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Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2

Henry IV, Part One and Henry IV, Part Two, framed within the Lancastrian tetralogy by Richard II and Henry V, form the heart of Shakespeare's second history sequence. While the two parts of Henry IV treat the time period spanned by the reign of King Henry IV, the significance of the king himself tends to be overshadowed by the other characters in the play, notably the king's son, Prince Hal, the prince's dissolute friend, Sir John Falstaff, and the headstrong rebel, Hotspur. In fact, many critics past and present have held that the "education" of the prince is the primary focus of the two plays. Hal's relationship with and subsequent rejection of Falstaff has also been an issue treated unrelentingly by critics over the years.

Some modern critics have used such commonly studied issues as a means of exploring other aspects of the plays. James Black (1990) has examined the comedic discourse in the plays—that of Hal and Falstaff—to illuminate such themes as time and deferment in the plays. Similarly, critics such as Joan Webber (1963) and Wayne Rebhorn (1995) have examined the rhetoric of King Henry and Prince Hal in order to further investigate the nature of kingship and the relationship between father and son. Additionally, many twentieth-century scholars have focussed their studies on the concept and treatment of history in the plays. David Bergeron (1991) has analyzed the way in which the character of Falstaff is used by Shakespeare to discusses the problem of establishing accurate history. Catherine Belsey (1991) has maintained that the plays may indeed be understood as history, despite the prevalent notion that they should only be regarded as art. Additionally David Scott Kastan (1991) has interpreted the historical content of the plays as reflective of the political scene in Elizabethan England.

One of the most salient issues pervading modern criticism of the plays is the nature of kingship and Shakespeare's views on the subject. As Sherman Hawkins (1975) summarizes, criticism of the history plays has "been dominated by what E. M. W. Tillyard called the 'Tudor myth'." (Essentially, the Tudor myth is a view of history designed to legitimate the rule of Tudor monarchs, including Queen Elizabeth, who feared political instability following the Wars of the Roses—the conflict between the houses of Lancaster and York. Tenets of this view include the ideas that rebellion against a legitimate ruler is never justified and that usurpers and their heirs will be punished.) Hawkins argues that while Tillyard appears to favor lineal descent and the Yorkists, other critics, such as Irving Ribner point out that even though Shakespeare offers no approval of the usurpation of Richard II, the playwright does celebrate the Lancastrian kings that rule England following Richard's deposition. Hawkins views this debate as a struggle among critics to prove that either virtue or lineal descent was considered by Shakespeare to be the determining factor of kingship in the history plays.

Although critics such as James Calderwood (1979) and Barbara Baines (1980) discuss aspects of kingship other than the issue of whether virtue or lineage determines the right to rule, it appears as if they nevertheless take a stand on one side of the issue or the other. Calderwood examines Shakespeare's use of metaphor to discuss kingship, and in his conclusion on the matter, states that Shakespeare emphasizes the significance of lineal descent through the words and actions of Prince Hal. Baines, on the other hand, in her study of Shakespeare's portrayal of Bolingbroke, maintains that the playwright's depiction of the king is a sympathetic one, and that Henry teaches...

(This entire section contains 694 words.)

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his son that kingship must be earned, not simply inherited.

While not every critical discussion of kingship can be distilled down to a battle between virtue and lineage (John Bromley [1971], for example, analyzes the changing nature of Henry as a public and political man without discussing the right to rule), the issue remains a vital one to students and scholars of Shakespeare's history plays. Hawkins cautions, however, that an examination of Shakespeare's histories underscores that while the playwright appears to stress virtue over lineal succession in the Henry IV plays, Shakespeare nevertheless seems to value both "blood and virtue" in a ruler.


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Theodore Weiss (essay date 1971)

SOURCE: "Now of All Humours: Henry VI, Parts I and II," in The Breath of Clowns and Kings: Shakespeare's Early Comedies and Histories, Atheneum, 1971, pp. 260-97.

[In the following essay, Weiss offers an overview of the major characters and themes of the two parts of Henry IV, maintaining that through the character of Prince Hal, Shakespeare constructs a play that is as accomplished as a comedy as it is a history.]

Richard II, my reading of it has proposed, is Shakespeare's most thoroughgoing study of the absorption in words and of the perils such absorption invites. On the other hand, Henry IV, written probably some years after Richard II but directly following it in historical time, constitutes the triumph of words properly understood, of words immediately, felicitously conjoined with—a very part of—action. From Richard II by way of Bolingbroke to Hal this circle is completed. Richard II is, through Richard's doting on words, a forced unity and simplicity. Eschewing subplot and the aeration of comic comment, it establishes a community of expression that, out of rigorous insularity and growing remoteness from reality, must collapse. Henry IV, to the contrary, is as free a play, as expansive, complex, and buoyantly inclusive, as any Shakespeare ever wrote. Here he gives his time, now of all humours, full voice. In Richard II, celebrating the climax and death of English Medievalism, Shakespeare, like Richard himself, compressed his powers in one splendid if narrow channel. But moving from that almost unaccompanied solo to the full-bodied symphony of Henry IV, Shakespeare celebrates the 'modern' Renaissance, the Elizabethan spirit at its most bounteous and exuberant. In Henry IV the whole man, exemplified by gallants like Raleigh and Sidney, lives his multiple life; in Hal that life is being lived, as in the play's vast range all of Elizabethan England seems to be living.

Thus one feels called upon to say that nothing in Henry IV is inert or unrealized. Rather, everything leaps to instant, teeming life. Like this moment of England itself, Shakespeare's medium is assured enough to encourage his characters and their actions to be genius-like themselves. There is, consequently, something in the individual personae and in their engagements of the rhythm of the dance, movement altogether itself. But of course it is modern dance one thinks of, not a court dance. The movement of earlier plays in their stately, artificial symmetry contrasts sharply with the naturalness, the crackling immediacy, of Henry IV's development. In fact, so crammed and bustling is the play in its use of a language adaptive to all occasions—those of the court, the tavern, the street, the battlefield, lovers—each occasion seemingly wrapped up in its own skin and breath, that not until quite recently have critics been able to see it for the amazing whole it is. The richness, the brio, of Henry IV has been ascribed to its nationalistic and patriotic, not to say epical, concerns. Certainly, the play most cogently testifies, this is a young nation breaking loose, joyous in the mere rehearsal of its newly released powers. The work's greatness resides in its very impurity, its gallimaufry-like nature, its bursting of normal bounds.

And critics have gradually become apprised of this freedom, but no less of the extraordinary form responsible for this freedom. Thus so much in modern criticism has been made of the play's multiple structure, of the way in which scenes, one after another, collaborate and comment on each other, a balancing so daring that one scene seems to be, not merely the counterpart of the other, but its subplot, that little more need be said about it here. But the critical vehemence produced by the tavern scenes and their master, Falstaff, must be dealt with. This vehemence has continued for some centuries. Ironically enough, however, perhaps even more than with Shylock, it has been almost equally spent on opposite positions: on the one hand, those who consider Falstaff not only the play's central figure but heroic and, for the abuse he sustains at the end of Part II, tragic as well; on the other, those who excoriate him as a ruffian, a vice, a Satan, to say the least a seducer of the young. But a creation of such magnitude and, simultaneously, of such intimately existential impact yields to no single view, no summary or generalizing. When we try to talk about him apart from his play we are bound to reduce him and so lose him. Whatever his moral worth, he rises, at least until Part II, fat singing dolphin that he is, above the element he lives in; and brimming it to flooding, he intoxicates us with that vintage sack. The intoxicating sack that his wit alone can make of it. Once a lord, he is now the chief lord of delight in a wakening in some sort the reverse of Sly's; he too enjoys a gallery of lusty pictures—impromptus and tableaux—but usually of his own devising. So, generation after generation, because of the sacred, earthy life in him, we, according to the bias of our own temperaments, passionately join or passionately disavow his company. Capable of every eventuality, he enables us to reflect another—maybe, if we are lucky and lively ourselves, even a new—iridescent side of his cornucopious nature. And therefore of our own. If he can animate creatures like Shallow and Slender it is not excessive to expect him to do the same for us.

Much like the contrary views of him is the extreme to which many modern critics have been led by their admiration for the Falstaff scenes. Considering him betrayed, they take his remarks and scenes to be, not only a puncturing of courtly hypocrisy parading as patriotism, but the play's essential meaning. For modern men with their belief mainly in the 'natural', carried to the point where only self-interest and submission to the appetites seem honest, such interpretation is pretty inevitable. Of course, the most faithful reading of the play attests that Falstaff and his scenes do have a fundamental, if low and therefore limited, seriousness that must be reckoned with; and of course, they expose the frivolity and the selfishness hidden away in the high scenes under thick brocades of words no less than of dress. The play's comics, like the zany, intricate carvings in cathedral doors and pews and like those cathedrals' gargoyles, do their part in exorcising evil and in draining off excess by expressing it. But necessary though this exposure may be, rather than fatally damaging those high scenes, it brings us to the reality inside them and, by throwing it into low relief, helps us to realize it.

If it is a fact that by the end of Part II freedom as embodied in these gargoyles is in danger, if order finds itself so threatened or at least so bent on morality that it must outlaw these creatures, then we are indeed involved in a grave matter. Eccentrics and independents, increasingly assertive while the world thrives, are likely more and more to irritate the others, especially the authorities. The State, often in its growing success, which would tend to promote freedom and even extravagance, may become, by its fears on behalf of that success, too rigid to accommodate, let alone benefit from, such dissident elements. Then always more uniformity is exacted. This drying up of geniality, of capacity, may, as I suggested, be at the root of Antonio's sadness, his awareness, not only of the fundamental materialism of life, but of its expanding insistence everywhere, its profound hatred of music, merriment, freedom, and the carefree. So too in Twelfth Night Sir Toby Belch's urging of cakes and ale, before the kind of world emerging, may well be tinged with wistfulness if not melancholy.

In any case, challenges and dangers notwithstanding, English history is here having one of its great days, that of the newborn modern world. So great is it, as enacted in this work, that it seems much more than history, in its very reality as fabulous as the Homeric, say. Yet it is painfully clear everywhere that, though this play via its language breathes health and delight, disease and corruption are also loose, on a scale that jeopardizes all the rest. The reasons, beyond abundance itself, are not hard to find. The sickness' principal source can be traced to the society's center, that which should be the source of strength and stability, the King and his deeds in becoming king; the rotting corpse of Richard II refuses to stay buried, and its stench penetrates the world of Henry IV, Unfortunately as with virtually all societies, since none can be started out of nothing, this brave new world is founded on old corruption. Henry IV's abilities are most impressive; so are his intentions and his yearning for a unified kingdom, one of peace. Yet his example, his responsibility for the murder of a legitimate king, has brought the reverse of stability to England; and he must exert all his very considerable powers merely to keep his place. By the oneness of king and society, his disease has been spreading throughout England even while it intensifies in his own person. Carrying on robberies and loose living generally, Falstaff and his crew are one manifestation of that dis-ease (however little we may want to stress their 'riot and dishonour') as are, much more urgently, the King's enemy lords. An even more poignant reminder of it, especially since the reminder seems to promise the dis-ease's prosperity after the King's death, is the conduct of his own son Hal.

The play opens with the King's delivering himself of a measured speech, similar to other such curtain raisers. It is a model of stately order, reminiscent in some degree of Richard II's oratory, a touch ironical, perhaps, coming from the eminently practical Bolingbroke, now immensely conscious of his role: the need to maintain a lofty distance from his audience. His oration is neatly divided between peace and war.

So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils
To be commenced in stronds afar remote.
No more the thirsty entrance of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood.
No more shall trenching war channel her fields,
Nor bruise her flowerets with the arméd hoofs
Of hostile paces: those opposéd eyes,
Which like the meteors of a troubled heaven,
All of one nature, of one substance bred,
Did lately meet in the intestine shock
  And furious close of civil butchery,
  Shall now, in mutual well-beseeming ranks,
March all one way, and be no more opposed
Against acquaintance, kindred, and allies.
The edge of war, like an ill-sheathéd knife,
No more shall cut his master.

That knife, once let loose, is indeed hard to sheathe again or, for that matter, to hold so that it will not cut the hand that loosed it. But recalling the war just ended, he strives to settle it completely by putting his hope for abiding peace in the accents of something like a royal command. Most conspicuous in this attempt at order by way of rhetoric is the would-be bracing, repeated phrase 'no more', artfully, since somewhat unpredictably, placed. The many genitive phrases, occupied for the most part with violence, are also skilfully deployed, and exert themselves to contain or fix that violence, and so give a substance and stability to his words.

Then, with the immediate past taken care of, the King turns to the present and its occupation-to-be.

Therefore, friends,
As far as to the sepulchre of Christ,
Whose soldier now, under whose blesséd cross
We are impresséd and engaged to fight,

Forthwith a power of English shall we levy,
Whose arms were moulded in their mothers' womb
To chase these pagans in those holy fields
Over whose acres walked those blesséd feet
Which fourteen hundred years ago were nailed
For our advantage on the bitter cross.
But this our purpose now is twelve months old,
And bootless 'tis to tell you we will go;
Therefore we meet not now.

Compared with the stiff, opening verses of Richard in his play, this speech at this point enjoys a most appealing fluidity, especially as its lines, keyed to the chasing of the pagans over the vast fields, vaster for the time Christ must span, sweep through the nonstopped five verses beginning 'Whose arms were moulded in their mothers' womb'. Beyond this fluidity our pleasure in the art of these lines is heightened by the way in which they, covering space and time, first by chasing then by walking, are braked by 'nailed' and finally weighed in 'advantage' as against 'bitter'. It is interesting to move from the 'blesséd cross' via those 'blesséd feet' to the advantaging 'bitter cross'. Not to recognize Henry's verbal powers, his suppleness of mind, especially sensitive to his times, is to miss some good part of him. Just to listen to Richard's initial blank verse in its official nature, shaped definite line by line, is to hear the difference.

Old John of Gaunt, time-honoured Lancaster,
Hast thou, according to thy oath and band,
Brought hither Henry Hereford, thy bold son,
Here to make good the boist'rous late appeal,
Which then our leisure would not let us hear,
Against the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray?

It is also to appreciate the basic difference between the worlds these men represent. Henry IV's oppression at his own grave difficulties, most of them, he assumes, out of his dedicated effort to serve England and his people, helps to intensify his sympathy for, if not his feeling of identification with, Christ. Distressed by the civil war and the killing of Richard that provoked it, Henry would pay the penance he has been denied for a whole year and thereby, in one great common cause far afield from England itself, would heal his sorely bruised kingdom. In short, his repentance is a complex mixture of policy and feeling, and his present policy an attempt to serve both. Briskly he turns to the business at hand.

However, instead of his council's decree 'In forwarding this dear expedience' he learns that civil war has broken out again. Hotspur's valor and success against the Scotch naturally move Henry, especially at Westmoreland's statement that Hotspur's prize 'is a conquest for a prince to boast of, to thoughts of his own son. Henry admits:

Yea, there thou mak'st me sad and mak'st me sin
In envy that my Lord Northumberland
Should be the father to so blest a son,

and proceeds to describe the difference between the two chief contenders in the play, a description bound to be fairly convincing coming from the father of one of them. For such strong words, and for much of the next scene that seems to fulfill them, who shall not believe this grieving father. Then when he weighs further evidence of Hotspur's nature, his pride in refusing to surrender most of his prisoners, we see what trouble is brewing between Henry and his supporters, the original conspirators against Richard II. It is one thing for Henry to admire Hotspur; quite another for Hotspur to oppose his will. Hotspur's character has been set out before us: the quality that makes him appealing also makes him a problem.

The second scene at once establishes the world Henry has just decried for his own son. Falstaff and Hal, in richly spiced prose, regale each other with a royal buffoonery that would indeed alarm and outrage Henry. (He is, we notice, a king with no time or mind for a jester or courtly clown.) It is amusing and most relevant that the first words of that mocker and enemy of time, Falstaff, should have to do with time. (Henry's first words also had to do with time and as mistakenly: 'So shaken as we are, so wan with care, / Find we a time for frighted Peace to pant. . . .' With consideration of time so quickly pressed upon us here, it does not seem excessive to suggest that it is a major matter in this play.) Falstaff yawningly asks, 'Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad?' And Hal without a moment's pause laces into him:

Thou art so fat-witted, with drinking of old sack, and unbuttoning thee after supper, and sleeping upon benches after noon, that thou hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou wouldst truly know. What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? Unless hours were cups of sack, and minutes capons, and clocks the tongues of bawds, and dials the signs of leaping-houses, and the blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-coloured taffeta, I see no reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of the day.

Humor apart, from his first word Hal's opinion of Falstaff is never in doubt. But hours are cups of sack and minutes capons for Falstaff, or at least they are in prompting witty, gusty talk about them. Sly, plucked from his drunken bench in the tavern, found a momentary Eden of sorts in the practical joke of the hunting lord: an Eden, that is, till the actual play began; Falstaff, plucking himself out of the rigors of the court, has found his own Eden in a Slyesque tavern, one that will happily serve him till the 'play' or reality itself breaks in. Falstaff, rising to this raillery (we hear at once, in Hal's words and accents, what a robust boy he is), pretends it is praise:

Indeed, you come near me now, Hal; for we that take purses go by the moon and the seven stars and not by Phoebus, he, 'that wandering knight so fair.'

He admits that he and his ways are not for the day, with its busy, prying nature. Falstaff and his cronies are moon-men. And if they cannot enjoy A Midsummer Night's Dream's balmy, lunar wood, they can at least steal by the moon in a world asleep under its influence.

Quickly then Falstaff, as is his wont, shifts subjects. And he proceeds to urge Hal:

. . . when thou art King, let not us that are squires of the night's body be called thieves of the day's beauty. Let us be Diana's foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon; and let men say, we be men of good government, being governed, as the sea is, by our noble and chaste mistress the moon, under whose countenance we steal.

It is 'natural' law, its government, that he and his obey. Hal rounds on him, and what might be thought mere wit-chaffing we soon recognize for the much greater mordancy it is. Never does Hal conceal his real sentiments from Falstaff, but Falstaff—also Hal's sharpest critics who accuse him of deceit—fails or refuses to attend to them; no doubt he assumes it pays him to pass them off lightly as banter. And so they go, Hal an obviously fitting mate in wit to Falstaff, an apprentice who already bids fair to surpass his master, and a critic whose acerb remarks Falstaff deftly dodges or turns to momentary advantage. Yet who, listening, can deny the serious tenor, bravura and all, of Hal's rejoinder?

Thou sayest well, and it holds well too; for the fortune of us that are the moon's men doth ebb and flow like the sea, being governed, as the sea is, by the moon. As for proof now: a purse of gold most resolutely snatched on Monday night and most dissolutely spent on Tuesday morning; got with swearing 'Lay by' and spent with crying 'Bring in:' now in as low an ebb as the foot of the ladder, and by and by in as high a flow as the ridge of the gallows.

Falstaff, whatever his persiflage, has heard. For some half dozen speeches later he suddenly asks:

But, I prithee, sweet wag, shall there be gallows standing in England when thou art King? And resolution thus fobbed as it is with the rusty curb of old father antic the law? Do not thou, when thou art King, hang a thief.

Falstaff s would-be topsy-turvying of law and order is plain enough here. Equally plain is Hal's blunt answer: 'No; thou shalt.' However generously Falstaff chooses to understand it, we need not be surprised by his confessing a moment later, in what may be his lurking suspicion of the truth: "Sblood, I am as melancholy as a gib cat or a lugged bear.' That Shakespeare's prime comic should come to this!

Drollery it is no doubt. Yet were one to know where to have Falstaff, and fortunately one does not, one might be tempted to propose that, for a comic who is all vitality and mercuriality, he is astonishingly much preoccupied with aging, frailties, dying and death. But if there is one thing we are accustomed to in Shakespeare by now it is his infusing his comedy with sadness, ranging all the way to anguish. Gratiano, we recall, trying to jolly Antonio early in The Merchant of Venice, said:

Let me play the fool!
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster,
Sleep when he wakes, and creep into the jaundice
By being peevish?

