Henry IV Part 1 Act 4, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis
New! Understand every line of Henry IV Part 1.Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Back at the rebel camp near Shrewsbury, Hotspur and Douglas want to charge straight into battle that night, hoping to defeat King Henry’s troops before they are all assembled and prepared. Worcester and Vernon try to talk sense into them, reminding them that their own troops aren’t fully assembled either and that it would be rash to jump into fighting now.
Hotspur and Douglas are kindred spirits when it comes to warfare: both chomp at the bit to start fighting, regardless of how doomed or poorly planned such a start may be.
Sir Walter Blunt enters delivering a message from King Henry: the king, hoping to preserve peace, has invited the rebels to share their grievances and promises to appease them as fairly as possible and to pardon them for their uprising.
Again, King Henry demonstrates his own pacifism: as a king, he hopes to preserve peace in his country and spare his subjects’ bloodshed. He’d rather resolve matters through spoken negotiation than battle.
Hotspur replies that King Henry “knows at what time to promise, when to pay” and launches into a long speech recounting King Henry’s past mistreatment of the Percy family. According to Hotspur, King Henry took advantage of Northumberland in the past to steal King Richard’s throne and has “disgraced” and conspired against Hotspur himself. Thus the Percy family and their allies are committed to deposing King Henry.
Hotspur has no patience for King Henry’s language and declares his promises nothing but empty words. He is obsessed by the Percy family honor and the king’s perceived disrespect and will be satisfied by nothing but bloodshed.
Sir Walter Blunt asks whether he should convey their commitment to King Henry, but Hotspur says not to and tells Blunt that he’ll send his uncle with their reply in the morning. Blunt says he hopes that the rebels will accept the king’s peace offering. All exit.
Showing uncharacteristic restraint, Hotspur manages to reign in his rhetoric and keeps himself from conveying his first rash response to the king.