The struggle for the English crown that drove the action in Henry IV Part 1 continues to power the plot of Henry IV Part 2 as the exhausted King Henry IV keeps on trying to defend his throne against the threatening band of rebels—now lead by the Archbishop of York, Mowbray, and Hastings—plotting to take it away from him. As in Henry IV Part 1, characters endlessly discuss the recent history leading up to Henry IV’s reign. The rebels feel that Henry wrongfully usurped the English throne from King Richard II and are determined to depose Henry to avenge Richard’s blood. Even as King Henry IV strives to maintain his throne, he is wracked by self-doubt and guilt for his past actions, wondering whether he really did act wrongly. “God knows, my son,” he tells Prince Hal, “by what by-paths and indirect crook’d ways I met this crown; and I myself know well how troublesome it sat upon my head.” The unexpectedly silly twist to King Henry IV’s deathbed scene—as Prince Hal assumes that his father is dead and exits the room with the crown so that the king wakes up and grows infuriated, assuming his power-hungry son is eager for him to die—challenges expectations about the throne in another capacity. By depriving the scene of some of its gravity, the play demonstrates that the supposedly solemn, sacred ritual whereby a crown passes from king to prince is in fact just as complex, ego-addled, and human as any father-son relationship.
The struggles surrounding Prince Hal’s royal seat are also carried over from Henry IV Part 1. As in the previous play, Prince Hal has to contend with the public persona he’s built up over years of fooling around with Falstaff and Poins at the tavern. Everyone, including his own father the king, assumes that Hal is just a playboy unfit to take the throne. Indeed, the royal court and advisors are tremendously anxious after King Henry IV dies, assuming that King Henry V will use his new power to play out adolescent revenges. When the new king demonstrates that he has put childish ways behind him and plans to rule by integrity and firm morals, everyone is as shocked as they delighted.
The Right to the Throne ThemeTracker
The Right to the Throne Quotes in Henry IV Part 2
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)
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)
…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)
…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)
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)
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)
…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)
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)
…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)
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)