Why indeed? Yet in a world like ours who, even with the best, stouthearted will, can be impervious to its blows inside and out? But Falstaff, old though he may be, is even victorious with this, and makes it by his audacious wit his own. For spirit of play that he is, and age and dying be damned, he insists on making gaiety of winter itself and, at least until late in Part II, of melancholy. Also, we must remember, melancholy was very fashionable at this time. Both Hal and Falstaff, by their droll reeling off of varieties of melancholy, underscore that fact.

After the laying out of plans for that night's robbery Hal, alone, reveals, now properly in poetry, the truth of his feelings, his intentions, no less deliberate and calculated than the best of his father's:

I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humour of your idleness.
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,

Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.

Strong, even fierce, renunciatory language this is; but Shakespeare, it appears, wants to make it clear from the start that Hal is already himself and the man he will be. Whatever his lingerings in, and his returns to, the world of Falstaff, Hal's mind was long ago made up, and he is biding his time, waiting for the proper moment to emerge. He has a happy sense of the dramatic, the need for change and the unpredictable.

So, when this loose behaviour I throw off
And pay the debt I never promiséd,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glitt'ring o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I'll so offend to make offence a skill,
Redeeming time when men think least I will.

In all his hobnobbing with the vulgar then, Hal wisely (unlike Richard II, say) keeps his beauty, his nobility, a little like a fairytale prince, concealed and to himself. And time, given his rich sense of its meaning and its diverse usefulness, his talent for timing, is the element he works in. In fact, time is the element of all the main characters. Henry IV at the play's outset, we saw, wished to redeem the time, but local or immediate time burst in to prevent it. Time for him has thus become a mere wearying, endless sequence. For Falstaff, time is little other than the occasion for amusement, and he strives to make a kind of essence of existence itself, low existence at that. But we must recognize that this low existence is, on the whole, an excuse for high, effervescent with and hilarious humor. Hal, on the other hand, realizes full well that there is, as the Bible has it, a time for this and a time for that.

Hal's soliloquy, it is true, makes nothing of his enjoyment of Falstaff s company, an enjoyment, however, that his other lively speeches, despite their barbs for Falstaff, plainly betray. In examining earlier plays I have said a good deal about the unemployed, often bored, young lord, who attempts to distract himself or to make a new role for himself. In Love's Labour's Lost the King of Navarre sought to establish a School of Night and a different world for himself and his friends. Theseus, impatiently awaiting his marriage, set up a brief regime of merriment. Hal is such a young lord. With an able father in charge of state affairs, and with his sense of the troubled, stifling tedium prevalent in the court, his being elsewhere should not surprise us. He has found such an elsewhere in Falstaff and his cronies. For Hal in the tavern, Falstaff can be the jester that he cannot be in the long-faced court. And here we are in the midst of two vying worlds again, the court versus the tavern, day-men versus moon-men; in the midst of the churning, plot-ridden, daily 'real' world we discover a charmed and charming world of revelry. For a spell Hal is able to retire into it. One remembers Creon's response when Oedipus accuses him of plotting to seize his throne: 'Who would be king if he can, as I do, enjoy his privileges and rights without his duties and responsibilities?' Richard II assumed that only a king could so enjoy himself. A prince would be a likelier candidate.

At this point I recall Auden's surprise in his essay 'The Prince's Dog' at the company Hal keeps. 'Surely one could expect to see him surrounded by daring, rather sinister juvenile delinquents and beautiful gold-digging whores.' Till now, it is true, Shakespeare's young lords tended to travel in like-minded, carefree, devil-may-care packs. But they usually found part of their amusement in comic, if not ludicrous, retainers. For his purposes, serious and secret from the start, Hal can ill afford confidants on his own level; Falstaff is lord enough. Furthermore, the young lords of earlier plays are chummily together only till seriousness strikes either their principal member of all of them. Certainly Falstaff and his crew are nothing like La Dolce Vita. Nor are they sinister juvenile delinquents. Senior delinquents who have kept the child's sense of gaiety and play would be more like it. Enchanted wood or not, the tavern in its snug, familiar atmosphere—like a hearth whose fire counterpoints a most amiable winter's tale, more cosy for the winds just outside, the gathering storms of rebellion and violence—exudes a fairy-world quality while the moon, peeping in, reflects most intoxicatingly on the flames, the wine, and the bubbling wit. And the tavern's charm is all the more potent for being so obviously fragile and evanescent. For a brief, suspended time at least, these fat crickets and proud grasshoppers will not submit, not for all the diligent ants in the world. Of course Hal, like other good, young, noble Englishmen, might have gone off on the Grand Tour to Venice or Rome or Paris or possibly—like Hamlet—to some university. Instead, his plans being what they are, and by the interwovenness of Henry IV, he prefers to stay at home with Falstaff s homely, native glamor, his irreverent, often most relevant wit.

As the play proceeds, our surprise is replaced by another kind of puzzle, for the better we come to know Falstaff, the clearer it becomes that the world of historical reality which a chronicle play claims to imitate is not a world which he can inhabit.

Henry IPs realistic, local detail, its bustle and revel of a swarm of personages straight out of Shakespeare's own day, can hardly be tucked into the dimensions of a chronicle play. Yet there is some truth in Auden's observation. However, one could say that, for most purposes, Falstaff, tavern-becalmed, does not inhabit the world of historical reality until well on in Part I and then—and especially in Part II—with increasingly disastrous results to himself. At that time he proves that he cannot—should not—inhabit it, but for reasons, I shall try to show, other than Auden's. According to him, 'Falstaff has not and could not have found his true home because Shakespeare was only a poet. For that he was to wait nearly two hundred years till Verdi wrote his last opera.' The heightened, timeless world of music is Auden's notion of Falstaff s native element. He does 'not belong to the temporal world of change'. In his dedication to merriment and in his resentment at growing old, Falstaff would surely be happy to agree with this version of him.

But the facts are, I believe, rather different. For whatever our yearning for an existence beyond time with its ravages, Shakespeare knows better: no one is 'an unkillable, self-sufficient immortal'. The world at large—things as they are—comes first. And even though it is the destructive element, it is also the one we depend on for living and, now and then, for living jubilantly. Only this world supplies the resources whereby a few of us realize a style so brilliant that we appear to be invulnerable in the aura of our own personalities. Falstaff is a magician if only through words, almost able, he makes us feel, to bid time loiter and gawk like a yokel. Yet for all his guises and disguises Falstaff too requires a line, life-giving if tenuous, to the world at large. Like Richard II he too needs money, food, shelter, and friends (an audience?). Thus he takes it for granted that, when his own wits fail him, Hal will bail him out of debt and mischief. Shakespeare's earlier, almost enclosed garden comedies lived in the brief time of grace afforded them by some enchanted wood or a spell of moonlight. At the same time these enclosures, no less than the most abstracted college, Navarre's for instance, not to say the dingy little Night-School of Falstaff, are dependent on the outside world. It is only by the grace, or at least the indifference, of that world and by the means derived from it that such communities can be established and go on in the first place. To think of such schools, at least of the Falstaffian kidney, emerging at all and surviving, if only for a time, in a beleagured and beleaguring world, always threatening to flood and muddy our sack, is heartening. However, in maintaining that Falstaff should be spared the world of Henry IV, isn't Auden missing the point and splendor of the play entirely? It is, I firmly believe, precisely the brilliant amalgamation of Falstaff and his comedy, comedy which Shakespeare had by now thoroughly explored, with history, the public world he had mastered in earlier plays, that makes Henry IV so magnificent. Kept out of the histories till now, comedy is back with a vengeance.

But what kind of school or court is Falstaff's? It is of course that of wit and of rollicksome fun, supervised by one who has awakened from the dream of reality, 'the nightmare of history'. With the nonsense of the court and the world at large bade slip, the good sense of the senses in all their naturalness, employed by living for its own dear sake, is made the law. And Falstaff, usually called a Lord of Misrule, sees to it that his gamesome court's laws are to the letter observed. A ruler he is, capable as any king in his unique way of getting into scrapes and getting out of them. Fat, old and full of infirmities, Falstaff would seem to be little more than a perfect butt, farce's very favorite. And he is a butt, of bottomless, spicy ale, easily broached and tapped by all—not least of all by himself. All his weaknesses, through the happy exercise, the inspiring challenge, that they give his tireless wit, are devoutly to be wished. Nothing, we begin to think, is strong or able enough to capsize him. In fact, his time seems mainly spent in collaborating with his followers to get him into always tighter corners, apparently inescapable ones; these provide him with opportunities to exhibit his skills and by their authority to extricate himself with delight for everyone, thereby newly affirming his right to 'rule'. For kings, especially of such uncertain courts, must constantly prove themselves. In his fashion Falstaff is no less masterly than Henry IV. And his joy in his role, we can safely say, far exceeds Henry's in his.

To make a comparison in some ways ludicrous enough to impress even Falstaff, I suggest that he has established a court of the kind Richard II desired, believed he deserved and in truth had—a court in which words, Falstaff s words, are, for the time being, law. By the amiable glow of his personality Falstaff has persuaded the things around him, basking in that glow, to do his magical bidding. And human beings gladly bask in it as well. Sly, asleep, was spirited away by a hunting lord from a tavern to a mansion. Here, so able is Falstaff to convert the dinginess of his tavern into glamor, a lord, a prince at that, has for a time been captivated and led from the royal palace to that tavern. Yet the fragility of that ambience is clear enough. Meant to live only in the moon's tenuous realm, Falstaff s is indeed an exiguous kingdom, one, like the fairy and lover's world of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in danger of being swept away by the first intruding beams of daylight.

But why, aside from the reasons already specified, should a lively young man, a king's son, find such a meager, not to say basically tawdry, environment attractive? Hal understands how much is to be learned from a rare, opulent character like Falstaff, this 'cause that wit is in other men'. For if Falstaff seems out of the world, to the degree that he is rooted in his senses he is the master of common-sense, committed to the senses' meaning—they act as his touchstone—no less than to their pleasures. Thus he is a happy antidote to the court which more times than not, in its professed ideals and confused desires, wanders far from reality and common-sense. 'Wit' in this play, beyond its more obvious meanings, has to do with the exercise and fulfilment of one's mental faculties. Hal, appreciating the variety of men he meets in the tavern world, his subjects-to-be, as well as the variety Falstaff sparklingly bubbles forth, appreciates also what self-realization he can come to in their midst and what lessons he can learn towards understanding other men.

At the same time we must not blink the other side of it. Hal must also find out what is going on in the world outside the court, the dangers, the crimes, the outrages. How else, once he is king, will he be able to recognize them quickly and to deal with them? As late as the Fourth Act of Part II King Henry still fails to understand Hal and his appetite for Falstaff. Warwick tries to reassure King Henry:

My gracious lord, you look beyond him quite.
The Prince but studies his companions
Like a strange tongue, wherein, to gain the language,
'Tis needful that the most immodest word
Be looked upon and learned, which once attained,
Your Highness knows, comes to no further use
But to be known and hated. So, like gross terms,
The Prince will in the perfectness of time
Cast off his followers.

Stern and incomplete though Warwick's interpretation of Hal's conduct may be, as far as it goes it is accurate, not far in fact from Hal's own austerity in his first soliloquy in Part I. Thus Warwick's 'in the perfectness of time' is perfect in echoing Hal's concern with and sense of time and timing. And perhaps, in all their aptness, a measure of resonance beyond what Warwick intends or knows stirs in his next words:

And their memory
Shall as a pattern or a measure live,
By which his Grace must mete the lives of others,
Turning past evils to advantage.

If Falstaff can turn diseases to commodities, Hal will be able to turn evils to advantage.

No doubt all this sounds too deliberate and too ponderous, and no doubt it is. Nonetheless, apart from Hal's amusement in Falstaff and in the play of the imagination Falstaff releases from him before his arduous labors begin, he does have a profound sense of the magnitude of the role he will soon have to fill; of the training, the seasoning, it requires. Who can deny the element of truth in Falstaff s praise of sherry:

Hereof comes it that Prince Hal is valiant; for the cold blood he did naturally inherit of his father, he hath, like lean, sterile, and bare land, manured, husbanded, and tilled with excellent endeavour of drinking good and good store of fertile sherris, that he is become very hot and valiant.

More exactly, Hal has drunk deeply of that brimming bombard, that overflowing cask, Falstaff. For Hal is fortunately little like his cold and incomplete younger brother, Prince John of Lancaster, all policy and state. As Falstaff says of John, 'Good faith, this same young sober-blooded boy doth not love me, nor a man cannot make him laugh; but that's no marvel, he drinks no wine.' The geniality of the spirits ripened out of the good earth must loosen, not to say enlarge, the spirits in a man. (City habitué though he is, a naturalist of the indoors, it is not surprising that at the end Falstaff babbles of green fields.) Most relevantly Falstaff later observes, 'It is certain fact that, either wise bearing or ignorant carriage is caught, as men take diseases, one of another; therefore let men take heed of their company.' Hal takes such heed, takes courses, one might say, when and as he needs them, in timely, graduating sequence.

The early comedies often concentrated on education, the need of young men to be instructed, in books certainly, but perhaps even more in the senses and the feelings, in the ways of life itself. Usually, especially for the feelings, a young woman was required to instruct via those most efficient agents, beauty and love. But in the histories till now education was negligible, and what lessons were learned were learned too late. Furthermore, these histories, with their atmosphere of physical violence and war, did not favor women whose realm is mainly the domestic. Thus they usually were fairly passive (if in their very passivity, as in Richard III, often most potent). Now in Henry IV, with comedy resumed and some touch, we might say, of the domestic introduced in the tavern, education again becomes all-important, even crucial, and happily successful. But it derives not from a lovely young woman but from an old fat man, a disreputable one at that.

And it is not hard to understand, disreputableness and all, how Falstaff functions, how—more than any Audenesque glittering whore and with a mercuriality Cleopatra might have appreciated—effective and educative he is. He is a kind of low, earthly Socrates (who himself was well compared with Silenus), a latter-day satyr who, like Silenus the moon-man, can educate a young man in home truths, strengthen his earth sense, introduce him to the wisdom that inheres in mirth, the comic sense. Without this wisdom a man is incomplete since unaware of mankind's duality, unawakened to that objectivity which enables him to regard himself at a reasonable distance and to laugh at himself no less than at others. Dionysus, tutored and companioned by Silenus, identified with goats and satyrs and the emancipating of the spirits by the kindness of wine, became the presiding deity of theater, of comedy and tragedy alike, its origin and its life-blood. For he taught holiday, self-forgetting revelries by way of the senses away from the drab routine normal to daily life. Falstaff is of this line, a spirit of spirits, of the intoxicating mystery of earth. And he must be understood and used accordingly, must be given his ample due. But he must also—lest this intoxication override all else and tragedy, chaos and dismembering follow—be coped with. The Apollonian must be remembered at least as much. At the same time, however, though Falstaff seems a devotee of the senses and of their offspring, play and gaiety, by his buoyancy—for in Part I at least we never see him drunk or engrossed in the senses and for themselves alone—we understand that he lives by and with them, for their rich bouquet.

Having lived long with observation and a most retentive memory, he possesses boundless provisions of experience. Thus for a time he makes—and is—a god's plenty in a little room, that of the tavern and his commodious being. And for a time how shall that plenty, distilled with his wit and served up piping-hot, not seem sweeter than all the rest of the world? Especially since the rest of the world at its quintessential best seems to be swarming around him. For he is the actor consummate. He lives for the myriad parts he can, spontaneously or deliberately, play. This is his freedom. Of course, because of his bulk he can scarcely be expected to move much, let alone act. He must rely chiefly on his wits and his words, his ability to 'leap about' on the bare boards of the tavern by assuming other men's roles. And for the joy with which he does assume them we can judge that no other taste delights or fulfils him like the taste of being someone else.

In Bottom, Mercutio, and others we have already met effervescent, spontaneous actors. But Falstaff differs from these early actors—at least Bottom—fundamentally. However much he shares their gusto, he is not, until well on in Part I and in Part II, self-involved. Bottom, we recall, desires all the parts but primarily to be himself and more himself; like the puffed-up frog he would fill the world, have it be nothing but Bottom. Earlier characters, the Armadoes and Holofemes, winsome though they were, remain superb, wholly realized, strutting, opaque parodies. And we do have a new member of their company here in Pistol. But, aside from his resolution to avoid being caught and held to anything, Falstaff is a parodist supreme. Mercutio, it is true, has brief moments of this; but brief he and these moments have to be for the purposes of a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet. That is, like Richard III only till now, does Falstaff play many parts. However, Richard III, remarkable though he may also be for his immense enjoyment in performing, has his reason for playing parts, a great end, and a desperate one at that. Falstaff, though he can hardly be absolved of self-interest—his play-acting, like Hamlet's, is often a mode of evasion—is, at least for most of Part I, mainly taken up by the roles themselves, the relish of their performance.

We need not wonder, therefore, that so many are smitten with him. Here at last seems to be a man able, like his creator himself, to circumvent the limitations of being a man, the prison of a particular time and place. Already in The Taming of the Shrew Petruchio had set himself to instructing Kate in such play, the one way we have of escaping our respective prisons. By learning this freedom Kate could accept and be herself. Furthermore, Falstaff s being a superfluous man—like Richard II with his uselessness, one who will not yield to society and its requirements—has an almost irresistible appeal for many. Malcontent that Falstaff essentially is, in his chameleon-like changing of roles he becomes Shakespeare's most telling comic 'belcontent'. And his most convincing comic individual. Here at last I draw on Keats' valuable obiter scriptum, his notion of the negative capability. For him, quite rightly, Shakespeare was its supreme instance: the genius so enamored of the multifarious world around him that he absorbs himself entirely, finding himself insignificant beside them, in the variety of beings that world pours forth or, in his case, in the beings his genius pours forth. Falstaff, as much as any other Shakespearean character, partakes of his maker's genius: he is a character who exists by being—by creating—other characters, by being the parodist sublime.

It is this rare gift that Hal as a man and an eventual king is drawn to. In fact, from the play's start, we saw, he is Falstaffianly other than he seems, playing a part that has taken everyone in. In a sense, he is like most of those in the court, pretending to be different from what they are. But Hal's pretense is quite the reverse of theirs, and unique. They pretend—see Henry IV—to be better than they are and convince no one. Hal pretends to be far worse than he is, a full-time playboy, and convinces everyone. In a topsy-turvy, bad time one often must, to protect oneself and one's purpose, conceal one's true identity. Thus he is the ablest 'actor' of them all; for he deceives all, is truly a royal counterfeit, on behalf of truth, honor, justice, order. It is Falstaff who can best help Hal carry on and carry out his disguise.

With Hal's gift for learning, and learning at once, from others—apart from Falstaff, his father serves him, and the Lord Chief Justice—and with the importance of that gift in his career, we should consider his other major 'teacher', Hotspur. For many critics Hotspur and Falstaff, the two real conspirators, threaten to tear the kingdom and the play in half. Hotspur's appeal is, aside from Henry IV's endorsement, patent from the start. His wife tells us in Part II, a play full, unlike Part I, of definitions and character observations (for Part II has a past, a 'reality', that of Part I, to draw on):

.. . by his light
Did all the chivalry of England move
To do brave acts: he was indeed the glass
Wherein the noble youth did dress themselves.
He had no legs that practised not his gait;
And speaking thick, which nature made his blemish,
Became the accents of the valiant;
For those that could speak low and tardily
Would turn their own perfection to abuse,
To seem like him; so that in speech, in gait,
In diet, in affections of delight,
In military rules, humours of blood,
  He was the mark and glass, copy and book,
That fashioned others.

Thus, because of Hotspur's virtues so gallantly on display, if the company of Falstaff seems to besmirch Hal, by comparison, the comparison that the King himself first proposes, the conduct of Hotspur does so all the more positively. And yet, we should notice, if he is a glass, he is a confining one; in fact, altogether in harmony with his self-crammed nature, he is no glass at all; he is too opaque for that. Rather he supplies others with an image they must imitate; he obliges all, even to the abuse of their perfection, to change to—that is, ape—him. Falstaff, on the other hand, inspires them to be themselves at their lustiest.

