Henry IV Part 2


William Shakespeare

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Henry IV Part 2: Act 1, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
At the Archbishop’s castle at York, the Archbishop is gathered with the other rebels Mowbray, Lord Marshall, Hastings, and Lord Bardolph to discuss their strategy against King Henry IV. They’re still unsure whether Northumberland will send soldiers to strengthen their troops and Mowbray and Lord Bardolph argue that they should ensure they have a strong enough army before they charge into battle (after all, Hotspur got killed and lost the Battle of Shrewsbury because he recklessly launched war without enough soldiers).
The rebels’ discussion presents the strategic, calculating side of warfare that takes place off the battlefield rather than the bloody, dramatic parts of warfare that occur in battle.
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Arguing that they should launch their rebellion despite being uncertain about Northumberland’s support, Hastings points out that King Henry IV’s own troops are pretty weak, since he is also busy fighting in Wales and France and that the recent civil wars have bankrupted him.
The rebels’ discussion continues to present warfare as something more than violent combat: here, war is described as a matter of economics, planning, and coordination.
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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 gluttonous, idiot dog, a “beastly feeder…so full of [Henry IV]” that it vomits the king, just as its “glutton bosom” once vomited King Richard, “and now thou wouldst eat thy dead vomit up.” The past and the future always seem “best,” the Archbishop reflects, and the present, “worst.” All exit to prepare their troops.
The Archbishop’s gruesome description of the English people crucially connects the themes of Disease and the Right to the Throne: in his metaphor, the English people are grossly sick, incapable of making healthy decisions about their leader. The Archbishop’s explanation of people’s dislike for the present is an important insight for the Time theme.
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The Right to the Throne Theme Icon
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