Henry IV Part 2

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Sickness Symbol Analysis

Sickness Symbol Icon
In Henry IV Part 2, sickness touches every character as the play uses the imagery and vocabulary of diseased bodies to symbolize diseased spirits. Thus, as King Henry IV’s body falls prey to mortal sickness, he constantly refers to his pained soul, both of which reflect the ailing spirit of England, war-torn and traitorous. “My poor kingdom,” he laments on his deathbed, “sick with civil blows!” The Archbishop of York, too, describes the English people as “all diseased” victims of “a burning fever…of which disease our late King Richard, being infected, died.” He compares the population to a sick dog who disgustingly eats its own vomit. Throughout, other characters’ myriad ailments—Falstaff’s venereal disease, Bullcalf’s cold—constantly remind the reader of illness eating away at the nation all around them.

Sickness Quotes in Henry IV Part 2

The Henry IV Part 2 quotes below all refer to the symbol of Sickness. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Henry IV Part 2 published in 2006.
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.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Henry IV Part 2 quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
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 3, Scene 1 Quotes

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.

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.

Get the entire Henry IV Part 2 LitChart as a printable PDF.
Henry iv part 2.pdf.medium

Sickness Symbol Timeline in Henry IV Part 2

The timeline below shows where the symbol Sickness appears in Henry IV Part 2. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Induction
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
The Right to the Throne Theme Icon
...that he’s rumored this false news throughout the land, reaching Northumberland (Hotspur’s father) who is “crafty-sick.” “Rumor’s tongues,” Rumor concludes, “bring smooth comforts false, worse than true wrongs.” (full context)
Act 1, Scene 1
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
...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.” He seethes that his “limbs, weakened... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Disease Theme Icon
...was healthy, but that the man who produced the urine must be infested with myriad diseases. (full context)
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
...to be concerned about the Chief Justice’s health, saying he'd heard the Chief Justice was sick. Continuing to try to distract the Chief Justice, Falstaff says he’s heard Prince Hal has... (full context)
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
...summoned him in the past and isn’t listening now (Falstaff concedes that he has the disease of not listening, then continues to ramble on). The Chief Justice reminds Falstaff that he... (full context)
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
...greed like youth comes with lechery, thus the old suffer from gout just as venereal diseases plague the young. He asks his page how much money he has and, hearing he... (full context)
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
Warfare Theme Icon
...pain in his toe, which must be caused either by his gout or his venereal disease. It’s a good thing, he reflects, that he’s been to war, as he can claim... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Disease Theme Icon
The Right to the Throne Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
The Archbishop determines that they should launch their rebellion. The English people, he says, are “sick of” King Henry IV. He then goes on to lambast the English for being a... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
The Right to the Throne Theme Icon
...Poins. When Poins chides Hal for chattering on so light-heartedly while King Henry IV lies sick, Hal replies that it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to air his grief while hanging... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Disease Theme Icon
...Quickly, and Falstaff enter completely drunk and Falstaff makes fun of the women for being diseased prostitutes while the women make fun of Falstaff for being fat and a thief. Pistol... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Disease Theme Icon
...them if they “perceive the body of our kingdom how foul it is, what rank diseases grow and with what danger near the heart of it.” Warwick tries to comfort him... (full context)
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
Warfare Theme Icon
...Warwick begs him to get some rest, since his insomniac hours are only making his sick body sicker. The king agrees to go to bed, taking comfort in the idea of... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Warfare Theme Icon
...contrive an excuse about why he can’t serve in the army. Bullcalf claims to be “diseased,” having caught a cold while celebrating the king’s coronation. Falstaff enlists them all, making fun... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
The Right to the Throne Theme Icon
Warfare Theme Icon
The Archbishop, replies, “we are all diseased, and with our surfeiting and wanton hours have brought ourselves into a burning fever, and... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Disease Theme Icon
The Right to the Throne Theme Icon
In the palace in London, King Henry IV lies sick in bed. He asks his son Humphrey Duke of Gloucester about Prince Hal and Humphrey... (full context)
Disease Theme Icon
...have been defeated too. King Henry IV wonders “wherefore should these good news make me sick?...I should rejoice now at this happy news” but “am much ill,” and faints. (full context)
Disease Theme Icon
The Right to the Throne Theme Icon
...wild dog shall flesh his tooth on every innocent. O my poor kingdom,” Henry cries, “sick with civil blows!” (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
...servingman.” Falstaff reflects “that either wise bearing or ignorant carriage is caught, as men take diseases, one of another. Therefore let men take heed of their company.” He thinks happily of... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
The Right to the Throne Theme Icon
...England are at my commandment.” He hurries to leave, sure that “the young King is sick for me.” (full context)