For all Hotspur's crusty humor—a volcano with wit!—and occasional insight into others—Glendower and his magic, for example, or the young lovers—he is of such divine peremptoriness, so fixed on the expression and imposition of his own fiery personality, he can hardly pause to know himself, let alone others. Noble and honourable he is, but it is a nobility and an honor altogether out of and for himself. In his own words:

By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap
To pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon,
Or dive into the bottom of the deep,
Where fathom-line could never touch the ground,
And pluck up drownéd honour by the locks;
So he that doth redeem her thence might wear
Without corrival all her dignities:
But out upon this half-faced fellowship!

Several times, like Hal, he speaks of 'redeeming'. Thus a little earlier he urged his father and his uncle,

.. . yet time serves wherein you may redeem
Your banished honours, and restore yourselves
Into the good thoughts of the world again;.. .

For Hal the redeeming is also personal, but aware of responsibilities larger than himself, he would not merely employ time to serve his own purposes but to 'redeem the time' itself. However, as Hotspur's father says of him just before his speech on honour, 'Imagination of some great exploit / Drives him beyond the bounds of patience.' He is bitten as by swarms of stinging flies, is, when not employed, a blade that cuts itself in a thousand places. The opacity his impatience produces in him, the mistakes it inevitably results in regarding others and events, mistakes he seems to leap to to prove his defiance, his pride, his superiority over circumstances and their consequences, these are what Hal quickly sees and learns to avoid. He will not be one to indulge himself with sentiments like 'I will ease my heart, / Albeit I make a hazard of my head.' or 'O! I could divide myself and go to buffets,...'

It is amusing to review Hal's and Hotspur's version of each other as well as to compare their stances. Scornfully Hotspur says of Hal:

And that same sword-and-buckler Prince of Wales,
But that I think his father loves him not
And would be glad he met with some mischance,
I would have him poisoned with a pot of ale.

Later, when the battle-forces gather, Hotspur asks:

Where is his son,
The nimble-footed madcap Prince of Wales,
And his comrades, that daffed the world aside,
And bid it pass?

On the other hand, Hal can say:

I am not yet of Percy's mind, the Hotspur of the North, he that kills me some six or seven dozen of Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, 'Fie upon this quiet life! I want work.' 'O my sweet Harry,' says she, 'how many hast thou killed today?' 'Give my roan horse a drench,' says he, and answers, 'Some fourteen,' an hour after, 'a trifle, a trifle.'

How accurate a description this is, even to the interruption of 'an hour after', the scene just before deliciously attests. Hotspur, ignoring his wife's question on what he is up to by ordering his roan, collects himself to say to her:

Away, you trifler! Love! I love thee not,
I care not for thee, Kate; this is no world
To play with mammets and to tilt with lips:
We must have bloody noses and cracked crowns,
And pass them current too. God's me, my horse!

Hal's caricature has brilliantly caught the absurdity of Hotspur's unmitigated blood-and-thunder. But their difference is plain. Hal is 'not yet of Percy's mind', but he will be when the occasion requires. For Hotspur, on the other hand, 'this is no world / To play at mammets and to tilt with lips:...' For a temperament like his it rarely is.

But as Hotspur's words on honor suggest, he does not know himself even as a speaker. Nor, for that matter, does he seem to have any idea of how much, tied as he is to his own tongue, he talks. In a sense, like Falstaff, Hotspur is one of Shakespeare's 'plain' speakers and plain-dealers. At least he plumes himself on being direct, curt, down to earth. Tangy words and all, he never for a moment recognizes what a poet he is, especially since his contempt for poetry is based on a most limited notion of it. Thus he says to Glendower's

I can speak English, lord, as well as you,
For I was trained up in the English court;
Where, being but young, I framéd to the harp
Many an English ditty lovely well,
And gave the tongue an helpful ornament;
A virtue that was never seen in you.

with a brusqueness and would-be harshness that amounts to superb poetry:

Marry, and I'm glad of it with all my heart.
I had rather be a kitten and cry mew
Than one of these same metre balladmongers;
I had rather hear a brazen canstick turned,
Or a dry wheel grate on the axle-tree;
And that would set my teeth nothing on edge,
Nothing so much as mincing poetry:
'Tis like the forced gait of a shuffling nag.

Understandably for such a headlong stallion, who would be ever immersed in action and nothing but action, the lyrical in its dallying, the self-conscious preening of courtiers, is bound to be repellent. As for heroic verse, why that when there are deeds to be done? We need only remember his first words in the play when he explains his conduct to Henry IV, ascribing it mainly to 'a certain lord' 'perfumed like a milliner', who questioned him, just from battle, 'With many holiday and lady terms.' After his exchange with Glendower, a little later in self-justification he even betters his words on the Welsh magician:

O! he's as tedious
As a tired horse, a railing wife;
Worse than a smoky house. I had rather live
With cheese and garlic in a windmill, far,
Than feed on cates and have him talk to me
In any summer-house in Christendom.

(We know how important horses are to him, and we have seen one next to a railing wife in Hotspur's scene with Lady Percy. For one who would be spending his life mettlesomely enthroned on a horse, a tired horse like 'a shuffling nag' must be even worse than a railing wife.) All this of an ally he dearly needs! His uncle rightly rebukes him for his lack of patience, his 'pride, haughtiness, opinion, and disdain.'

Hotspur, who despite his temper is generosity itself, quickly acknowledges these words, then passes on to his most charming, exceptionally mellow scene, one involving ballad-mongering. Mortimer is about to part with Glendower's daughter, who knows only Welsh. As she speaks, Mortimer says:

I understand thy looks: that pretty Welsh
Which thou pourest down from these swelling heavens
I am too perfect in; and, but for shame,
In such a parley would I answer thee.
I understand thy kisses and thou mine,
And that's a feeling disputation;
But I will never be a truant, love,
Till I have learned thy language; for thy tongue
Makes Welsh as sweet as ditties highly penned,
Sung by a fair queen in a summer's bower,
With ravishing division, to her lute.

This tribute to ditties in a summer's bower echoes most amusingly Hotspur's words, his scoffing at 'mincing poetry' and his aversion to hearing Glendower carry on about his magic 'In any summer-house in Christendom'. Then, with Mortimer's head in her lap, his wife sings him such a ditty while Glendower bids musicians, that like Ariel 'Hang in the air a thousand leagues from hence', be here and at work. Thereupon Hotspur's realistic wit, pricked by this idyllic scene and momentarily relaxed, finds some of its happiest expression. He bids his wife:

Come, Kate, thou art perfect in lying down. Come, quick, quick, that I may lay my head in thy lap.

The music plays; Hotspur, moved to poetry, observes:

Now I perceive the devil understands Welsh;
And 'tis no marvel he is so humorous.
By'r lady, he's a good musician.

His wife most pointedly rejoins:

Then should you be nothing but musical, for you are altogether governed by humours. Lie still, ye thief, and hear the lady sing in Welsh.

But Hotspur is off to his habitual and characteristic 'I had rather': 'I had rather hear Lady, my brach, howl in Irish.' Appropriately enough for him, his dog's name is Lady. Then he asks his wife for a song too. And at her 'Not mine, in good sooth' he once more vents his feeling about 'holiday and lady terms':

Not yours, 'in good sooth!' Heart! you swear like a comfit-maker's wife. Not you 'in good sooth,' and, 'as true as I live,' and 'as God shall mend me,' and 'as sure as day,'

And, stirred up now, he takes to mouth-filling poetry:

And giv'st such sarcenet surety for thy oaths
As if thou never walk'st further than Finsbury.
Swear me, Kate, like a lady as thou art,
A good mouth-filling oath, and leave 'in sooth,'
And such protest of pepper-gingerbread,
To velvet-guards and Sunday citizens.

We have here his version of a 'lady'.

We might expect such impatience with magic and with poetic language, letalone verbal frills and euphemisms, from a world all activity, one overwhelmed by the pressing encounters of history. Nonetheless, it is striking that magic and bewitchment, prominent in the early comedies at least atmospherically, tend to play little part in the histories. Of course history itself by its nature is contrary to magic and might be expected to be dismissive of it. Yet much of the magical seems to inhere in Richard III. Superstitions and all, when he needs magic to improve his cause he readily assumes its presence and its effects. However, this magic is more announced than seen; and in the historical plays, apart from the mysterious workings out of fate, we recognize chiefly men's own faculties, their violent or crafty acts and the 'witchcraft of wit': that of Richard III, of Richard II, which works only on himself, and of Falstaff, a bewitching or charm that moves others not so much to action or to change as to delight in his wayward skill and then, often to their surprise, in their own. Glendower, for all his assumption of extraordinary powers, plays a very minor role in Henry IV, one altogether aborted by the would-be hard-headed, irascible Hotspur. From his own words in their magical quality, '.. . it were an easy leap / To pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon' and so on, and from his father's comment on him here, 'Imagination of some great exploit / Drives him beyond the bounds of patience,' we might expect some sympathy in Hotspur for the magic that Glendower claims, his 'I can call spirits from the vasty deep.' But, no, Hotspur's respect for the 'imagination' lies exclusively in thinking of, then executing, some great deed, as 'magic' for him resides entirely in his own mind, in his expectation of what his own strength and courage can do.

Yet despite this amiable 'Welsh' interlude, and though both Hotspur and Falstaff are first-rate poets, similar in their proclivity to pungent terms and images and to plain-dealing, they are finally and fundamentally as opposite as their names suggest. Falstaff is committed to living itself and to a host-like welcoming of it. But he knows the relevancy of language to living: as a comic, often exposing comment on it (much, it is true, like Hotspur's use of it above); as a comic relief; and as a mirth-making delight in itself. He never suffers from Hotspur's testy, often flyaway, sky-storming impatience. Yet he can resemble Hotspur in a longwindedness claiming to be its opposite. As Falstaff says to Hal in one of their name-calling contests (in a language also reminiscent of Petruchio at his best): 'O! for breath to utter what is like thee! you tailor's yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing-tuck,—'this after having delivered himself of "Sblood, you starveling, you elf-skin, you dried neat's-tongue, you bull's pizzle, you stock-fish!'

And here, no less than elsewhere with Falstaff and in his parody of Hotspur, Hal proves how quickly he has mastered their expression. Pungency aside, however, one of the most notable instances of Hal's capacity for learning occurs in Act II, Scene IV (and, tellingly, directly after Percy's impatience with his wife). Poins asks 'Where hast been, Hal?' and Hal replies:

With three or four loggerheads amongst three or four score hogsheads. I have sounded the very base string of humility. Sirrah, I am sworn brother to a leash of drawers, and can call them all by their christen names, as Tom, Dick, and Francis.

The pertinence of such knowledge to a king-to-be is obvious.

They take it already upon their salvation, that though I be but Prince of Wales, yet I am the king of courtesy; . . .

Already in Richard II we met references to Bolingbroke's 'humble and familiar courtesy' to poor artisans. Early in the First Act of Henry IV, Hotspur, spitting out his contempt for Bolingbroke, 'this king of smiles', bridles when he recalls Bolingbroke's conduct to him at their first meeting: 'Why, what a candy deal of courtesy / This fawning greyhound then did proffer me!' And in the Third Act, even while Henry IV rebukes Hal for being so 'lavish' of his presence, 'So common-hackneyed in the eyes of men, / So stale and cheap to vulgar company,' and for not being like him: 'By being seldom seen, I could not stir, / But like a comet I was wondered at,' Henry himself admits to Hal:

And then I stole all courtesy from heaven,
And dressed myself in such humility
That I did pluck allegiance from men's hearts,
Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths,
Even in the presence of the crownéd King.

Now, almost an act earlier, Hal tell us that it is exactly by his growing 'a companion to the common streets', by his 'vile participation', that the drawers think him 'the king of courtesy'. They assure him 'when I am King of England, I shall command all the good lads in Eastcheap.' Finally, repeating some of their lingo, he boasts: 'I am so good a proficient in one quarter of an hour, that I can drink with any tinker in his own language during my life.'

Next, 'to drive away the time till Falstaff come' and to prove his proficiency, he plays his little trick on the dimwitted drawer, Francis. And on Falstaff s arriving, at Poins' 'But hark ye, what cunning match have you made with this jest of the drawer? Come, what's the issue?' Hal confesses:

I am now of all humours that have showed themselves humours since the old days of goodman Adam to the pupil age of this present twelve o'clock at midnight.

That is, 'it was just a whim of mine: I am in the mood to indulge any fancy any man has ever been possessed by since the creation itself.' Compare this in its gaiety with Lady Percy's charge, affectionate it is true, against Hotspur: '.. . you are altogether governed by humours.' One plays at them; the other is driven by them. We might consider which of these men—the one capable of multiple moods, those of the world he is soon to command, or the one possessed by his own moods, usually with a single, most passionate intensity—is likely to make a better king. There are those no doubt who would plump for the passionate intensity. Yet when the crucial moment is upon him, in battle for instance, Hal rises to an intensity no less impressive, one reinforced by large intelligence as well.

In any case, much though Hotspur has publicly shamed him, Hal is pleased to have one such formidable opponent. For, as he says, by defeating Hotspur he will at one blow crop his glories and instantly become the champion. I have indicated from the start that in my view Hal is the protagonist, the hero, of Henry IV; for he is the one character who can learn from all, who can grow, who knows how to use himself, and time, occasions, words. Gone to school to Falstaff and Hotspur, he masters the absorbed detachment, the awareness by way of words, of the one and the directness, when necessary the fiery action, of the other. Thus, like an ideal Homeric hero, he is first in words and deeds, knows when one or the other should be used and how much one should be the complement of the other. At the same time he is the living link, the unifying element, between all the scenes and the play's various worlds. His simultaneous command of word and gesture, thought and act, makes it altogether clear that he alone, the most accomplished, realized man in England, deserves to be king.

Neither figure, not Hotspur, not Falstaff, whatever his fascination, is enough. Nor, for that matter, are both together, except when absorbed, filtered through, by the time-redeeming Prince. The play proceeding, as they merge more and more in Hal, these two principals also come, figuratively and literally, closer and closer together. But not till near the end of Part I, and the end of at least one of them (an end likewise, in a fundamental sense, of the other), dare they meet. Two such, so different yet so similar, cannot exist in orbit. A roaring boy, all actor and common sense, can ill afford to encounter a roaring boy all act and personal idealism. When they finally do meet it is in stances perfect and inevitable to their natures: Hotspur at last truly engrossed by total earnestness—that is death; and Falstaff playing his greatest, most audacious role, the liveliest that vitality can attain—'counterfeiting' death. Side by side they lie, one completely dead, the consequence and requirement of his passionate nature, and one completely alive in playing dead, the consequence and requirement of his imitative (and his all-prudent, not to say all-sane) nature.

Many have been offended by Falstaff s stabbing of Hotspur's corpse a little later, his callousness, his meaning to reap profit out of a dead man's body. This act has been cited to demonstrate Falstaff s basic evil. From Falstaff s point of view or, we might say, a modern one, if it is all right for Hotspur to be killed in the madness and folly of war, stabbing him after his life is gone (or, as Hal felicitously, understandingly, eulogizes over him:

Fare thee well, great heart!
Ill-weaved ambition, how much art thou shrunk!
When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;
But now two paces of the vilest earth
Is room enough. This earth, that bears thee dead,
Bears not alive so stout a gentleman.)

is not very much of an act, fairly anticlimactic, and even sentimental to make something of. But this is to lose sight of the fact that Hotspur is, his great heart notwithstanding, a rebel, a threat to the peace of England, and so a criminal deserving of death. Yet Hotspur's death, however we interpret it, hardly condones Falstaff s act in all its cold-blooded calculation. Thus Hal's elegy on the other 'corpse', 'stout' indeed, lying near by, an elegy the opposite of that for Hotspur, is most revealing:

What, old acquaintance! Could not all this flesh
Keep in a little life? Poor Jack, farewell!
I could have better spared a better man.
O, I should have a heavy miss of thee
If I were much in love with vanity!

Hal's feelings about Falstaff are clear enough. He had said earlier on the raging battle-field, when Falstaff had given him a bottle of sack for a pistol with, 'Ay, Hal; 'tis hot, 'tis hot, there's that will sack a city.' 'What! is't time to jest and dally now?' In its way Falstaff s fixedness of character is no better than Hotspur's. (In this moment of climax I am reminded of the injunction put upon Berowne to try his wit in a hospital; here it is the hospital of the world. Of course one might observe that Shakespeare's stage is the one place that can put on war, outrage, the worst disaster, and still be a 'time' to jest and dally. For in art the worst that is 'played' is a jest, even if a serious, many-sided one, and a dallying. At least while the play lasts. At the same time Hal's rebuke to Falstaff in midplay makes the play and the jest all the more convincing.) Hal, standing over Hotspur and Falstaff, out of their finished lives begins his life as a royal being and soon king-to-be. And here the negative capability becomes the positive one. Words or thoughts and deeds in Hal will be virtually one; he, in the way of a great king, will once more heal the breach between them, the breach Richard II and Bolingbroke, coming at it from opposite sides, could only continue if not widen. Hal's will be the active imagination able to make out of reality a new kind of magic or at least to restore some of the potency of the old.

Here we should consider one of the major problems of the plays, a problem that has developed for modern readers: the dissatisfaction with the conclusion and, consequently, with Hal. The word that seems to have, like pitch, attached itself to him for his treatment of Falstaff is 'prig'. Hal's failure to be as personal, as self-involved and self-concerned, as Hotspur and Falstaff makes him much less attractive than those two to many of us with our suspicion of large-sounding idealism. Shakespeare was at least as aware as we of the yawning chasm between idealism proclaimed and its practice. Apart from the conduct of many characters in Henry IV, we have the grimmer testimony of plays like Troilus and Cressida and All's Well That Ends Well to prove it.

But Henry IV, Parts I and II, are, I maintain, of a very different order. In Part II, Shakespeare is at especial pains to show what happens when a view like Falstaff s, introduced into society, threatens to run wild. Already in Part I, with the outbreak of the rebellion, Falstaff begins to change; or at least, once a larger field of operation is available to him, he exerts himself toward satisfying his interests and appetites far beyond his actions in the tavern. His wit and cutting realism are now in the open, and we find him engaged, at the start it is true on a fairly modest scale, in an opportunism and dishonesty similar to that which the lords are executing on a larger. In fact, lord that he increasingly becomes once more, he is of their faction. He already says in Act III, Scene III: 'Well, God be thanked for these rebels, they offend none but the virtuous. I laud them, I praise them.' A little later we hear him admit that he misuses 'the king's press damnably' and all for money. In a sense, since he is a friend, if not a confidant, of Hal, he is worse than the rebels. But as he says most mordantly to Hal's comment on his poor little substitute company: 'I never did see such pitiful rascals', 'Tut, tut; food for powder, food for powder; they'll fill a pit as well as better. Tush, man, mortal men, mortal men.' An observation no less apt, given his viewpoint, than his stabbing of the dead Hotspur. If you do not mind sacrificing good men, not to say the nation's best, why spare, why be sentimental about, the worst, not to say the semi-dead?

But in Part II, re-established in the court with a name he is proud of and with credit that he means to push to the limit, we watch him truly dwindle. More and more he becomes engrossed and trammeled by use and advantage. Already in our first meeting with him we observe a fundamental change: he is concerned about his health to the point of having consulted a doctor and, even more remarkable, he is at once occupied with examining and defining himself in terms of his best ability:

Men of all sorts take a pride to gird at me. The brain of this foolish-compounded clay, man, is not able to invent anything that intends to laughter, more than I invent or is invented on me. I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men.

Such proud and simple self-consciousness we have rarely encountered in him before. After his following roisterous exchange with the Lord Chief Justice, Falstaff grumbles over his poverty and acknowledges:

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.

But though he cries out against 'this consumption of the purse' and also the pox and the gout, he concludes with something like his old spirit: 'A good wit will make use of anything; I will turn diseases to commodity.' Calculation, however, has overtaken that spirit.

