a close. (Now he only desires "small," or barely-alcoholic, beer.)

Hal's admission in this scene proves that he's smart enough to learn from his mistakes. Hal has been drinking in taverns for years, but now the stakes have changed: in a time of civil unrest, Hal needs to step up his game and be a model of composure and leadership. It's Poins' innocent observation that reinforces this crucial point for the young prince.

Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

Is it not strange that desire should so many years outlive performance? (234)

Related Characters: Ned Poins (speaker)
Page Number: 2.4.265-266
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hal and Poins, up to their old mischief, disguise themselves as waiters and watch as the elderly Falstaff flirts with Doll Tearsheet, his friend. Poins is bemused--Falstaff is obviously attracted to Doll, and yet he's clearly too old to "perform" with her.

The passage is a good example of how Shakespeare sneaks some pretty bawdy jokes into his play--Poins is making a sex-joke, essentially saying that Fastaff is too old to have sex with Doll. But there's also serious side to Poins's observation: Falstaff's reach often exceeds his grasp, and even after his body begins to decay he continues to speak boldly, live a life of pleasure and excess, etc. Falstaff's refusal to play the part of the sick old man could be interpreted as delusional, heroic, or something in between.

Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

…O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude
And, in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot
Deny it to a king? Then, happy low, lie down.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. (26-31)

Related Characters: King Henry IV (speaker)
Page Number: 3.1.26-31
Explanation and Analysis:

In this famous speech, Henry IV finds himself unable to enjoy his life as a king. He has unlimited power over his subjects, and yet he lives in constant fear of being deposed by a jealous rival. Henry IV concludes that being a king isn't much of a gift at all--while he's wide awake late at night, even the lowliest commoners in England get to enjoy their sleep.

Henry IV's speech is interesting in that it echoes a speech given by Richard II in Shakespeare's earlier play. Previously, Henry was a rebel, overthrowing Richard--now he's come to the same fate as Richard: he must spend the rest of his life anxiously defending his position. One important aspect of this is that Henry can't enjoy the "game" of politics--he considers it an heavy duty to have to defend his throne from enemies. In this respect, Henry IV will differ greatly from his son, Henry V, who savors every political battle he fights.

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. (38-40)

Related Characters: King Henry IV (speaker)
Related Symbols: Sickness
Page Number: 3.1.38-40
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Henry IV approaches his loyal followers, Warwick and Surrey, and tells them that England has become "diseased." England, Henry suggests, has a great "cancer"--a mass of rebels that is rapidly growing, sapping the country of life.

Henry's speech has another implication as well. In some ways, Henry himself is to blame for England's present "disease." By overthrowing Richard II, Henry has set a dangerous precedent for rebellion and insubordination--by sloppily overthrowing the king and failing to control his own people, Henry IV has brought about his own misery, and contributed to the country's sickness. It's up to Prince Hal to restore the kingdom's health.

Rumour doth double, like the voice and echo,
The numbers of the fear’d...
…Upon my soul, my lord,
The powers that you already have sent forth
Shall bring this prize in very easily. (99-103)

Related Characters: Earl of Warwick (speaker), King Henry IV, Rumor
Page Number: 3.1.100-104
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Earl of Warwick tries to pacify his monarch by telling Henry IV that he will be able to maintain his crown. Henry IV has assembled a powerful force, which will be able to defeat whatever rebels are left very easily. Note that Warwick alludes to the power of Rumor (reflecting the Prologue to the play): instead of controlling the public's perception of him, Henry IV has allowed himself to be controlled by public rumors about the size and scope of the rebellion.

In all, Warwick's monologue exposes some of the weaknesses in Henry IV's monarchy. Most basically of all, though, the very fact that Warwick has to comfort Henry shows how weak Henry has become. Instead of acting as a model of composure and confidence, Henry has exposed his fears to his closest advisers, allowing more rumors to "trickle down" to the public.

Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

Lord, Lord, how subject we old men are to this vice of lying! (263)

Related Characters: Sir John Falstaff (speaker), Justice Shallow, Justice Silence
Page Number: 3.2.313-314
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Falstaff criticizes two old friends of his, Shallow and Silence, for lying about their pasts. While Shallow and Silence claimed to have once been passionate lovers and great adventurers, Falstaff knows better--back in the day, they were just shy, boring people. Falstaff bemoans old men's tendency to lie about their own experiences, exaggerating and distorting the truth to make themselves appear better than they really are.

It's important to keep in mind that Falstaff himself is the biggest liar of all: we've seen him claim to have defeated an entire army of men all by himself. (In other words, it takes a liar to spot a liar.) Falstaff seems to remain blissfully unaware of his own deceptions--he's lying to himself, as well as to other people.

Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

…we are all diseased,
And with our surfeiting and wanton hours
Have brought ourselves into a burning fever,
And we must bleed for it; of which disease
Our late king, Richard, being infected, died.
But, my most noble Lord of Westmoreland,
I take not on me here as a physician,
Nor do I as an enemy to peace
Troop in the throngs of military men;
But rather show awhile like fearful war,
To diet rank minds sick of happiness,
And purge the obstructions which begin to stop
Our very veins of life. (54-66)

Related Characters: The Archbishop of York (speaker), Earl of Westmoreland
Related Symbols: Sickness
Page Number: 4.1.57-69
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Archbishop of York shows himself to be a cunning rhetorician and a great manipulator of other people. York has been asked why he has allowed himself to become involved with a "base insurrection" against Henry IV. York phrases his answer in scientific, medical terms: he says that England as a whole is diseased, and needs to be dispassionately "bled" (a reference to the common medical practice of removing "excess" blood from the sick). In short, York argues that Henry IV's reign is bad for England, and York himself is just a conservative, returning society to its old ways.

Even though it's pretty obvious that York is a radical for rebelling against the king, York skillfully presents himself as the guardian of the "old order." Much like Falstaff and Hal, York is able to "spin" any question to his advantage.

Construe the times to their necessities,
And you shall say indeed, it is the time,
And not the king, that doth you injuries. (105-107)

Related Characters: Earl of Westmoreland (speaker), King Henry IV
Page Number: 4.1.109-111
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the Earl of Westmoreland argues with Lord Mowbray over whether or not a rebellion against Henry IV is really necessary. Westmoreland argues that Mowbray is just eager to fight--he has no real problem with Henry IV, at least not a problem that needs to be settled with outright war.

Westmorland's emphasis on "the times" suggests that Mowbray doesn't have a just reason for rebelling against Henri IV at all--he just thinks he can spin the situation to his advantage and gain some land and wealth for himself. Mowbray, Westmoreland argues, is an opportunist pretending to be a moralist.

I pawned thee none:
I promised you redress of these same grievances
Whereof you did complain; which, by mine honour,
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. (342-346)

Related Characters: Prince John of Lancaster (speaker), The Archbishop of York, Mowbray, Hastings
Page Number: 4.1.369-374
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we're introduced to Prince John of Lancaster as he interacts with the rebels York, Mowbray, and Hastings. Lancaster tricks the rebels into meeting with him as friends--then, when the rebels are all assembled, John breaks his word and has them arrested. Appalled, the rebels ask Lancaster how he could be so dishonest to them. Lancaster simply replies that the rebels are already being dishonest, and opposing God's will--therefore, Lancaster has a duty to bring the rebels to justice by any means necessary.

Ironically, then, Lancaster comes across as the corrupt, dishonest one in this scene, whereas the rebels, in spite of their opposition to Henry IV, come off as morally indignant: they can't believe that Lancaster would go for such a "dirty trick." At the same time, this act of dishonesty potentially saves thousands of lives (the nameless soldiers who would have died had civil war broken out again), so it arguably is a more moral action on the Prince's part than obeying the traditional rules of honor.

Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

…Lo, where it sits,
Which God shall guard; and put the whole world’s 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. (43-47)

Related Characters: Prince Hal/King Henry V (speaker), King Henry IV
Page Number: 4.3.189-195
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Prince Hal thinks he becomes the rightful king of England by accepting the crown from his father, the dying Henry IV. (He assumes that his father has just died, but really Henry IV is just asleep.) As Hal puts the crown on his head, he muses on the role of the king, and decides to take up the duty of his new role. Hal will guard his monarchy with skill and cleverness, and one day he'll pass on the crown to his own child, just as Henry IV has passed it on to him.

While this is part of a somewhat comic, ridiculous turn of events, it's important to notice what Prince Hal is doing in his premature acceptance speech: he's creating a legacy out of nothing. Henry IV's claim to the throne of England was constantly being disputed during his lifetime: he had to fight off rivals almost constantly. But now that Henry IV is (presumably) dead, Hal resolves to create what Henry IV himself never had: a stable royal lineage. Even if Henry IV's claim to the monarchy was disputed, Hal's claim is stronger, simply because his father was the king (whether justly or not). By the same token, Hal knows that his own son's claim to the throne will be even stronger than his own, since at that point the family's claim to the throne will occupy three separate generations. In short, Hal recognizes the importance of lineage in defending his right to rule.

Thou hast stol'n that which after some few hours
Were thine without offense, and at my death
Thou hast seal'd up my expectation. (101-103)

Related Characters: King Henry IV (speaker), Prince Hal/King Henry V
Page Number: 4.3.255-257
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hal--who has just taken the crown from his father, whom he assumed was dead--learns that his father is still very much alive, and has been listening to everything Hal just said. Hal has made a long speech about power and control, without ever expressing much affection for his father. Henry IV is appalled that Hal could be so insensitive to his own family, and scolds Hal for "stealing" the crown when he could have waited a couple hours to get it legitimately. Henry IV's worst fears are confirmed: Hal really is a greedy, irresponsible brat.

It's been suggested that even up to this point in the play, Hal was an irresponsible brat, just as Henry IV says. It's not until this moment that Hal sees the light: Hal finally begins to recognize the gravity of his challenge as a monarch. He must defend the throne from civil war, honoring his father's memory. (There are also critics who've argued that Hal is leagues ahead of Henry IV, and already has a sophisticated plan for maintaining his power.)

Shakespeare also uses this rather silly scene to undercut the solemnity of kingship and the passing of the crown. While a dying king passing his rule to his son should be a serious, grand affair, here it's marred by this embarrassing mix-up. Thus the play shows that even among monarchs, family relations and human misunderstandings are just as messy and sometimes ridiculous as with everyone else.

Be it thy course to busy giddy minds
With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out,
May waste the memory of the former days. (344-346)

Related Characters: King Henry IV (speaker), Prince Hal/King Henry V
Page Number: 4.3.372-375
Explanation and Analysis:

In this prophetic passage, Henry IV gives Hal some good but disturbing advice: the best way to avoid being unrest at home is to focus on trouble abroad. By focusing the people's minds on some external threat or foreign war, Henry IV argues, Hal will be able to solidify his claim to the throne of England.

Henry IV's dying advice shows what he himself always intended to do--indeed, at the start of Henry IV Part 1, Henry was planning to go to the Middle East and fight in the Crusades, but then he was interrupted by strife at home. Even if Henry IV was never able to follow his own advice, here he at least passes it on to his son. And as we'll see in Henry V, the "sequel" to Shakespeare's play, Henry V will take his father's advice to heart, first engaging England in a serious of religious crusades and then orchestrating a complicated war with France, solidifying his claim to being the "best man for the job" of king.

The advice Henry IV delivers is itself rather disturbing, however. It assumes that foreign lives (particularly those of "heathens," or the Arab targets of the Crusades) are worthless compared to English lives, and callously suggests that maintaining one's power is worth huge amounts of bloodshed. It also relies on the demonization of an "other" in order to promote unity--a tactic of dictators and demagogues everywhere.

Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

...what I did in honor,
Led by th’impartial conduct of my soul;
And never shall you see that I will beg
A ragged and forestalled remission.
If truth and upright innocency fail me,
I’ll to the King my master that is dead. (35-40)

Related Characters: The Lord Chief Justice (speaker), King Henry IV
Page Number: 5.2.36-42
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Chief Justice mourns the ascent of Prince Hal to the throne of England. Prince Hal has always seemed to despise the Chief Justice, and now that Hal is King Henry V, the Chief Justice is sure that his life will be hellish. The Justice prepares to face Henry V and awaits his punishment for his past of constantly scolding Hal's wild ways.

The Justice's behavior suggests that he still thinks of Henry V as an irresponsible and vindictive person--someone who lets his grudges dictate his political behavior. As we'll see very soon, though, the Justice underestimates Prince Hal. As Henry V, Hal will exercise mercy and justice on all his subjects. Furthermore, it's revealed that he has actually valued the Chief Justice's past criticisms of himself, and so he rewards the Chief Justice rather than punishing him.

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.” (106-111)

Related Characters: Prince Hal/King Henry V (speaker), King Henry IV, The Lord Chief Justice
Page Number: 5.2.108-113
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, King Henry V surprises everyone by praising the Chief Justice--the very man who frequently punished Henry when Henry was only the prince, not the king. The Justice claims that he was only honoring the rules of law when he punished Henry. Henry is very impressed with the Justice's explanation, and plans to reward the Justice with a powerful position in court.

Why doesn't Henry enact revenge on the Chief Justice? One reason is that he's still playing his part, drawing out the surprise of how responsible and impartial he has suddenly become. Another is that the Chief Justice represents the force of law. Henry V doesn't need any domestic disturbances right now--his position as the king of England is so unstable that he could be overthrown at any time. In order to cement his status as the rightful king of England, Henry makes it known that he is a just monarch and an agent of law and order. In this way, Henry encourages his subjects to think of him as the most "natural" and legitimate king possible: to be against Henry is to be against law itself.

…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. (122-129)

Related Characters: Prince Hal/King Henry V (speaker), King Henry IV
Page Number: 5.2.123-130
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Henry V skillfully convinces his subjects to accept his authority as the new king. Henry acknowledges that as a young man he was irresponsible and drunken. But now, Henry insists, he's "buried" his wild oats, along with the body of his own father,  Henry IV.

Henry's speech is a skillful piece of rhetoric, because it simultaneously distances him from his father and reinforces his status as the rightful heir to his father's throne. By associating his old behavior with Henry IV (i.e., the image of "burying"), Henry makes it clear that he's a different man than his father--and therefore the people who hated Henry IV shouldn't automatically hate him. And Henry's speech also confirms that he has had a plan all along: just as he claimed in Part I of the play, Henry was being irresponsible as a young man because he wanted to be able to surprise people with the sudden reversal in his behavior. In short, Henry V begins his reign by establishing himself as a just, legitimate, and unique monarch--and the fact that he establishes all this with one speech proves that he's a master politician as well.

Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

I know thee not, old man: fall to thy prayers;

How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!

I have long dream'd of such a kind of man,

So surfeit-swell'd, 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. (43-52)

Related Characters: Prince Hal/King Henry V (speaker), Sir John Falstaff
Page Number: 5.5.47-55
Explanation and Analysis:

In this most famous scene in the play, Henry V crosses paths with his old friend, Falstaff, whom he used to love getting drunk with, playing tricks on, and talking to. Now that Henry V is a powerful king, he can't risk being seen with his old friend, and here Henry is trying to send the message that he's a just, reasonable monarch; i.e., not the kind of person who would hang out with an old alcoholic like Falstaff, or give favors to his incompetent friends. And so Henry cruelly ignores and insults Falstaff, claiming not to know his old friend at all, but only to have "dreamed" of him once.

Henry V's behavior is both the right move and an incredibly cruel act. Falstaff, for all his faults, was the most lovable (and, traditionally, the most popular) character in the play. So when Henry ignores Falstaff, we can't help but think that he's sold a part of his soul in exchange for the crown. We miss the "old Henry"--the fun-loving teenager who used to get into mischief with Falstaff every night. Henry has gained the throne, and is acting as a just monarch who won't dole out unfair favors to his friends (like Falstaff was expecting), but in the process he's lost something crucial and human.

No matches.