Henry IV Part 2

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Warfare Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
The Right to the Throne Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Warfare Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Henry IV Part 2, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Warfare Theme Icon

Henry IV Part 1 presented warfare as meaningless bloodshed devoid of grandeur and so too does Henry IV Part 2 present war in an unfavorable light. Yet while Part 1’s extended, gruesome battle scenes illustrated war’s senseless violence, this play focuses on war’s other negative attributes. Henry IV Part 2 doesn’t feature any actual battles, but instead showcases the gross corruption and dishonorable cruelties that war inspires in people.

Falstaff merrily engages in ignoble fraud to profit at the expense of both military and civilian populations, once again taking bribes from recruits and stocking the army with pathetic excuses for soldiers to line his own pockets. The old man also plans to make off with a hefty military pension by pretending that his limp (caused by gout and venereal disease) is the result of battle wounds won in brave combat.

Falstaff may be the play’s clown, but serious characters are just as culpable of ignoble military practice. Lancaster only manages to defeat the rebel forces by resorting to underhanded tactics. He dupes the Archbishop of York, Mowbray, and Hastings into thinking he’s offering peace, then captures them right as they’ve let their guard down. Thus, despite the fact that the rebels are the play’s villains, the Archbishop, Mowbray, and Hastings actually act more honorably in war than Lancaster does.

King Henry IV, too, turns out to be a less than wholly noble warrior. The crusades through the Middle East that he has supposedly wanted to launch in the name of Christianity are, he reveals, motivated by much less high-minded reasons. In his final advice to Prince Hal, the king explains that foreign wars are simply the best way to distract one’s own subjects from rebellion, a perspective uncomfortably willing to sacrifice the lives of foreigners for the sake of one’s own ease at home. Further, the old king admits on his deathbed that his eagerness to attack the Middle East was always rooted in the childish desire to fulfill a personal prophecy. “It hath been prophesied to me many years, 
I should not die but in Jerusalem; which,” he laments, “vainly I suppos'd the Holy Land.”

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Warfare Quotes in Henry IV Part 2

Below you will find the important quotes in Henry IV Part 2 related to the theme of Warfare.
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

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.


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Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

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 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.

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.