Later, when he drives the roaring Pistol out, thereby winning the admiration and the affection of Doll Tear-sheet so that she addresses concerned, sober words to him:

Thou whoreson little tidy Bartholomew boar-pig, when wilt thou leave fighting o' days and foining o' nights, and begin to patch up thine old body for heaven?

Falstaff s answer is unusually simple and sober in turn: 'Peace, good Doll! Do not speak like a death's-head: do not bid me remember mine end.' And even while Doll is kissing him, the pathos of mortality overtakes him again: 'I am old, I am old.' Who would have expected such unmodified dumps from him? His earlier 'melancholy' with Hal now begins to look like the real thing. Evidently in the very middle of lovemaking he has now no trouble telling, in his big toe or elsewhere, the difference between the gout of age and the pox of youth. Thus, rising to Doll's 'I love thee better than I love e'er a scurvy boy of them all', with 'What stuff wilt have a kirtle of? .. . A merry song, come! It grows late; we'll to bed', he relapses into 'Thou't forget me when I am gone', a tone surely more wistful, whatever the simple truth of his sentiments, more one-dimensional, and more self-concerned than we are accustomed to in him. Doll's touching reply handsomely bears out the pathos of this moment.

But when Falstaff recognizes the Prince and Poins, who have overheard Falstaff s abuse of Hal (Poins warns Hal: 'My lord, he will drive you out of your revenge and turn all to a merriment, if you take not the heat.' Perhaps we can understand one reason at least for Hal's necessary sternness at the end), Falstaff, adequately challenged and rejuvenated by Hal's presence, recovers a good portion of himself and does indeed drive Hal out of his revenge with his excuse: 'I dispraised him before the wicked, that the wicked might not fall in love with him.' Then, with news of affairs of state gathering head, Hal is all contrition 'So idly to profane the precious time'. In addition to these words' own strength, their almost religious emphasis, they ring especially strongly against what Falstaff and Doll have just been saying and against what the King is about to say.

In Westminster Palace the sleepless King, full of the terrible burdens of his office and of remorse, expresses a dreadful sense of the times:

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.

and an overpowering sense of what pawns the best of us are. England at this juncture, manifested in this aging, wearied King, his aging, wearied opponents, and the aging yet still renewable—if chiefly by greed and occasional sparks of his former wit—Falstaff, seems centuries away from the England of the opening of Part I. Then, with age and corruption accumulating, we are out in the country in Gloucestershire with that ultimate of loose mouths, that babbler who makes all the voluble old men before him sound like reticence itself, Justice Shallow. That justice should come to this! And Falstaff also. Of course the Lord Chief Justice is an old man too, but for him age would appear to have brought increased wisdom and dignity as well as probity. This local scene, country manners and all, echoing the large one, makes us realize the extent to which easygoing corruption, impotence and oncoming dissolution, via old age, have spread throughout England. The cousins' talk consists principally of remembering and death. But Shallow, admitting: 'Certain, 't is certain; very sure, very sure: death, as the Psalmist saith, is certain to all; all shall die', shifts without pause to life habitual and inevitable, its routine negotiations: 'How a good yoke of bullocks at Stamford fair?' There is a bit of life, if only a flicker, in the old, old boy yet. So withered is he, however, that, though death and a remnant of life are living lean cheek by jowl in him, he sees nothing discordant in their keeping such casual, close company. And no doubt, in view of the nature of the world he is habituated to, he is right not to.

Now Falstaff, expected to recruit some soldiers, arrives. And at Shallow's roll-call, a parade of piping, thistle-down monosyllables, with barely a track of thought to hold them floating on the air, as though we were once more in the middle of preliminaries for rehearsal of Pyramus and Thisby, the grim comedy of recruiting begins. Falstaff claps himself together a paltry troop, fit indeed for death-watches, of characters tellingly named Mouldy, Shadow, and Feeble. The work done, reminiscence of the good old days, especially on Shallow's part, occurs. When Shallow turns in pride to Silence, 'Ha, cousin Silence, that thou hadst seen that that this knight and I have seen! Ha, Sir John, said I well?' Falstaff gives éclat to the occasion with one of his most resonant statements: 'We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow.' A statement as laconic as it is resonant. Merry the statement obviously is. Yet, in addition to its implied undertone of delighted nostalgia, in view of the scene's context—the age, if not decrepitude, of these men and the perilous condition of England—it is hard to resist overhearing further undertones of the sad and the ominous. Church bells, measuring time (recall Hal's early promise of 'redeeming the time' and his very recent apprehensiveness that he can 'so idly . . . profane the precious time'), ambiguously signify grave events no less than gay ones. And by now we well know Shakespeare's genius for mingling the merry and the grim.

Learning that Mouldy and Bulicali are ready to buy their freedom, Falstaff releases them and takes instead the previously rejected Wart and 'this same half-faced fellow, Shadow; give me this man. He presents no mark to the enemy; the foeman may with as great aim level at the edge of a penknife.' We seem to be returned, names, overtones, and all, to the world of the morality play, but of course with none of Falstaff's—or Shakespeare's—juicy, realistic detail forsaken. Off Falstaff goes, and he explains in a lengthy soliloquy why, aside from humoring Shallow, he has been so unusually terse with him:

Lord, lord, how subject we old men are to this vice of lying! This same starved justice hath done nothing but prate to me of the wildness of his youth, and the feats he hath done about Turnbull Street; and every third word a lie, duer paid to the hearer than the Turk's tribute.

Since on parting Shallow bade 'let our old acquaintance be renewed', Falstaff, now altogether committed to the ruthless 'law of nature', concludes:

Well, I'll be acquainted with him if I return, and it shall go hard but I will make him a philosopher's two stones to me. If the young dace be a bait for the old pike, I see no reason in the law of nature but I may snap at him.

Cold advantage and the purely predatory would seem to be all.

In the next scene the weary rebels, foolishly persuaded to yield by the cold, calculating, young Lancaster, a minister indeed of 'the law of nature', are summarily sentenced to death. With the army discharged, Falstaff decides to revisit Shallow. And the Fifth Act gives us Shallow at his shallow best insisting that Falstaff stay the night. Here we have Shakespeare's most extreme case of echolalia, the last husk and wisp of a man; a likely companion for Falstaff approaching his own end. Yet robustiously Falstaff stores him away, cheeseparing though he may be, for future use.

I will devise matter enough out of this Shallow to keep Prince Harry in continual laughter for wearing out of six fashions, which is four terms or two actions, and a shall laugh without intervallums.

Having just heard Davy, one of Shallow's servants, persuade Shallow to favor one of Davy's friends at trial, another casual instance of the times' pervasive corruption, it is natural that Falstaff should resort to legal terms. At the same time we notice that the laughter Falstaff intends to provoke in Hal will interrupt a whole year's round of law. Or justice carried no better than by Shallow. And having observed how much Shallow and his men are affected (infected) by each other's company: 'Therefore let men take heed of their company', with anticipated relish and mistaken contempt for Hal, no doubt in Falstaff s mind much infected by his company, he concludes:

O, it is much that a lie with a slight oath and a jest with a sad brow will do with a fellow that never had the ache in his shoulders! O, you shall see him laugh till his face be like a wet cloak ill laid up!

Falstaff cannot know, ironically enough, what ache and what promise of even more formidable aches Hal has just been experiencing with his dying father. Later, with dinner over and the wine and wit flowing, even Silence feels, mirabile dictu, moved to sing. Having made music on that straw Shallow, Falstaff has wakened Silence no less into a chirping little cricket. Thus Silence admits, 'I have been merry twice and once ere now.' Falstaff has met his most arduous challenge: he has found—better, inspired—life, gaiety, even song in two as close to death as men can be and still be alive. But who if not Falstaff is able to stir laughter in death's throat?

Now learning that Hal is King, Falstaff reveals his intentions and expectations nakedly enough: 'Master Robert Shallow, choose what office thou wilt in the land, 'tis thine. Pistol, I will double-charge thee with dignities.' And preparing for the all-night ride, he continues: 'I know the young King is sick for me. Let us take any man's horses; the laws of England are at my commandment. Blessed are they that have been my friends, and woe to my Lord Chief Justice!' Arriving at a public place near Westminster Abbey, they await the King and his coronation train. Since he is about to put on his last, best, certainly most important performance, Falstaff is glad they have had no time to change clothes: '.. . this poor show doth better; this doth infer the zeal I had to see him.' But Hal is hardly to be taken in. To Falstaff s loving entreaties Hal retorts:

I know thee not, old man. Fall to thy prayers. How ill white hairs become a fool and jester! I have long dreamed of such a kind of man, So surfeit-swelled, so old, and so profane; But, being awaked, I do despise my dream.

Awakened from the 'dream' he idled in as a youth, he, the opposite of a Richard II, knows his true role. However, in the very act of banishing Falsatff, Hal shows him charity, more surely than he needs to. If Hal's words seem harsh, aside from the official and crucial nature of this moment, with questioning eyes hard upon him, Hal must be categorically strong lest, like the past, Falstaff fail to believe him.

But the play has ended, as all plays must, with the reassertion of reality. For much of Part I Falstaff sloughs off almost all concern with the past and its consequences, and with the future. In the Boar's Head he enjoys, we and Hal with him, his moment of 'the immortal'. His sporadic bouts of remorse, like his sudden accesses of desire for reformation, we take to be additional garnishings of merriment. It is Hotspur who is a Puritan of time, set on employing it most exacerbatedly for betterment, a personal ideal of perfection, ever about to be achieved. Only in his moment of dying does he recognize how much life is 'time's fool'. In the latter portion of Part I, and certainly in Part II, when the court and the world at large claim Hal and Falstaff, Falstaff with patent pleasure and good will slips more and more into fairly commonplace attitudes towards time. As with Christopher Sly, suddenly metamorphosed from a bar fly to an important lord, time for Falstaff becomes something to attain material ends in; his tavern pleasures in their immediacy, time in its immensity of now, no longer suffice. Overtaken by the future, he has become not much more than advantageseeking. Hal alone is able to enjoy all times; he fully participates in the present moment, but not to the oblivion of other things, including the past and the future. He understands too well their interdependence.

Some critics have gone so far as to call Part II the tragedy of Falstaff. If aging and succumbing to greed are tragic, then Falstaff is tragic; and he is, if succumbing at last to the world he seemed free of is tragic. One might be tempted to conclude that he abandoned the court in the first place, not so much because he was superior to or disdainful of it, but because he was not equal to it and, impoverished, had to flee it. At the same time, for all his penetration, we must appreciate one significant fact about him in Part II. Unlike us, he can have no sense of what has been happening to Hal, his grave confrontations with his father and his coming from his father's painful death, as well as his important meeting and reconciliation with the Chief Justice.

It must be admitted that already in Part I, Act III, when in Hal's first 'private conference' with his father the King berates him and identifies Hotspur with himself and Hal with Richard, Hal conducts himself most nobly. And a little later in the rebel camp Vernon, at Hotspur's inquiry after Hal's whereabouts just before battle, praises him unreservedly:

All furnished, all in arms;
All plumed like estridges that wing the wind
Baited like eagles having lately bathed;
Glittering in golden coats, like images;
As full of spirit as the month of May,
And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer;
Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls.
I saw young Harry with his beaver on,
His cuisses on his thighs, gallantly armed,
Rise from the ground like feathered Mercury,
And vault with such ease into his seat
As if an angel dropped down from the clouds
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus
And witch the world with noble horsemanship.

This spate of glittering images eagerly mounts from estridges to eagles to the sun itself. Then with a moment's back-to-earth digression to sweep up goats and bulls, it mounts again, arms and all, but now far above mere earthling birds; for it seems to reach its climax in 'feathered' Mercury only to top it with that loftiest of winged creatures, an angel, but now one not rising but dropping as from heaven. Such praise, to say the least, is especially impressive coming from an enemy and delivered to Hal's chief opponent. Shortly after we have Hal's altogether magnanimous public praise of Hotspur in the very moment of challenging him. And then again Vernon, reporting that praise, so praiser,

But let me tell the world,
If he outlive the envy of this day,
England did never owe so sweet a hope,
So much misconstrued in his wantonness.

that Hotspur understandably says: 'Cousin, I think thou art enamoured / On his follies.' The battle follows, and Hal's acquittal of himself puts the final seal of approval on him. He has proved himself as a fighter, first against the kingdom's second most successful warrior, Douglas, and then against Hotspur himself. He has also established his filiality, and so become King, and his nobility out of his relations with the Lord Chief Justice. Falstaff, in the other hand, has steadily deteriorated. Here at last, in a way not present in the history plays before, we see character in the making, in Hal's case, and in the unmaking, in Falstaff s; or perhaps it would be more accurate to say character emerging. For both are, in a basic sense, what they are throughout; it is the change of circumstances that provides them with the stage and scene for their fullest unfolding.

Despite Hal's constantly harsh, bald words about the future, Falstaff loved Hal or, perhaps more to the point, assumed that Hal loved him. At the end he may still love Hal, but apparently above all in his illusion that Hal will be his bottomless royal exchequer. It is a capping irony that Falstaff, able seemingly to see through all, should not have recognized Hal's real feeling. Ironically too, at this moment of denial, in spite of the strength of its utterance, Falstaff is naive enough to persist in his misinterpreting Hal's meaning:

I shall be sent for in private to him. Look you, he must seem thus to the world. Fear not your advancements; I will be the man yet that shall make you great.

In a marvelous reversal, Shallow for once is more aware and witty than Falstaff. He says: 'I cannot well perceive how, unless you should give me your doublet and stuff me out with straw.'

From the beginning then, in Hal's ideal of what his true conduct should be no less than in his playing a part for it, the pupil has surpassed his teacher. And Hal surpasses him to the triumph that is Henry IV, clearly the climax in Shakespeare's treatment of English history. Moreover, in it we have at last a magnificent confluence of the historical and the comic. Now the old spirit of comedy, no less than the supposedly noble life of the court, is being directly challenged while it is being used; it is no longer merely one portion of a play or the elegant pause of imaginative and timeless time that is the play. Furthermore, though what moonlit gaiety and charm Henry IV has is mainly identified with Falstaff and his tavern, the spirit of comedy in the largest sense, the sense this play intends, resides elsewhere—in Hal. (If we are willing to recognize tragi-comedy as a genre, because of Hal we might, at risk of pleasing Polonius, adopt for this play the term histori-comedy; certainly both comedy and history are proved to their uttermost here, one fulfilling the other.)

For Hal, by his character and through his experience in these plays, is the only one able to move with most notable sprightliness from one world to another and able to be equally at home in all of them. Most of all, with Falstaff s having coached and paced him, Hal not only has learned to know other men through observing and playing them, but in doing so has also prepared for his most ambitious role, the most taxing short of saint-hood that a man can play—king. Because of his intelligence and the amplitude of his experience, he will not, like Richard II confuse himself with his office. Rather, like the great actor that he must be, he will set aside his personal life or, better, put it and its diverse ingredients altogether at the service of his royal role. The theater then, whether Shakespeare's or Falstaff s in the Boar's Head with his kaleidoscopic improvisations, is one of the principal academies for all of us, not least a prince.

Hal, we might say, like Theseus, has his play, his Midsummer Night's Dream, before action; but, unlike Theseus, he through his Master of the Revels performs in it and cultivates the moon-man side of him enough to be a fully matured daytime leader. It is quite appropriate and natural that Shakespeare's genius, bearing its ripest comic fruit in Falstaff, should also achieve its greatest historical drama by way of Hal. But this is more than a mere quantitative growth in comedy and history. Henry IV happily tops even Shakespeare's major comic moments in Falstaff with this larger, overarching accomplishment in comedy that is Hal and the whole play. For a time, if only a time—no longer than Hal's reign or the two parts of Henry IV and Henry V—England and its people, now of all humours, attain an almost perfect equipoise.

Hal, I have suggested, does not confuse worlds and times. But he does marry them again, as Richard II could never do, in ceremony, the state's solemnity renewed; for he has the power, the wit, the glamor out of reality to do so. Through him, holiday and the daily come together again. His is the true, synthesizing Elizabethan genius, able to unite the time's most diverse elements into one victorious state. In this genius Hal is like his maker who, with the incredible hodgepodge of materials, classical and romantic, popular and courtly, fabulous and historical, remote and local that he inherited, found out of their jostling fecundity the language of an air brisk and fresh enough to accommodate and harmonize them all. In Henry IV the merry part of pomp, of spectacle, through its rootedness in the people and reality, has been restored, just as daily life has been transformed into something of the mellowness of holiday. And England, whatever the threats to it, the diseases struggling to overwhelm it, for a spell is as endearing and fundamentally benign as the life-giving, life-enhancing polis of Athens was to its grateful, greatest sons. England is, corruption and all, once more 'this scept'red isle / This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, / This other Eden, demi-paradise' that dying Gaunt extolled.

One might be reminded of another series of magnificent plays, a trilogy that was also a kind of national epic, singing the praises of a country even while exploring that country's birth pangs, the terror and the anguish that racked it, and the chaos that threatened to engulf if before it could attain its full greatness. That is the Oresteia, a paean to Athens as the tetralogy of Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I and II, and Henry V is to England. With Apollo's help Orestes, the King's son, a King guilty and killed by guilty ones, breaks the blood curse, which has sullied all his family and therefore the kingdom as well; law is at last established, the furies are halted, appeased, transformed and included, and justice is enthroned as against bloodshed and revenge, the arbitrary, the irrational, the personal. Such establishment is an ideal the fitfulness of whose realization Aeschylus appreciated no less than Shakespeare, Shakespeare no less than Aeschylus. The plays would not have been written, and in times perilously close to civil war, had this awareness not been most alive in both and had they not been concerned with showing how easily such an ideal can be lost or destroyed, and what the terrible consequences must be. Hal, unlike Orestes, has no heavenly advice and guidance, none beyond his own intelligence and experience, what he learns from a satyr-wise figure like Falstaff. And he kills no one surreptitiously; but he does kill Hotspur and curb Falstaff. A considerable price to pay no doubt in their immense attractiveness, it is nonetheless a necessary one and to be expected of a noble youth undertaking a role more important, and in a basic sense far larger, than himself.

James Black (essay date 1990)

SOURCE: "Discourse of Occasion in Henry IV" in Cahiers Elisabethains, No. 37, April, 1990, pp. 27-42.

[In the essay that follows, Black analyzes the "comic discourse " in the Henry IV plays and argues that while discourse in Shakespeare's history plays is typically limited, the comedic elements in the conversations anddiscussions (most notably those of Falstaff) in these two plays function as a means of revealing the themes of time and deferment.]

Keir Elam's analysis of Shakespeare's dramatic discourse leads him to propose that opening gambits vary artfully according to genre: "the comic incipit suggests an infinitely extendible continuity of speech . . . , the history play appears on the contrary to establish from the outset a sense of discursive limit and self-sufficiency." But Shakespeare's extensive use of comic techniques in Henry IV gives the play both "a sense of discursive limit" and "an infinitely extendible continuity of speech",1 especially from Falstaff who, as A.D. Nuttall observes, "is poem unlimited, . . . the great expression in the plays of what we may call the unpractical mystique."2

These apparently diverse perceptions of discursive limit and poem unlimited are in part reconciled by the fact that 1 Henry IV is an interleaved text that, deconstructed (which in this case is to say, dismantled), yields two texts. As proposed by the Ql title page there is The History of Henrie the Fourth; With the baiteli at Shrewsburie between the King and Lord Henry Percy, and there is the humorous conceits of Sir John Falstalffe. These texts, when separated, are respectively a history and a comedy, by Elam's definitions. By the removal of Falstaff from the rebellion plot—a process which requires little more than excision of twenty-three lines from V.1, thirty lines from V.3 and sixty-four lines (with accompanying business) from V.4, a total of one hundred and fifteen lines, all from one act—The History of Henrie the Fourth; With the baiteli at Shrewsburie is completely free of Falstaffian intertextuality and offers a complete and serious plot featuring a king preoccupied with rebellious subjects and a rebellious son, and culminating in the defeat of the chief rebels, with the king and prince, reconciled, going off together to make the victory complete. This plot has an interesting touch of allegory centred in the prodigal-prince whose misbehaviour is fully enough lamented (I.1), upbraided (III.2) and confessed (III.2, V.1), and then thrown off, while the aspiring and failed Hotspur is tragic. And it is a history play with the king, Hotspur and Lady Percy, Mortimer, Glendower, Douglas and Blunt undiminished, with extensive appearances by the prince, and with a lady singing in Welsh. The king, prince and rebellion carry over into Part Two, and the rebellion matter in both Parts is the 'history play' to which I will be referring. Though the history might stand by itself in Part One without the humorous conceits of Falstaff, provided the Falstaffian comedy was only humorous conceits, in Part Two the comedy obviously is inseparable from the history. Shakespeare, as he usually does, is working across genres.3 I intend to show that the play's comic discourse invariably is sounding the major themes of 1 and 2 Henry IV and that the "poem unlimited" is both an invasion and an outgrowth of those discursive limits which characterize the history play.

Part One has the conventional history-play opening noted by Elam, with the king "[inaugurating] the dramatic universe of discourse .. . by inviting a speech act"4:

Then let me hear
Of you, my gentle cousin Westmorland,
What yesternight our Council did decree
In forwarding this dear expedience,


The request comes at the end of a thirty-three-line speech (the second longest opening speech, discounting prologues and inductions, in Shakespeare's plays after Gloucester's in Richard III). The dear expedience which is supposed to have been forwarded is the king's crusade, his resolution that the factions in England

Shall now, in mutual well-beseeming ranks,
March all one way, and be no more oppos 'd
Against acquaintance, kindred, and allies.


For twenty-seven lines the king emphasizes his determination that civil war will end and the crusade begin. Twice he says no more with reference to internal strife, twice now, and once each therefore, and forthwith to indicate the new unity of purpose. The Then let me hear . . . in the last sentence of the speech logically should follow on these emphatic expressions of intention. But this final sentence is made an irrelevancy, or little more than a cue to start Westmorland talking, by the preceding sentence:

But this our purpose now is twelve month old,
And bootless 'tis to tell you we will go;
Therefor we meet not now.


The now and not now of this sentence are anti-climactic both in their own sequence and in comparison with the repeated purposeful nows of lines fourteen and twenty. The therefor of line thirty is in lame contrast to the Therefore of line eighteen—Therefore, friends, . . . forthwith a power of English shall we levy. Even allowing for its metadiscursive reference back to the end of Richard II where Henry vowed to make a voyage to the Holy Land, / To wash this blood off from [his] guilty hand (V.6.49-50), the king's speech appears unnecessarily elaborate unless repetitiveness is meant (by the speaker) to be taken for determination. He certainly does indulge in a miles gloriosus fantasy of being Christ's soldier and chasing pagans, and when he swings first from resolution to disappointment in the penultimate sentence and then, with apparent illogic, back again to anticipation in the final sentence he cleverly makes Westmorland bear the responsibility of postponing the crusade—of ratifying the not now that has cancelled all of Henry's nows and forthwiths.

Given the shadings of fantasy and policy in his lengthy opening speech, the king's abrupt relinquishment of forthwith and now may indicate either a genuine or a pretended confusion. Over the course of the two Parts of the play he continues to attempt, or profess to attempt, to start his crusade, and to be endlessly thwarted by necessity from cleansing his hands or completing his policy of busying giddy minds with foreign quarrels—he states both motives. He also defers his death in Jerusalem, or is his death in Jerusalem deferred?—Shakespeare makes it impossible to choose between the active-and-passive-voice ways of stating the fact of deferment. Henry thus hovers in that state of unfulfilment which in the history play is serious (for the kingdom too needs cleansing and unity) but which also borders on that comic situation where intention, grandiosely stated but not quite committed to, is thwarted by external intrusion: as with the Navarronian academic contract in Love's Labour 's Lost, for instance, or, nearer at hand, the self-reforming intentions, periodically repeated, of Falstaff, who exactly like King Henry is first presented as having a high-handedness with or confusion about time and who sets up a trajectory of discourse about it parallel to the king's.

Taken at its best, the king's opening speech sets a level of history-play discourse, a strait and narrow path of formal court verse from which Falstaff s and Hal's improvisational prose, boundlessly discursive, broad and easy, will seem to continually deviate. Yet Falstaff s opening query in I.2, Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad? and Hal's response that unless time were to comply with his desires Falstaff has nothing to do with it resonate from the king's confusion of now and not now. That open-vowelled yawn of Falstaff s first line may seem far from the king's evocation of a breathless occasion,

So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils


yet short-winded accents are Falstaff s mode of speaking. He complains (at length) of being broken-winded (Pt. 1, II.2.12-13) and Poins notes that his only brevity in communication is brevity in breath, short-winded (Pt. 2, II.2.118). A comic reflection of the king's characterization of the thirsty entrance of this soil [Daubing] her lips with her own children's blood (1.1.5-6) is Falstaff larding the lean earth as he sweats to death at Gad's Hill (II.2.103-04). His echoes of the king are distant and debased, yet satirically antiphonal. And in his first exchange with Hal he asks a question whose substance, like Henry's preoccupation with the Holy Land, will arch over all the action of both Parts of the play to its resolution in the last acts of Part Two. The question is emphasized by repetition and by the deferral of its shaping:

Fal. . . . I prithee sweet wag, when thou art king,as God save thy GraceMajesty I should say, forgrace thou wilt have none
Prince. What, none?
Fal. No, by my troth, not so much as will serve tobe prologue to an egg and butter.
Prince. Well, how then? Come, roundly, roundly.
Fal. Marry then sweet wag, when thou art king letnot us that are squires of the night 's body be calledthieves of the day's beauty . . .

(Pt 1, 1.2.16-25)

Falstaff starts the question, interrupts himself to enjoy the syllepsis inherent in his use of the word Grace, and when urged to get on with the matter turns back to a prologue to the question (this prologue being a prompting of the answer he hopes to get), then appears to let Hal sidetrack him. But the question waits, and forty lines after it was begun he begins it again, and again prompts the reply:

But I prithee sweet wag, shall there be gallows standing in England when thou art king? and resolution thus fubbed as it is with the rusty curb of old father Antic the law? Do not thou when thou art king hang a thief.


Twice prompted to the answer Falstaff wants, Hal fubs off resolution of the question by a quibble on hang a thief:

Prince. No, thou s halt.
Fal. Shall I? O rare! By the Lord, I'll be a brave judge.
Prince. Then judgest false already, I mean thou shalt have the hanging of the thieves and so become a rare hangman.


Thus the matter of what sort of king Hal will be, like the question of what kind of soldier King Henry is going to be, takes many lines to pose. And, as mentioned, neither question is resolved until the last acts of Part Two, though returned to many times by the king, Falstaff and others. Here, in extended deferral, is where comic speech is bred upon the history-play's discourse, because comic discourse, being infinitely extendible (Elam: 91) and moving with its own organs, is the discourse of evasion, of (to use Falstaff s and Quickly's word) fubbing off. Hal's word-play in: Thou shalt [hang a thief] instantly entraps Falstaff—a quibble being the fatal Cleopatra for which Falstaff is often content to lose the thread of his thought—and the comedic path is followed even after Falstaff discovers Hal means him to be hangman, not judge.

Fal. Well, Hal, well; and in some sort it jumps withmy humour, as well as waiting in the court . . .
Prince. For obtaining of suits?
Fal. Yea, for obtaining of suits, whereof the hangmanhath no lean wardrobe.


In the history Northumberland's party see themselves as waiting in the court and obtaining no suit whatever. Worcester tells the king (whom he sees as a political gourmand):

. . . Being fed by us, you used us so,
As that ungentle gull the cuckoo's bird
Useth the sparrow
did oppress our nest,
Grew by our feeding to so great a bulk
That even our love durst not come near your sight
For fear of swallowing.

(Pt 1; V.1.54-64)

Hotspur puts the same point even more forcefully, employing (with a mock-apology for his colloquial excursion) Hal's and Falstaff s metaphor and run of quibbles. Shall it be, he asks Northumberland and Worcester,

That you a world of curses undergo,
Being the agents or base second means,
The cords, the ladder, or the hangman rather?
—O, pardon me that I do stoop so low,
To show the line and the predicament
Wherein you range under this subtle king!


Thus in the history the king and the king's former allies, and in the comedy the prince's parasite, are kept 'hanging'—a suspended state clearly defined, by discursive echo and other means, in the first three scenes. The king himself is frozen between now and not now and he in turn practises that most delicate of political skills, the art of deferral. He knows at what time to promise, when to pay (IV.3.52-3). When to promise usually is 'now' while when to pay is 'not now'. Hal intends, he says in the famous soliloquy which ends the second scene of Part One, to pay the debt [he] never promised by Redeeming time when men think least [he] will. To redeem can mean to free or recover something by paying a pledge or obligation; this is the way in which the word is used in Part Two: My honour is at pawn, / And, but my going, nothing can redeem it (II.2.7-9). A time will come, the prince appears to be saying, when to promise will be to pay and there will be no more fubbing off and no more confusing of now with not now. Redeeming time of course comes from the Bishops' Bible translation of Ephesians V. 16. Instead of redeeming the time the Great Bible of 1539 has the phrase avoydyng occasion,6 a locution which neatly describes the side-stepping and deferral practised throughout Henry IV. Of all the characters, Hal makes the fewest promises.

The king on the other hand avoids occasion when he can, withholding satisfaction from the Percies, deferring Jerusalem, keeping back Mortimer's ransom. In retaliation Hotspur withholds his prisoners. He also withholds information (and himself) from his wife; Northumberland promises support at Shrewsbury but never pays. In the comedy the matter of Falstaff s answering for the Gad's Hill robbery in Part One is still outstanding in Part Two (I.2.100, 147-8); he continually evades his debts to Quickly (even in his brief penetration into the history at the battle of Shrewsbury he acknowledges that at London he escapes shot-free), inspiring the hostess's ineffable complaint:

A hundred mark is a long one for a poor lone woman to bear, and I have borne, and borne, and borne, and have been fubbed off, and fubbed off, and fubbed off, from this day to that day, that it is a shame to be thought on.

(Pt. 2, II.1.30-5)

At the end, Falstaff owes Shallow a thousand pounds, and fubs him off as well (Pt 2, V.5.72-85). And suspended over both Parts are Falstaff s own expectations which are vested (though he doesn't know this) in the matter expressed in both the history and the comedy: Hal's promise to reform.

There is no question that the puttings-off in the history flow from the matter of the king's title, which is linked to the pattern of rebellion, theft (of crowns, Pt. 1, I.2.127-8) and the general impotence of law in the kingdom—hence, in the comedy, Falstaff s freedom and expectations. The Percies believe that supplantation of the king by Mortimer will cure all the ills. Rather than avoydyng occasion, therefore, they are prepared to seize it, to make it—Let us on, and publish the occasion of our arms (Pt. 2, I.3.86)—or say that they are driven by it.:

We see which way the stream of time doth run,
And are enforc'd from our most quiet there
By the rough torrent of occasion.

(Pt. 2, IV.1.70-2)

Hotspur is most characteristically an occasion-maker, chafing always at delay, invariably trying to create or seize opportunities for hostilities and 'honour': I am on fire / To hear this rich reprisal is so night, and yet not ours! (Pt. 1, IV.1.117-19). Yet all Hotspur's bristle and avidity for 'now' in Part One should not obscure the fact that the two Parts of Henry IV constitute a kind of vigil-play. Succession, not supplantation, ends the reign of King Henry and turns the kingdom around, and the time for succession can neither be predicted nor hurried: it has to be waited for. As with the king's Jerusalem dream—and with Falstaff s question—'now' waits upon 'not now'. The king will respond only to 'necessity': Are these things then, necessities? / Then let us meet them like necessities (Pt 2, III. 1.92-3). Like Falstaff he will face only what he cannot defer:

Prince. Why, thou owest God a death.

Fal. Tis not due yet, I would be loath to pay him before his daywhat need I be so forward with him that calls not on me?

(Pt. 1, V.1.126-9)

Thus in history and comedy both Hal's 'fathers' defer and delay. Falstaff saves himself from being killed at Shrewsbury by playing dead, fubbing off death by seeming to die, and doing it well enough to deceive Hal and take away Hal's redemptive victory over Hotspur. The king too seems to Hal to have died, only to gather strength for one final scene. In each case there is a deferment of Hal's redemption of time, an avoidance of Hal's occasion.

Hal's vigil is very difficult. Apparently from the moment of his father's accession, as we learn in Richard //(V.3.1-22), he had committed himself to the form of political theatre which he explains in the soliloquy on redeeming time. Faithfulness to this programme means that the redemptive act can take place only at his father's death and his own succession. Till then, all his 'I wills' are intentional, Hal's version of 'not now': Redeeming time when men think least I will; I do, Iwill [banish Falstaff]. Even the intention that he does fulfill in Part One, I will redeem all this on Percy's head, brings credit not to himself but to Falstaff. Hence king and prince are waiting, as it were, for Jerusalem, for an occasion that neither really wishes to come and for an event about which they scarcely can speak. With no one to confide in (except the audience, and Shakespeare gives him just one more soliloquy after redeeming time), Hal only once obliquely approaches the uncomfortable subject with Poins:

Poins. Tell me, how many good young princes would [talk so idly], their fathers being so sick as yours at this time is . . .

Prince. Marry, I tell thee it is not meet that I should he sad now my father is sick; albeit I could tell to thee, as to one it pleases me for fault of a better to call my friend, I could be sad, and sad indeed too.

Poins. Very hardly, upon such a subject.

Prince. . . . Let the end try the man. But I tell thee, my heart bleeds inwardly that my father is so sick; and keeping such vile company as thou art hath in reason taken from me all ostentation of sorrow. . . . what wouldst thou think of me if I should weep?

Poins. I would think thee a most princely hypocrite. Prince. It would be every man's thought; and thou art a blessed fellow, to think as every man thinks. . . . Every man would think me an hypocrite indeed.

(Pt. 2, II.2.29-56)

From this exchange it is clear that Hal is feeling the strain of his pose. He participates in only one Boar's-Head scene in Part Two, where appropriately he 'waits upon' Falstaff while disguised as a drawer (II.2.164-5) and comes forward calling out Anon, anon, sir (II.4.279). Anon, anon, sir is the drawer Francis' repeated cry in Part One when Hal holds him in one room while Poins calls from another. It is one of the comedy's echoes to 'now' and 'not now' and 'I will'—all of these expressions coming from characters, from the king down to Francis, who are time's subjects (Pt. 2, I.3.110). Commentators on Henry IV who read Hal as having a cool agenda neatly worked out overlook the fact that no one has control over the time-table. Hal must wait and wait, like everyone else, and even when Hotspur's impulsiveness results in one 'I will'—I will redeem all this on Percy's head—being accomplished, no credit accrues to Hal and, far from all this being redeemed, Hotspur's elimination is only prologue to the another day announced (appropriately) by the king in the final words of Part One. Another day is the day the rebels are finally checked, but not by Hal, and behind that day waits yet another, the day of Jerusalem, the day of change that necessitates the king's death. And while Hal waits, without being able to express to anyone what he is waiting for, he can say only Let the end try the man.

During this period of waiting—to borrow a phrase from Linda Woodbridge7 this imitation of inaction—discursive limitation and poem unlimited run closely together in the matter of what can and cannot be discoursed on. Discussion of King Henry's death is clearly off-limits, especially between father and son. Just once, in a breathless, unguarded moment, does the prince blurt out the proscribed word. When Hal saves him from Douglas, the king says he has show'd thou mak'st some tender of my life, / In this fair rescue, and the prince responds:

O God, they did me too much injury
That ever said I hearken'd for your death.

(Pt. 1, V.4.48, 51-2)

The king's choice of words, my life, evades naming what has nearly happened, while Hal's your death is understandably but exceptionally blunt. The topic of the king's death does not return again until the king actually begins to die, in Part Two, IV.4.

Falstaff also is prickly on the subject of death and the related matter of his age. He can and frequently does mention age himself, usually in rhetorical self-defence, as in there lives not three good men unhanged in England, and one of them is fat, and grows old, or in the plea for valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant, being as he is old Jack Falstaff. And he complains of decay:

Bardolph, am I not fallen away vilely since this last action? Do I not bate? Do I not dwindle? Why, my skin hangs about me like an old lady's loose gown.

(Pi. 1, III.3.1-3)

But when Bardolph responds to this complaint by saying that Falstaff is so fretful he cannot live long, it is made clear to him that Falstaff really doesn't want his opinion, for he gives Bardolph the curtest of acknowledgements, Why, there is it. He equivocates on whether it is gout, a disease of age, or pox, a malady of youth, that pains his great toe (Pt. 2, I.2.244-6) and attempts to falsify his age. In the Boar's Head playlet he admits to as I think, some fifty, and when this obviously draws derision, hastily adds or by'r lady inclining to threescore (Pt. 1, II.4.418-19); and with the Chief Justice he brazenly says You that are old consider not the capacities of us that are young (Pt 2, I.2.172-4). When Doll Tearsheet asks him when he is going to patch up his old body for heaven he begs her not to speak like a death 's-head, do no bid me remember mine end (Pt. 2, II.4.227-32). She at once changes the subject, but he returns to it himself in his most genuinely morose utterance in either Part: I am old, I am old. Thou 7 forget me when I am gone (II.4.268, 274). Shallow's near-senile reminiscences embarrass or irritate him—No more of that, good Master Shallow, no more of that (Pt. 2, III.2.191)—especially when Shallow seems to think time has stood still:

Shal. . . . And is Jane Nightwork alive?
Fal. She lives, Master Shallow.
Shal. . . . Doth she hold her own well?
Fal. Old, old, Master Shallow.

Shal. Nay, she must be old, she cannot choose but be old, certain she's old, and had Robin Nightwork by old Nightwork before I came to Clement's Inn.

Sil. That 's fifty-five year ago.

(Pt. 2, III.2.193-205)

Shallow's leitmotifs in the first orchard scene are dead and old. Falstaff resists admitting contemporaneity by side-stepping the reminiscences as much as he can—no more of that, good Master Shallow—or by touching them, sordid as they are, with grace: We have heard the chimes at midnight. Skeletal as he always has been (a was the very genius of famine, III.2.307-08) and withered as he now is, Shallow is an emblematic death's head, the memento mori Falstaff implored Doll not to be in his previous scene. In Part One Falstaff cheerfully compared Bardolph's fiery face to a death's-head, or a memento-mori, but 'dead' and 'old' seem too present and vocal in Part Two at the Boar's Head and in Gloucestershire. The death'sheads set up a discourse which Falstaff is finding increasingly hard to control.

Control of discourse, usually by dazzling reaction, is Falstaff s strength, his way of organizing and directing the wit that is in other men. As king of language, he holds a monopoly and gives out patents to suit himself. The exchange with Bardolph already mentioned is a good example of Falstaff s restraint-of-trade. Because Falstaff begins the scene by saying Bardolph, am I not fallen away vilely since this last action?, Bardolph thinks he really is being asked for comment, so when Falstaff goes on to complain that he lives out of all order, out of all compass, Bardolph attempts to decorate what he (possibly correctly) takes to be an unconscious Falstaffian pun:

Bard. Why, you are so fat, Sir John, that you must needs be out of all compass, out of all reasonable compass, Sir John.

Fal. Do thou amend thy face, and I'll amend my life . . . I make as good use of [thy face] as many a man doth of a death's head, or a memento mori. I never see thy face but I think upon hell-fire, and Dives that lived in purple; for there he is in his robes, burning, burning. If thou wert any way given to virtue, I would swear by thy face: My oath should be "By this fire, that's God's angel!" But thou art altogether given over; and wert indeed, but for the light in thy face, the son of utter darkness.

(Pt. 1, III.3.24-36)

Bardolph has made the error of intruding on a monologue on Falstaff s favourite topic—Falstaff. When we look at just about any of the exchanges with Falstaff in either Part it can be seen that they are all about Falstaff: they are of course usually about sloth, gluttony, lechery, covetousness, anger and pride—in sum, about Falstaff, who orchestrates the discourse about himself. Bardolph's witticism on Falstaff s girth is squashed because Falstaff has not licensed it. The conscious references to Falstaff s bulk in both Parts of the play come from Bardolph (one reference), Poins (three in all, only one of them made to Falstaff s face), Doll (three affectionate insults including thou whoreson little Bartholomew boar-pig) and the Chief Justice (one). The Sheriff and Carrier in Part One say they are looking for A gross fat man. As fat as butter (ÏL4.504). All the rest of the legion of references to Falstaff s corpulence come from Falstaff himself or from Prince Hal. And the prince and certain of the others discourse on this topic because Falstaff wills them to do so. Witness for instance the Chief Justice attempting to lecture Falstaff on his way of life:

C.J. Well, the truth is, Sir John, you live in great infamy.

Fal. He that buckles himself in my belt cannot live in less.

C.J. Your means are very slender, and your waste is great.

Fal. I would it were otherwise. I would my means were greater and my waist slenderer. . . .

C.J. You are as a candle, the better part burnt out.

Fal. A wassail candle, my lord, all tallowif I did say of wax, my growth would approve the truth.

C.J. There is not a white hair in your face but should have his effect of gravity.

Fal. His effect of gravy, gravy, gravy.


As the Justice attacks Falstaff s morals and conduct, Falstaff actually hides behind his own bulk, making the assailant strike, as it were, at a pillow and turning the Justice's thrusts into straight-lines (the Justice's puns are of course all unconscious). The great belly is offered as a target, and absorbs all strictures. Doll likewise is for the erotic occasion permitted to call Falstaff a Bartholomew boar-pig and a whoreson chops, but patching up his old body for heaven is a forbidden subject: do not bid me remember mine end.

In the history, what is not licensed for discussion is not spoken about. The king sets limits most explicitly: no one is to speak of Mortimer, and he will listen to Hal only when Hal promises to overcome Hotspur. Lady Percy is forbidden to ask Hotspur about his plot; Hal stops the Sheriff from carrying out enquiries into the Gad's Hill robbery; Worcester makes Vernon suppress the king's offer to Hotspur. In Part Two a character is called Silence: appropriately, he breaks into song only in the new reign.

In effect, then, Falstaff licences certain other characters to discourse on his belly and by doing so sets limitations on what may be said about his life, his age and his diseased state. Because he knows that men of all sorts take a pride to gird at him he keeps their attention on his girth—one of his techniques being the word-play he uses in gird at me (Pt. 2, I.2.5), and in his first encounter with the Chief Justice, where as mentioned, every criticism is turned into an evading pun and the serious circumstance of Falstaff s vice (living out of compass) into the comic matter of his corpulence (being out of compass).

The prince has the broadest patent to coin Falstaff s belly into diversion, and yet there is a sense that even Hal at times is an 'allowed fool' in the Twelfth Night manner (Twelfth Night, I.5.93-4). Obviously Falstaff is Hal's allowed Fool, but after the pattern of Shakespearean comedy the roles are sometimes reversed: I am the fellow with the great belly, and he my dog is how Falstaff describes their relationship (Pt. 2, I.2.144-5). The great belly, that globe of sinful continents (Pt. 2, II.4.282), is topic unlimited, a comic universe which Hal tirelessly explores and Falstaff deftly exploits. The prince's brief may be described as 'Let him anatomize Falstaff, and so he does, finding a fat-kidneyed rascal, fat guts, Sir John Paunch, that damned brawn, woolsack, whoreson round man, and whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch. In Henry IV a discourse of insult runs through all the degrees of verbal contention from the Retort Courteous to the Lie Direct (cf. As You Like It, V.4.89-96), and adds another category, the Imputation Scurrilous. Insults pour from Hal with the reprobative energy and inventiveness of a puritan pamphleteer, or Thersites, or Kent on Oswald, or Jonson's Buffone8—except that the prince's scurrilities are cheerful, and directed at the easy target which Falstaff presents to him. Falstaff, who is himself a master of base comparisons (Pt. 1, H.4.246), acknowledges that Hal has the most unsavoury similes (Pt. 1, I.2.77), and when he proposes a play extempore and lets Hal play the king to his prince he is giving Hal even further allowance to attack him. This Hal does in a tour-de-force of comic revulsion:

There is a devil haunts thee in the likeness of an old fat man, a tun of man is thy companion. Why dost thou converse with that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that grey iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years?

(Pt. J, II.4.441-9)

Because Falstaff is in character and cannot break in on this assault Hal's attack goes on from his corpulence to his viciousness. But in another exchange, where Falstaff can interrupt, he stops Hal at appearances and replies in kind:

Prince. This sanguine coward, this bed-presser, this horse-back-breaker, this huge hill of flesh,

Fal. 'Sblood, you starveling, you eel-skin, you dried neat's tongue, you bull's pizzle, you stock-fish . . . you tailor's yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!

(Pt. 1, II.4.237-44)

As can be seen from this counter-attack, Falstaff not only uses his bulk as a straw man (well-stuffed) to wear out assailants, but also takes pride in it. In his view, he is not unpleasingly fat but simply a goodly portly man; other men, including Hal, are unnaturally thin. If I were sawed into quantities, he says, I should make four dozen of such bearded hermits' staves as Master Shallow (Pt. 2, V.1.59-61), and when the prince puts the small boy into Falstaff s service to set him off Falstaff persuades himself that the boy, not he, is the phenomenon, a whoreson mandrake, . . . fitter to be worn in my cap than to wait at my heels (Pt. 2, I.2.13-15). He and the prince are the sight-gag of fat and thin together, in perpetual contenton even when (as rarely) they are silent, and the comedy returns again and again to this emblematic discourse. Even at Shrewsbury a visual fat-thin contrast between dead Hotspur and supposedly-dead Falstaff may be encouraged by the Prince's observations (Pt, 1, V.4.86-109) that Hotspur is shrunken in death while Falstaff is as gross as ever. The farewell to dead Falstaff is consciously humorous as well as dismissive: Could not all this flesh keep in a little life?; O, I should have a heavy miss of thee and Death hath not struck so fat a deer today. Because Hal is in only two scenes with Falstaff in Part Two (one of these being the rejection scene), as compared with six scenes in Part One, Shakespeare maintains the emblem by substituting the boy and Shallow, and probably Shadow, as the thin member of the pairing. The Falstaffian insults on Hal's slenderness quoted above—starveling, eel-skin, bow-case, tailor's-yard—come around again on this starved justice and hermit's staff, Shallow: you might have thrust him and all his apparel into an eel-skinthe case of a treble hautboy was a mansion for him (Pt. 2, III.2.297, 319-21). And the discourse of insult between fat man and thin man, old and young, resumes in Part Two when Falstaff, debating with the Chief Justice, over-confidently turns the subject from his bulk to his virtue, his true valour and, at a pitch of egregiousness, his youth—You that are old consider not the capacities of us that are young—and the Justice attacks him in every quarter:

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 yellowcheek, 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?


The Justice's anatomy of Falstaff is as searching as Hal's—he is, after all, Hal's dramatic stand-in, and will soon replace Falstaff as Hal's 'father' (V.2.118). These are contradictory roles. The Justice who takes part as half of the comedy team, first feeding unconscious straight-lines to Falstaff and then satirically anatomizing him, belongs in The humorous conceits of Sir John Falstalffe, while the frustrated lawman who can neither separate the prince from his lewd companion nor cross-examine the companion, reputed conqueror of Hotspur, on the robbery at Gad's Hill is from The History of Henrie the Fourth, The Justice's two-fold role is a sign of the integration of comedy and history; any attempt to separate Part Two into dual texts as with Part One would be an exercise in sawing Falstaff into quantities.

But the discourse of opposites is not in words only but in woes also (cf. Pt. 1, II.4.412), especially in Part Two, where the comic matter of Falstaff s swollen condition seriously emblematizes King Henry's land. The king says:

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.

(III. 1.38-40)

And the king's adversary the Archbishop has the same diagnosis:

We are all diseas 'd,
And with our surfeiting, and wanton hours,
Have brought ourselves into a burning fever,
And we must bleed for it.


Warwick's optimistic reply to the king is that the land is but as a body yet distemper'd, / Which to his former strength may be restor 'd. But neither the king nor the rebels can cure the distemper, for they are part of it as Falstaff is emblem of it. When Falstaff complains that he is economically as well as physically afflicted he invokes a general condition of painful langour: I can get no remedy against this consumption of the purse; borrowing only lingers and lingers it out (Pt. 2, I.2.237-8). Northumberland's description of his own indecisiveness also describes a wider anomie:

'Tis with my mind
As with the tide swell'd up unto his height,
That makes a still-stand, running neither way.

(Pt 2, II.3.62-4)

The two crises which the corporate swollen state eventually reaches are not brought about by any notable initiatives: they are the rebels' defeat and the king's final collapse. The latter comes when the sick king hears the rebellion is over, and responds.

Will Fortune never come with both hands full...?She either gives a stomach, and no food—Such are the poor, in health; or else a feastAnd takes away the stomach.

(Pt. 2, IV.4.103-07)

Falstaff has expressed the same thought and image more succinctly: Now comes in the sweetest morsel of the night, and we must hence and leave it unpicked (Pt. 2, II.4.264-5)—as always, the comedy glosses the history in discursive parallels. Indeed, immediate echoes between history and comedy, comedy and history, emphasize this commentary, as when the Chief Justice in character in the history fervently says, God send the prince a better companion, and Falstaff rejoins, God send the companion a better prince (Pt. 2, I.2.199-200). The king's death does in fact send the companion a better prince, but one out of the history as the Justice means, not out of the comedy as Falstaff desires. In his first scene as Henry V, Hal revitalizes the temporal sense of 'now':

The tide of blood in meHath proudly flow 'd in vanity till now.Now doth it turn and ebb back to the sea,Where it shall mingle with the state of floods,And flow henceforth in formal majesty.Now call we our high court of parliament.


His repeated 'nows' override 'not now' and 'anon, anon', and replace 'I will' with 'I do', while his metaphor of the changing tides cancels Northumberland's 'still-stand'. The trajectories of the history play and the comedy have brought them both to this occasion, where Hal is king and Falstaff s question about what sort of king he will be is to be answered: shall there be gallows standing and resolution fubbed with the rusty curb of old father Antic the law? It is worth noting that, although the question was so important to Falstaff that he persisted in asking it despite his own digressions and the prince's interruptions, he characteristically visualizes life in Henry V's England as a capsized morality play in which miscreance (which to him is resolution) would contend successfully with law. In such contention he would be the triumphant Vice:

If I do not beat thee out of thy kingdom with a dagger of lath, and drive all thy subjects before me like a flock of wild geese, I'll never wear hair on my face more.

(Pt 1, II.4.133-6)

His last scene with Hal actually is composed as a morality play extempore with Falstaff as delinquent and Hal as king, seconded by the presence of the Chief Justice as law. Thus when Falstaff calls out affectionately and familiarly and Hal orders, My Lord Chief Justice, speak to that vain man, Falstaff s long-suspended question seems to be answered: resolution will be curbed by old Father Antic the law. But ignoring the Justice's intervention, Falstaff again calls out to the king, and the king has to give him the reply direct. The famous banishment speech that follows is intended by the speaker to be all that critics have labelled it—cold, official, dismissive, sermonistic—, and its opening words, I know thee not, old man, probably do come from such Pauline injunctions as . . . Put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts (Ephesians IV. 22), while being awak'd I do despise my dream may derive from Romans XIII. 11, Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep. Yet none of these elements—the public setting, the Justice's intervention, or the king's homily with its biblical echoes—is new to Falstaff. In their first scene together he told Hal:

An old lord of the Council rated me the other day in the street about you, sir, but I marked him not, and yet he talked very wisely, but I regarded him not, and yet he talked wisely, and in the street too.

Prince. Thou didst well, for wisdom cries out in the streets and no man regards it.

Fal. O, thou hast damnable iteration. . . .

(Pt. 2, I.2.81-8)

"Damnable iteration", as Samuel Johnson glossed it, is "a wicked trick of repeating and applying holy texts." What then may Falstaff, who sees plays everywhere, who in Part One's play extempore acted as the delinquent admonished by Hal as king, who knows Hal's damnable iteration, and who above all other persons in the play realizes that majesty is a show and royal speech often scripted (I will do it in King Cambyses ' vein), think of Hal's dismissal of him? Is it sincere, or a show, performative or performance? In their play extempore at the Boar's Head Falstaff as king professed not to know the prince for certain: That thou art my son I have partly thy mother 's word, partly my own opinion, but chiefly a villainous trick of thine eye, and a foolish hanging of thy nether lip, that doth warrant me (Pt 1, II.4.397-400). Nor did Falstaff when in this character quite know Falstaff, There is a virtuous man whom I have often noted in thy company, but I know not his name (413-4). Knowing and not-knowing were reemphasised when they changed places, for Falstaff as prince professed not to know whom the 'king' meant by the devil in the likeness of an old fat man, but when the villainous abominable misleader of youth was named he said,

My lord, the man I know.
Prince. I know thou dost.

Fal. But to say I know more harm in him than in myself is to say more than I know.


Is I know thee not, old man an echo of that comic play of rejection which was pre-text to this history play of rejection? That Henry V's speech is in public, is in verse, has a biblical ring (Falstaff s biblical knowledge is keen, his application of it situational), and is about 'now' and not about the past—being awak'd I do despise my dream—should be convincing enough, and the king also goes beyond the limitations Falstaff formerly set, discoursing not only on Falstaff s bulk but also unsparingly on his age and his death. And yet the king's cruel line How ill white hairs become a fool and a jester employs the terms so familiar to both in their multitude of comic insults. Nor is this the only reprise of their comic discourse (or in the Pauline phrase former conversation). For, just as in the Boar's-Head exchanges and in the valediction at Shrewsbury, Henry V cannot seem to stop at what he means to be taken as a serious warning. Instead, he goes on:

Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace,
Leave gormandizing; know the grave doth gape
For thee thrice wider than for other men.

In this enlargement on Falstaff s belly, homiletic copia is jostled by comic exaggeration. The full mouthful in gormandizing and the inspired invention about the gaping grave—for whom but Falstaff would not the depth or length but the width of a grave be considered?—are hard to take completely seriously. Though Hal speaks gravely, counselling gravity as his Chief Justice did to Falstaff earlier in Part Two, in Falstaff s presence, as formerly, grave and gravity threaten to take on His effect of gravy, gravy, gravy (Pt. 2, I.2.161). No doubt Falstaff just stirs himself to say some such word, for the king hurriedly cuts him off with Reply not to me with a fool-born jest: he more than anyone knows when he has given Falstaff a straight-line and opened the door to comic continuity.

Falstaff s less than three lines to the king here echo from their first scene together. His first words are God save thy Grace, King Hal. Possibly this cry is quite sincere, and also conventional, but the same words were used when Falstaff first put his question, and there he found it impossible to keep a straight face.

And I prithee sweet wag, when thou art king as God save thy Grace—Majesty I should say, for grace thou wilt have none

Prince. What, none?

Fal. No, by my troth, not so much as will serve to be prologue to an egg and butter.

Prince. Well, how then? Come, roundly, roundly, roundly.

Fal. Marry then sweet wag, when thou art king. . . .

(Pt. I, 1.2.16-23)

In addition, there is the familiar sweet, used twice in the lines just quoted and again by Falstaff in the same exchange when he returns once more to his question, But I prithee sweet wag, shall there be gallows standing . . . (56-7). The word is appropriate between cronies (the prince addresses Poins as sweet Ned in Pt. 1, II.4.21), and Falstaff likely is using it in a propitiating or cajoling way in the context of asking the question, but it could also be a term of affection, as when about twenty-five lines later he says Thou . . . art indeed the most comparative rascalliest sweet young prince. In the rejection scene Falstaff calls out three times in this vein before being suppressed. Speaking only twenty-five words, he manages to say in three separate sentences, my royal Hal!, my sweet boy! and I speak to thee, my heart. The repeated my, and sweet, could be proprietary as much as tender, yet sweet boy and my heart, like the earlier sweet young prince, seem purely affectionate. These three sentences are the last words Falstaff speaks to Hal.

Thus the morality-play outlines of the banishment scene are deliberately blurred in the discourse between the king and Falstaff. Henry V sets out to be precise and firm, but as his icy homily of rejection proceeds it seems to thaw, and deviate to what was always Hal's favourite path of discourse, a verbal tour of Falstaff s belly. The seriousness of Youth shunning Vice and Law banishing Licence is subverted. Also undermined is the morally-satisfying conclusion to the history in which Right Rule asserts himself and puts an end to still-stand and deferral, abandoning 'anon, anon' and 'not now' in favour of 'now'. Even the sentence of banishment provides time off for good behaviour and leaves open the option of reform, which Falstaff himself has endlessly promised, or threatened, and consistently deferred. Falstaff s last substantive statement is I shall be sent for soon at night,9 and the Epilogue, no doubt husbanding Shakespeare's commercial interest in him, advertises that our humble author will continue the story, with Sir John in it, and appears to say that Falstaff will go to France with the king's army. Thus as history and comedy complete their ten-act trajectories there is a sense that resolution has yet again been fubbed off, and that, in one of those strokes of creative synthesis which we credit Shakespeare with whether or not he ever intended them, both the Bishop's Bible's redeeming the time and the Great Bible's avoydyng occasion have been accomplished. In the history Hal has redeemed time, as he said he would, while in the comedy and history Falstaff has avoided occasion—a triumph, we might say, of genre as well as personality, and further evidence that in Henry IV the guarded limit of history-play speech is haunted by the uncurbable spirit of comic discourse in the likeness of an old fat man.


1 Keir Elam, Shakespeare 's Universe of Discourse: Language-Games in the Comedies, Cambridge UP (Cambridge, 1984), p. 91.

2 A. D. Nuttall, A New Mimesis: Shakespeare and the Representation of Reality, Methuen (London & New York, 1983), p. 152.

3 Writing of Shakespeare's "complexities of genre", Jonathan Goldberg notes that these complexities have been treated by, among others, Rosalie Colie in The Resources of Kind: Genre Theory in the Renaissance, University of California Press (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1973); Stephen Orgel, "Shakespeare and the Kinds of Drama", Critical Inquiry 6 (1979), and Louise George Clubb, "The Arts of Genre: Torrismondo and Hamlet", ELH 47 (1980). Goldberg's essay is "Shakespearian Inscriptions: the Voicing of Power" in Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, ed. Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman, Methuen (New York & London, 1985), pp. 116-37.

4 Elam, p. 91.

5 All references to 1 and 2 Henry IV cite the New Arden edition, ed. A.R. Humphries, Methuen (London, 1966, 1967).

6The Byble in Englyshe . . . ([London:] Prynted by Rychard Grafton & Edward Whitchurch, 1539), British Library shelfmark G.12.215. Bound in British Library as 'Cranmer's Bible'. According to the B.L. catalogue entry this edition was issued in April 1539. In Ephesians V.d it has the reading avoydyng occasion. . . . Another edition of the same Bible issued in late summer 1539 (B.L. shelfmark C.18.d.2) reads .. . wynnynge occasion. . . .

7 "Palisading the Body Politic". Paper read at the Pacific Northwest Renaissance Conference, Victoria, British Columbia (March 1989).

8 There is plenty of seriously-intended character assassination in Henry IV: Hotspur has little good to say of anyone, and Doll Tearsheet brilliantly reduces Pistol (Pt. 2, II.4). The king's apotheoses of Hotspur are actually contexts in which to dispraise Hal. Shakespeare's nearest rival in catalogues of cheerful low-life reprobation probably is Thomas Nashe: see for example the dedications to A Strappado for the Divell (1615), and especially To the True Discoverer of Secrets Mounsieur Bacchus, sole sovereign of the Ivy-bush, Mastergunner of the pottle-pot ordnance, prime founder ofRed Lattices, Cheerer of the hunger-starv'd Muses, and their thred bare followers, singular Artist in pewter language, and an observant linguist for anon anon Sir.

9 A knowledge of Henry V is required to hear in I shall be sent for soon at night a gloomy premonition of Falstaff s death at midnight.


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Sherman H. Hawkins (essay date 1973)

SOURCE: "Virtue and Kingship in Shakespeare's Henry IV," in English Literary Renaissance, Vol. 5, No. 3, Autumn, 1975, pp. 313-43.

[In the following essay, an expanded version of a lecture given at the Shakespeare Association America in 1973, Hawkins examines the competing claims of virtue and lineage over the right to rule in Henry IV, maintaining that Shakespeare appears to stress virtue over lineage in these two plays.]

For a quarter of a century, criticism of Shakespeare's histories has been dominated by what E. M. W. Tillyard called the "Tudor myth." With its emphasis on the sin of deposing a lineal king in Richard II, Tillyard's "Tudor" myth—so Robert Ornstein argues—might better be renamed the "Yorkist" myth.1 But it is possible (as both Essex and Elizabeth were well aware) to interpret Richard II in a way more sympathetic to the usurper. Thus Irving Ribner maintains that though Shakespeare never condones Richard's deposition, he glorifies the Lancastrian kings who replace him. The public virtues of Henry IV make up for his illegal title, while his son combines public and private virtues to become the greatest of English kings.2 A stress on virtue here replaces the emphasis on lineal descent: if Tillyard is Yorkist, Ribner is Lancastrian. Thus the Wars of the Roses continue on the dusty fields of scholarship, and critics, with "helpe of some few foot-and-halfe-foote words / Fight over Yorke, and Lancasters long jarres."3

When Shakespeare's critics thus divide in camps and factions, the reason is usually some tension in the plays themselves. The rival claims of blood and virtue form a recurring theme in the histories, and Shakespeare clearly believed in both. The two tetralogies culminate in the contrasted portraits of Richard III and Henry V, and these polar opposites combine both claims: Richard is both tyrant and usurper as Henry is both the "true inheritor" and the virtuous king.4 But that is not to say that Shakespeare weighed the claims of blood and virtue equally. When Henry Tudor rescues England at the end of the first tetralogy, Shakespeare makes little of his Lancastrian lineage and nothing of his descent from Arthur. Richmond's right to rule is moral and religious, not genealogical: his victory over Richard is quite simply the triumph of good over evil.

But we shall seek in vain through the histories for a clear judgment between virtue and lineage. At a time when Richard II could be acted to incite revolt against Elizabeth, English history was uncomfortably "relevant"—especially for a playwright meditating the mysteries of dynastic succession. It is in Titus Andronicus—a drama safely remote in time and place—that Shakespeare works out almost paradigmatically the thematic conflict which underlies the first tetralogy. The play begins with the election of a Roman emperor. Two rival claimants enter from opposite sides of the stage and plead their title in neatly antithetic speeches of almost identical length. Saturninus, the emperor's eldest son, argues the claims of primogeniture, while his younger brother, Bassianus, argues the claims of virtue. Saturninus' right is his "age": "I am his first-born son that was the last / That ware the imperial diadem of Rome." But Bassianus' right is his "desert," his "justice, continence, and nobility." Titus asks to choose between the two, and he chooses—presumably to the applause of the Elizabethan audience—Saturninus and the claims of blood. But Titus' choice is wrong—like all his later choices in this scene—and he is the first to suffer when the legitimate heir proves a tyrant. He dies at the hand of the man he crowned, and the imperial diadem passes to his son, who proves by slaying the tyrant and freeing Rome that he is "true inheritor" of his father's virtues.

But perhaps Shakespeare's audience did not automatically applaud the choice of primogeniture. Much in what Tillyard called the Elizabethan World Picture suggests that it is virtue which truly makes a king. First there is the humanist myth of origins. Origins to the Elizabethans implied essences, and a tradition going back to Cicero and Herodotus held that virtue is the source of kingship.5 This myth of origins had its political application in the practice of elective monarchy, which persisted still in Shakespeare's century as it does in Shakespeare's plays, in Titus and in Hamlet. Primogeniture was the English custom, but kings could be made as well as born, and Shakespeare knew it. Political theorists continued to debate the relative advantages of heredity and election, and so influential a thinker as Erasmus preferred election precisely because it favors virtue.6 Then there is the conception of the "true king." From Plato to Jean Bodin, this develops in contrast to its opposite, the tyrant. One argument that monarchy is the best of governments was that its perversion is the worst: corruptio optima pessima. We must compare the worst and best, writes Juan de Mariana in De Rege, "the most pestiferous with the most salubrious form of government"7—in short, Richard III and Henry V. The distinction is basically moral, the way the monarch rules, not how he gains his throne. The "true king," writes Bodin, obeys the law of nature: that is, he fears God and shows mercy to the afflicted, is wise in council, brave in action, modest in prosperity, constant in adversity, a scourge of evil-doers and just to all men. This, Bodin declares, is the "authentic mark of kingship." Monarchy so administered is royal and legitimate, whether the ruler becomes king by heredity, election, gift, or conquest, either just or unjust, for "monarchies cannot be distinguished one from another by the method of succession, but only by the way they are conducted."8

Virtue, then, in this tradition is the origin and substance of kingship. But what are the "king-becoming graces," the virtues fit for a king? Most obviously those that enable him to carry out his royal office. The first of these is justice, for which Cicero says kings were first created. "The idea of a king," writes Aristotle, is "to be a protector of the rich against unjust treatment, of the people against insult and oppression."9 But if the king is to protect his subjects against injustice from without and within, he will need valor as well as justice. Thus according to the great fifteenth-century jurist Sir John Fortescue, "to fight and to judge are the office of a king."10 As Ernst Kantorowicz has shown, this tradition goes back to the Prologue to Justinian's Institutes, succinctly summarized by Bracton: "Two things are necessary to the king who rules rightly, that is, laws and arms, by which he can govern rightly in time both of wars and peace."11

Fortitude and justice correspond to necessary functions of the governor—at least of government—even today. But one important function of a king reflects a Renaissance conception of the state that is closer to Aristotle than to modern politics. Aristotle believes that the state, like the individual, aims at the good life, that is, the life of virtue: ". . . political society exists for the sake of noble actions."12 This view, strange to us, was a Renaissance commonplace. "All who have discussed the subject have agreed," asserts Bodin, "that the end of all commonwealths is the encouragement of honor and virtue."13 It follows that one duty of the ruler is to make his subjects good. And this he accomplishes by being good himself. It is not enough, writes James I, for a king "by the scepter of good laws .. . to governe, & by the force of armes to protect his people, if he joyne not therewith his virtuous life .. . by good example alluring his subjects to the love of virtue and hatred of vice."14 To the force of this royal example the Renaissance attributed almost magical power. No precept is more often repeated in institutions of the prince than the aphorism Cicero attributes to Plato, qualis princeps, talis populus, together with its scriptural parallel, ". . . what manner of man the ruler of the city is, such are all they that dwell therein" (Ecclus. 10.2).15 Thus the king is, in the traditional image of Chelidonius, the "Mirror" whereby his subjects should frame their actions and order their lives.16

Justice and valor, then, are not enough for a perfect king. "Do these two virtues onely make in a Prince the fulness of a florishing fame?," asks William Blandy's interlocutor in his dialogue, The Castle,,17 No, replies Blandy, there are two other "most necessarye" virtues, prudence and temperance. He cites no authority, but perhaps none is needed, for the qualities he lists—prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance—are the cardinal four, the oldest and most familiar of all secular paradigms of virtue. That these are the kingly virtues we have the testimony of kings themselves. When she first took the scepter, Elizabeth told her parliament, she began with "such religion as both I was borne in, bred in, and I trust shall die in. . . . Then entered I further into the schoole of experience, bethinking what it fitted a king to do: and there I saw, he scant was wel furnished, if either he lacked justice, temperance, magnanimitie, or judgement." As for the last two, fortitude and wisdom, the Queen went on with uncharacteristic modesty, "I will not boaste, my sex doth not permit it."18 The lesson Elizabeth claimed to learn in the school of experience she might also have got from books. The association of the cardinal virtues with kings goes back to Isocrates and Xenephon; to trace it is to rehearse Western intellectual history, moving from Solomon and Plato through Cicero and Macrobius and then to medieval ecclesiastics like Alcuin and Rabanus Maurus and thence to Renaissance mirrors for magistrates and treatises on royal education, the socalled "institutions of the prince." In Shakespeare's day it occurs in popular handbooks like those of Bryskett and Hurault; we find it, too, in popular iconography. On the title page of the Bishops' Bible, Elizabeth, like other monarchs before her, is portrayed surrounded by the cardinal virtues. They appeared with fine impartiality in the pageants that greeted Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn near the beginning of the Tudor era and James I at its end. And we find them as virtues of the governor in literary contexts ranging from the ideal to the comic or grotesque, from Sidney and Castiglione to Cervantes and Rabelais.19

It is therefore not surprising that the cardinal virtues form a recurring motif in the institutions of the prince, those educational treatises common in Shakespeare's century.20 It is perhaps surprising that though many scholars interpret Henry IV as the education of Prince Hal, no one, to my knowledge, has consulted these treatises to see what Shakespeare's contemporaries thought the education of a prince should be.21 It turns out to be a training in ethics rather than politics in the modern sense: the institutions are at least as interested in morality as in statecraft. Through all their changing emphases persists the Platonic and Aristotelian notion that ethics and politics are inseparable and that education is central to them both.22 To this tradition Henry IV also belongs: the moral education of his prince is for Shakespeare a political theme and almost an obligatory one, the logical climax to his studies in kingship. But as to the specific qualities of such an ideal prince, tradition is not unanimous. Some treatises, like Budé's De l'Instruction du Prince, stress a single virtue, while others, like the Institutio Principis Christiani of Erasmus, are shapeless catalogues of all the desirable royal attributes. But in many of the most significant—Egidio Colonna's typically medieval De Regimine Principum; the De Regno of the Renaissance humanist Patrizzi; Elyot's Governour, which may have been known to Shakespeare himself—the cardinal virtues are primary. No wonder, then, that in the Basilikon Doron, James I tells his son, "I neede not to trouble you with the particular discourse of the foure Cardinall vertues, it is so troden a path."23 Even when these virtues do not shape the argument or structure of a princely mirror or institution, they are likely to appear among its topoi. Thus James Yonge deliberately adds them to his translation of the Secreta Secretorum, which purported to be Aristotle's advice to Alexander the Great. All men should have these virtues, Yonge observes, but they pertain especially to a king and a prince.24 Whether or not The Regement of Princes is actually organized around the cardinal virtues, as one scholar contends, Hoccleve is clear that "Prudence, attemperance, strength, and right, / Tho foure ben vertues principali."25 It seems apt to end this survey with the Regement because, like most institutions of the prince, it is dedicated to a particular royal personage—in this case, that youthful Alexander, the future Henry V, Shakespeare's Prince Hal.

If, therefore, Henry IV is Shakespeare's dramatic institutio principis, showing England's future ruler trained in kingly virtues, it will not do to limit his curriculum to valor and justice. These virtues do indeed form the theme of Richard II. In the dual structure of that diptych play, Richard displays first his lack of justice in peace and prosperity, then his want of fortitude in war and misfortune. And certainly Tillyard and Dover Wilson are right in detecting these themes of valor and justice in Henry IV. Part I is peopled with warriors and ends in scenes of battle as Part II is peopled with justices and officers of law and culminates in scenes of trial: the dying Henry's trial of his son, the new King's contrasted judgments of the Chief Justice and Falstaff. Though there are rebellions in both plays, Hotspur's is put down by the sword, the Archbishop's by a legal trick. And although Falstaff damnably abuses the king's press in both plays, in Part I we see him lead his ragamuffins to death in battle, while in Part II we watch the chicanery by which he recruits them. Yet if decorum demands that all parts of a play reflect its meaning, important episodes in both parts remain unaccounted for. Certainly the tavern revelry in Part I is as memorable as the scenes of battle, and jokes about Falstaff s girth and gluttony are as frequent as jokes about his cowardice—but what have the tavern and its pleasures to do with fortitude? And if Part II has its judges, it is likewise full of counsellors both good and bad—Warwick and Westmoreland, the optimistic Hastings and the pessimistic Mowbray, even Justice Shallow's busy steward, Davy. Scenes of deliberation are as frequent in Part II as those of judgment: again and again the forward action halts while the characters seek to peer into the future or reminisce about the past. Clearly the boisterous revelry in Part I suggests the need of temperance, even as the failures of memory and prediction in Part II show the need of the wisdom that looks before and after, whose proper action is taking counsel, whose parts are memory, intelligence, and foresight because it surveys the past and present in order to predict what is to come.26

Thus the evidence of the plays as well as the tradition makes it appear that Prince Hal's education must encompass all four kingly virtues. These divide with pleasing symmetry: temperance and fortitude in Part I, justice and wisdom in Part II. By these virtues, declares Macrobius, in a phrase that might serve as motto for Shakespeare's two-part play, "the good man is first made lord of himself and then ruler of the state."27 For he who would govern others must first master himself.28 Thus in Part I Hal overcomes his appetitive and irascible instincts as he abandons Falstaff and vanquishes Hotspur, achieving his identity as Prince of Wales. In Part II, he becomes King, learning the "regnative" virtues of justice and wisdom, which imply rule over others and which correspond to the intellectual faculties of will and reason.29 His development is symbolically both temporal and physical. For the temperance is associated with childhood and fortitude with youth as wisdom is the virtue of age. And the faculties are located in an ascending bodily hierarchy, the appetite in Falstaff s mighty belly, the spirited or irascible part of the soul in Hotspur's "great heart," will and reason in the head.30 Thus Hal "grows" up in a double sense, attaining, in the language of Ephesians, both the "age" and "stature" of a perfect man.31

The test of this theory is, of course, its fruitfulness, the degree to which it actually illuminates the plays, both in mass and in the detailed problems of staging, text, and allusion. Thus when Hal comes on in the great Boarshead scene of Part I, shouting tipsily for Poins, the actor should carry a bottle or a cup or both, making the drunken Prince an inverse image of Temperantia, who uses these traditional attributes to "temper" wine with water.32 Editors of Part I need no longer be tempted by the Folio reading of "intemperature" when Hal confesses the "long grown wounds of my intemperance": this is one of the play's most direct statements of its theme.33 Nor need editors of Part II be puzzled that Falstaff calls his silk merchant a "whoreson Achitophel."34 For wisdom implies self-knowledge, but Falstaff applies to Master Dombledon a name more fitting for himself, the false counsellor who encourages a youthful prince to revolt against his father and, like Falstaff, dies rejected when the young prince prefers his father's counsellor. But these are indeed details. It may prove more convincing to sketch the overall thematic patterns of temperance and wisdom in the two plays, since they represent the novel elements of this interpretation.


Much of Part I directly reflects the varying definitions of temperance in Cicero, Plato, and Aristotle, the three authorities who most influenced ethical theory in Renaissance princely institutions.35 I shall deal with each of these in turn, beginning with Cicero. The commonplaces I have drawn from the Republic and the Nicomachean Ethics were available in many secondary sources, but Cicero's De Officiis was directly and painfully familiar to Elizabethan grammar schoolboys—including William Shakespeare and many of his audience.36 This is important, for Cicero's temperance extends far beyond the usual notion of simple self-control. He associates it with decorum, an ideal of fitness or appropriateness which he illustrates by its literary and theatrical analogues. Ciceronian temperance thus embraces a wide range of themes in Part I from problems of conversational style ("Dost thou speak like a king?") to the science of opportunity, the art of doing the right thing at the right time ("What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day?"). Such temperate decorum includes the narrower ideal of self-control: it is fitting or appropriate to man's rational nature that he master animal appetites.

The demands of this rational human dignity Cicero exemplifies—significantly for our purposes—in terms of jests and amusements. Nature, he declares, has not brought us into the world for sport and play, but for serious purpose. We may, of course, indulge in such things, but only within limits and as relaxation from our graver pursuits. Temperance, then, admits the rhythm of holiday of which C. L. Barber writes so brilliantly, taking as his epigraph Prince Hal's soliloquy: "If all the year were playing holidays, / To sport would be as tedious as to work. .. ,"37 For Falstaff, of course, every day is holiday, but in Hal Shakespeare shows us a young man whom nature brought into the world for graver purposes. The logic of the Prince's imagery shows that for him, sport has become tedious, even if he is not ready yet to work. For though he still pictures happiness as "playing holidays," he instinctively equates these, not with Falstaff s world of play, but with that wished-for future time when he will return to serious responsibility, choosing "again to be himself."

That "again" is self-delusion. Hal has never been himself, and the identity he will ultimately achieve he does not now even conceive. He is still of all humors, an accomplished mimic who can play any role but his own—in short, as my students instantly recognize, a young man in search of himself. But it is Cicero, not Erikson, who provides the best commentary on the Prince's problem of identity. For besides the rational humanity we share with other men, Cicero explains, we have an individual nature that is ours alone, and the decorum of temperance demands that we be true to the second as well as the first. We must choose a character and calling suited to our talents: "Shall a player have regard to this in choosing his role upon the stage, and a wise man fail to do so in selecting his part in life?"38 Yet this is the most difficult problem in the world, according to Cicero, since it must be decided in youth when our judgment is immature. Moreover, fortune sometimes imposes yet a third role: Cicero instances among others noble birth or royal power. Then there is the example of our fathers, which we may imitate, improve, or wholly reject. Only to Hercules, the son of Jove, was it given to make a clear-cut choice between Virtue or Pleasure.39 But this Herculean choice is Hal's. In deciding what role to adopt, which calling to obey, he must choose whether to imitate his real or his surrogate father, the King or the highwayman. There is a restlessness in the young man, an edge in his jests to Falstaff, that betray a sense that his initial choice has been mistaken. When we choose the wrong way of life at first, Cicero counsels, we should change it by degrees, as we gradually dissolve a friendship that is no longer pleasing to us.40 So it will be with Hal and Falstaff.

Shakespeare thus externalizes the conflict within the Prince, dramatizing it through his changing relations to others, to Falstaff, Hotspur, and the King. They reflect aspects of his own nature; in fact, they correspond to the Platonic parts of the soul, the appetitive, the spirited, and the rational. It is in terms of these faculties, we recall, that Plato in the Republic works out his definition of the cardinal virtues. The Republic is perhaps the first and certainly the greatest of treatises on the education of kings, and like Henry IV it turns on the analogy between the individual and the state, the three parts of the soul and the classes of society: the philosopher kings, the military "guardians," and the productive workers—farmers, merchants, artisans.41 It takes only a moment's thought to correlate Plato's commonwealth with that of Henry IV, but England is a state disordered: the rebels' tripartite map of the kingdom suggests the division within the orders of society and the faculties they represent. The King should stand for reason, but Henry meets Hotspur's choler with equal and reflexive wrath, while his reluctance to pay what he clearly owes reminds us of the greedy Falstaff. Himself a usurper, a "cutpurse of the empire," he gives the sanction of royal example to both the rebel and the highwayman. The warrior Percies, standing for the spirited part of society and the soul, should guard the kingdom against foes from without and disorder from within. Instead, they ally themselves with England's enemies in a revolt against its king. Falstaff and his plebeian followers do no productive work: instead of farmers and merchants, they are tapsters and thieves; instead of nourishing the body politic, they prey on it and gratify its sensual appetites. England is thus divided against itself, and its mirror is Prince Hal. For the future ruler of this divided kingdom is likewise at war with himself, engaged in the "civil strife" described by Plato, where all the impulses of the soul are at odds and some one part rises in revolt, claiming the supremacy that should belong to reason alone.42 The defeat of the political revolt depends, literally and symbolically, on the defeat of the inner and moral one: the rebels are conquered only when Hal achieves mastery over himself. The virtue he must learn is temperance. For Plato, this is not, like courage or wisdom, the function of a single faculty. Like justice, which it resembles, temperance is an inclusive virtue: Plato defines it as the agreement of all three parts of the soul to the rule of reason. To attain it, Hal must master not only appetite but also choler.43 As Guyon overcomes both Cymochles and Pyrochles, so Hal must banish the Falstaff and slay the Hotspur in himself. This does not mean repressing or destroying the faculties they represent. For Plato, appetite and spirit represent legitimate powers of the soul. But only under the rule of reason can they enjoy their true and proper satisfaction. The Prince assimilates the energies of Falstaff and Hotspur to himself, overgoing one in wit and revelry as he outdoes the other in battle. Only the just and temperate man who has thus harmonized all three parts of the soul, making peace with himself and becoming "one man instead of many," writes Plato, will be ready to go about whatever he is called to do.44

The Prince's movement from Eastcheap to Shrewsbury thus marks an inner evolution, a progressive and hierarchic integration of the self. The faculties of the soul are projected in setting as well as character: tavern, battlefield, and palace are, as it were, the belly, heart, and head of the body politic. These correspond to different versions of the state: the anarchic democracy of the travern where the Prince revels with tapsters and all appetites are freely and equally indulged; the martial timocracy of camp and battlefield where aristocrats like Percy and Douglas vie for honor; the royal palace where monarchic reason rules—or ought to rule. For not until Part II does reason come into its own. There the dying King gives wisdom to his son: "Come hither, Harry, sit thou by my bed / And hear, I think, the very latest counsel / That ever I shall breathe" (iv.v.182-84). In the parallel scene of reconciliation in Part 1, the King moves rather than instructs, appealing not to reason but to emotions proper to the spirited part of the soul: shame, anger, rivalry, the desire of praise. His strategy is Platonic, for Plato emphasizes that spirit can and should be the ally of reason in subduing appetite. So it is Hal's fierce ambition to excel Hotspur that moves him to abandon Falstaff s life of pleasure. But it is not enough for the Prince to "play Percy," to mimic his rival's humor in Hotspur's own exaggerated, self-indulgent way. The traditional emblems of Temperantia are the bridle and the cup, and Hotspur's steed is as much a symbol of excess as Falstaff s bottle. His thirst for his enemy's blood proves as intoxicating as Falstaff s unquenchable appetite for wine; and the horse that bears him "like a thunderbolt" to his death suggests an unbridled and irrational energy that must at last destroy itself. In contrast to Hotspur's growing frenzy is Hal's increased control, marked by the "noble horsemanship" which bridles even a "fiery Pegasus" in the pursuit of noble deeds.45 The Prince learns to "turn and wind" the energies of the spirit to selfless ends. Thus though he challenges Hotspur to single combat, he does so to save blood rather than to shed it; yet more significantly, to "save the blood on either side." He is fighting not for his own honor but for the common good, for England. It is no accident that here for the first time Hal calls himself the Prince of Wales.

The play, like its hero, moves from Eastcheap to Shrewsbury. The first two acts, mainly concerned with Fal staffs comic revelry, balance the last two, devoted mainly to Hotspur's tragic war. The action turns precisely on the central scene of the central act, where the King summons his son from the tavern to the battle-field. Symmetrically flanking this central scene on either side are parallel episodes concerning Hotspur and Falstaff. The same triadic structure is finally staged before our eyes as Hal stands upright between the prostrate bodies of the other two. This speaking picture has long been recognized as an icon of true courage, the Aristotelian mean between the defect of Falstaff s cowardice and the excess of Hotspur's rashness: "For the man who flies from and fears everything . . . becomes a coward, and the man who fears nothing at all but goes to meet every danger becomes rash.. . ,"46 Thus Falstaff runs away at Gadshill and Hotspur rushes to meet danger at Shrewsbury. But this pattern of mean and extremes, which shapes the general structure of the play as well as its climactic icon, is itself an emblem of temperance, as in the House of Medina in The Faerie Queene. And it is striking that Aristotle first introduces and explains the concept of the mean in terms of both the thematic virtues of 1 Henry IV. The familiar passage on rashness and cowardice I have just quoted goes on: ". . . similarly the man who indulges in every pleasure and abstains from none becomes self-indulgent, while the man who shuns every pleasure, as boors do, becomes in a way insensible; temperance and courage, then, are destroyed by excess and defect." The association of the two virtues is not random. For Aristotle, the whole concern of ethics and political science is with pleasure and pain, since pleasure makes us do base things and pain keeps us from doing noble ones. But temperance teaches us to abstain from pleasure, while courage is shown in facing and enduring pain, specifically the pain of wounds and death in battle.47 Falstaff s love of pleasure clearly marks him as the excess of self-indulgence, but the defect of boorish indifference to pleasure is for Aristotle a largely theoretic figure: "... such insensibility is not human,"48 Yet in Hotspur, who denounces "mincing poetry," who would rather hear a dog howl than a lady sing, who flees from his wife to his horse, does not Shakespeare draw us such a man? Hotspur is more than indifferent to pleasure; he is in love with pain: "Love? I love thee not. . . . We must have bloody noses and cracked crowns!"

We observe a nice intricacy in the double pattern of temperance and fortitude: Falstaff and Hotspur each represent the defect of one virtue and the excess of the other. But this even-handed balance does not rule out the possibility of moral and dramatic progression. Aristotle explains that sometimes excess and sometimes defect is more opposed to the mean of virtue: rashness and insensibility are closer to courage and temperance than are cowardice and self-indulgence. He who aims at the mean must first depart from the extreme most contrary to it: so Hal turns from Falstaff to Hotspur.49 But finally he transcends them both. In adjacent scenes at Shrewsbury, the Prince hurls Falstaff s bottle from him—Guyon's very gesture with the wine cup of Excesse50—and refuses to leave the field despite his wound. He has learned to refuse pleasure and suffer pain, tests to which Plato would subject future rulers of the commonwealth.51 Shrewsbury for Hal not just a physical struggle: it is a psychomachia, a conflict of forces in the soul as well as factions in the kingdom. As he stands at last upright between the prostrate bodies of his rivals, those alternate and extreme possibilities of the self, he is also an emblem of triumphant virtue with its opposed vices fallen at its feet.52


Part I, like its King, instructs by moving. In contrast to Falstaff and Hotspur, Hal has no speech about honor; he defines virtue by enacting it. This impassioned action wins from us an assent to the rule of reason that is itself unreasoning: hero and audience attain at the end a temperate poise that is more of the emotions than the mind. This is appropriate to a play about temperance and fortitude, virtues that concern the appetites and passions. A different method is required in Part II, which deals with wisdom and justice, the virtues of mind and will. Wisdom means many things to the Renaissance: among the rest it is the knowledge of good and bad, false and true.53 But such pat distinctions are not easy in a play dominated from the first by Rumor, where good news may prove false (as with Northumberland), or produce an ill effect (as with the King), or deceive even though true (as with Falstaff). Indeed, ought we to call the tidings of Hotspur's victory or the Archbishop's execution or Henry's death good news or bad? We are forced to think twice, and this is characteristic of Part II, where—in contrast to the clear structural pattern and direct emotional sweep of Part I—all is fragmented, problematic, and ambiguous, demanding a more arduous exercise of intellect and will. It is, in fact, a deliberately difficult play, imposing a similar burden of understanding on its hero and on us. The appeal is to our judgment—a convenient term, since it connotes both wisdom and justice and suggests the connection between them. For good and bad are here conceived as that which is sought or shunned, objects of will as well as intellect, so that knowledge leads to choice.54 "Will you tell me, Master Shallow, how to choose a man?" demands Flastaff, and the central scene in which he both willfully and ignorantly misjudges his recruits prepares for the graver human choices that confront the Prince and audience later on. The judgments that conclude the play thus bring together both its themes. It is, of course, Prince Hal whom we must finally judge, and this task—which has produced such various verdicts, false and true—depends on his judgment of others, specifically Falstaff and the Chief Justice. And these judgments in turn derive from the experience of judgment Hal himself has undergone.

Plato's future rulers, having resisted the temptations of pleasure and borne the tests of pain, must still be tried in many forms of study, pursuing the highest forms of knowledge.55 So it is with Prince Hal in Part II. But Shakespeare's idea of wisdom is not Plato's, and Hal's education differs widely from that of the philosopher king or the scarcely less ambitious programs laid down in some humanistic institutions of the prince. The goal of such education was a ruler prepared for peace or war, "Well fitted in arts, glorious in arms."56 Thus King Henry numbers himself among fathers who have trained their sons in "arts and martial exercises." Even Falstaff acknowledges this conventional ideal of arts and arms—though as we might expect, his pedagogic method is his own. The first "humane principle" Falstaff would teach his sons is addiction to sack, for without that, learning and "skill in the weapon" are equally vain: it is sack that stirs the heart to valor and fires the brain with wit. The famous praise of "sherris" is in fact a theory of education, and it suggests Falstaff s symbolic role. For though training his successor was an important duty for the king, his primary responsibility was selecting the prince's tutor, who actually supervised his education and so became a kind of second parent, the father of his mind. And in Falstaff, whom Hal terms the "tutor" of his riots, we recognize a deliberate and comic inversion of the ideal mentor described by Erasmus and others.57 Yet even Falstaff, while admitting that Hal has become very hot and valiant in Part I, fails to realize that in Part II he is also becoming wise.

There is a mystery here that puzzles wiser heads than Falstaff s. In arts as well as arms, Hal seems to have the trick of "learning instantly": the truant to chivalry puts on the armor of fortitude and proves another Alexander; the prodigal assumes the robes of kingly wisdom and delivers judgment like a Solomon.58 The pattern of his development combines progression and reversal, classical education and Christian conversion. The Archbishop of Canterbury marvels at the new King's reformation and even more at his sudden scholarship: his equal mastery of war and policy, his knowledge both of "divinity" and "commonwealth affairs"—the scientia rerum divinarum et humanarum which is another Ciceronian definition of wisdom.59 How can this be in one never noted for studious retirement, whose companions have been rude, shallow, and unlettered? Certainly Hal hardly resembles the learned prince celebrated in some institutions. But it is possible—as other institutions warn and Prospero discovers—for a prince to be too learned. However bookish in method, humanist educators sought to fit their pupils for the practical life of civic responsibility. They echoed Cicero's insistence that the whole glory of virtue is in action, and that withdrawal from active life to retired study is contrary to moral duty. The working mind that never rests, as Cicero points out, pursues knowledge without our conscious effort.60 So Hal imbibes the elements of wit and policy along with Falstaff s sack. It is indeed a "liberal" education: the society with whom he consorts at the Boarshead is worse than "unlettered"—these drunkards, whores, thieves, and parasites are exactly the sort of dangerous company forbidden future rulers by every educator from Plato to Shakespeare's own day. But precisely because they represent that in humanity which is most recalcitrant to rule, they are essential to the education of Shakespeare's Prince. The learning Hal needs is humanistic in the most literal sense, for it is a knowledge of good and evil gained not from books but from the observation of men: "The Prince but studies his companions...." It is significant that this educational rationale for Hal's behavior is advanced only in Part II, with its theme of wisdom, and that it is the King's wise counsellor, Warwick, who advances it. He likens Hal's companions to a "strange tongue," a comparison that reflects the central role of languages in humanistic education. Thus while such a model princely scholar as Pantagruel is busy acquiring Hebrew or Arabic, Hal is learning to drink with a tinker in his own tongue. For speech is the mark of reason, the mirror of the soul. To master Hotspur's verse or Falstaff s prose, the Prince must understand the instincts and values these styles express—and the aspiration or appetites that correspond to these in his own nature. So by means no institution would approve, he attains two kinds of wisdom institutions frequently prescribe: he comes to know his people and himself.

This understanding is comprehensive but not indiscriminate. Henry V, who at Agincourt rouses his nobles by his lofty eloquence and talks to common soldiers with such level earnestness about their fears and duties, has learned to distinguish middle, high, or low in speech and men. His knowledge includes what to avoid as well as what to imitate: the recognition that Falstaff does not speak like a king finally demands that the King no longer speak like Falstaff. Do we really wish Henry on the fields of France to compare the Dauphin to a bull's pizzle or himself to a shotten herring? Gross terms like those which shock Katherine of France in her first English lesson are learned—so Warwick argues—only to be hated. And their human counterparts serve at best to "mete" the lives of other men. The image of measurement, recalling Justice with her line and square, reminds us what is the primary office of a king.61 The wisdom for which Solomon prays, and which Erasmus would have other rulers emulate, is an understanding heart, discerning between good and bad, to judge his people.62 But the reward and punishment of others requires a prior judgment of what is good and evil, false or true, within. The reformation of England waits on the reformation of its future king: if Hal is to banish Falstaff, he must first turn away his "former self."

At the end of Part I the Prince who seemed so sure of his own purposes, so confident in his judgment of others—"I know you all"—has more to learn about both. Staring across Hotspur's mutilated and dishonored corpse at the "old acquaintance" who has just revealed another side to his surprising character, Hal realizes he does not know Falstaff: "This is the strangest fellow, brother John!" Yet his own conduct after Shrewsbury proves almost as surprising. The test of battle vindicates Hal's claim to the title that signifies his calling. But though he has chosen his role, he does not fully understand himself: he is temperate but not yet wise. Thus in Part II the problem of identity deepens from the mere choice of vocation to that knowledge of the self which is the beginning of wisdom.63 The Prince is brought to a confrontation, painful though never quite complete, with impulses he has refused to recognize or acknowledge: "O God, they did me too much injury / That ever said I heark'ned for your death!" When Hal says that near the end of Part 1, he thinks he has made his choice between the true and the false fathers, has proved by the unambiguous test of action his love and loyalty to the King. Why then at the beginning of Part II does he shun his dying father? How does he find his way back to the Boarshead and to Falstaff? Hai himself has no clear answer to such questions.

Once more inner conflict is projected in outer relations: if the Prince studies his companions, he is at the same time exploring his own instincts and loyalties. It is significant that his ostensible motive for returning to Eastcheap is the wish to know Falstaff as he really is, to see him "in his true colors." In the event, the old pretender's claims to wisdom are exposed just as his boasts of valor were exposed in the parallel scene of Part I. Appropriately, it is by his own misjudgment of the Prince and Poins—"the weight of a hair will turn the scales between their avoirdupois"—that Falstaff himself is weighed in the balance and (for once) found wanting. "Love talks with better knowledge," as another of Shakespeare's princes warns another comic slanderer, "and knowledge with dearer love."64 Falstaff s excuse is deliberately and lamely anticlimactic: he who escaped the Prince and Poins so wittily in Part I now becomes the occasion of wit in those he scorns. And Shakespeare surrounds him with other characters who, pretending to various kinds of wisdom, also turn out fools: the politic Northumberland, the pious and scholarly Archbishop, the busy, self-important country Justice whose name and title link the major themes of the play.

These characters Prince Hal never meets: it is left to us to work out their relation to each other and to the themes of the play. The motif of folly pretending to wisdom suggests a different ethical pattern from the extremes and mean of Part I. That kind of contrast still persists: the very social structure of Part II encourages us to see its characters in terms of excess or defect.65 The princes and peers who struggle to control the realm turn prudence to cunning, justice to harsh severity or a pretended zeal for public good. Over against the excessive justice and wisdom of these aristocrats is the sleazy underworld of vice and folly whose only rule is the "law of nature" by which knaves prey on fools, where prudence is that wisdom of the flesh whose end is death.66 As in Part I, the comic subplot echoes the political action: Falstaff s broken promises to Mistress Quickly suggest the faithless Northumberland, while his gulling of Shallow under the guise of friendship finds sanction and precedent in Prince John's behavior to the Archbishop. Such parallels in Part I pointed the contrast between Hotspur and Falstaff, but in Part II the resemblances between high and low are greater than the differences: those seeming opposites, Falstaff and Lancaster, are more alike than either of them realizes. For Falstaff is not simply foolish in Part II as he was cowardly and gluttonous in Part I. "Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit?" asks Solomon. "There is more hope of a fool than of him."67 So Falstaff, who made a joke of his claims to valor, seriously believes in his own "judgment and understanding" and prides himself on seeing to the bottom of such as Master Shallow and that "good shallow young fellow," Prince Hal. Lancaster too is wise in his own conceit and contemptuous of his dupes: "Most shallowly did you these arms commence," he tells the rebels, "Fondly brought here and foolishly sent hence." We are dealing here with analogy rather than contrast, as becomes plain in the next scene where Coleville gives himself away gratis, trusting to Sir John's good name as the Archbishop trusts the other John's "princely word"—and with the same result. Thus while Falstaff s fearfulness was the antithesis of Hotspur's rashness, his fleshly wisdom is near allied to Lancaster's politic craft: both are perverted likenesses of wisdom itself. In De Inventione Cicero explains that besides vices directly opposed to goodness, there are others that seem akin and close to virtue but are really far removed from it. Cicero is recalling the Aristotelian principle that one extreme is closer to the virtuous mean than the other, but the emphasis has shifted from achieving moderation to distinguishing between appearance and reality.68 This stress on false resemblance seems as appropriate to a play about wisdom as are excess and defect to a play about temperance. Cicero's examples in De Inventione do not include wisdom or justice, but in De Officiis he speaks repeatedly of the craft and cunning which seek to pass for wisdom but are really totally unlike it. Nothing more pernicious can be found in life, he says, than guile masquerading as intelligence.69

A similar scheme applies to justice. In Part I, Falstaff was a highwayman who frankly broke the law and hid from its officers. In Part II, he is himself the King's representative, who administers the "laws of this land service" with bland corruption and boldly claims their protection against the Chief Justice himself. He classes himself with "men of merit" and at Gaultree clamors for his due: "Therefore let me have right, and let desert mount!" Of all injustice, declares Cicero, "none is more flagrant than that of the hypocrite who, at the very moment when he is most false, makes it his business to appear virtuous."70 But does this not precisely describe the sanctimonious Prince John, who as he sends his victims off to execution observes, "God and not we hath safely fought today"? Extreme justice is the worst of injuries: summa ius, summa iniuria. Yet it is not so much the harshness of the sentence that disturbs us: justice gives each his due, and the death that befalls the Archbishop and his accomplices is, as Lancaster points out, "the due / Meet for rebellion." What offends us here is the pretense of justice, the legal trickery by which Prince John accomplishes his ends. It is precisely this kind of chicanery, this sly insistence on the letter of a law or treaty, that Cicero understands by the summa ius which is summa iniuria: he instances the Spartan king who, after making a truce for thirty days, attacks his enemies by night.71

Prince John's injustice, like his guile, is less a matter of excess than of deceptive likeness. His betrayal of the Archbishop exhibits a counterfeit of both the play's thematic virtues, and the event proves it as unwise as it is unjust. For wisdom, as Warwick tells the King, foresees the "main chance" of future things from "times deceased." The Archbishop's revival of Hotspur's quarrel should warn Westmoreland and Lancaster that his own death will not end the rebellion. But Prince John has not learned the lessons of history. He rebukes Hastings in words that echo elsewhere in the play: "You are too shallow, Hastings, much too shallow, / To sound the bottom of the after-times." In fact, the doomed rebel is a prophet: the heirs of Scroop, Norfolk, and Hastings will conspire and rebel till Lancaster's house is overthrown. It is Prince John who is "shallow," but we must look before and after to detect the folly of his seeming wisdom. By such means, by such broad historical perspectives and nice discriminations of truth and seeming, Shakespeare seeks to make us wise.

Prudentia, then, includes Providentia: "A prudent man is one who sees as it were from afar, for his sight is keen and he foresees the event of uncertainties."72 Hence the wise man is never surprised, never has to say "I did not think that this would come to pass!"73 But which of the characters in Part II can make that claim? Most of them are old, since prudence comes with experience: it is virtually impossible, as Aristotle and many after him insist, for a young man to be wise.74 Yet the foresight of these old men is as faulty as their memories: the play is full of defeated expectations. Prince Hal is, of course, the central enigma. His father and his friends misjudge him; even Warwick, who comes closest to guessing the Prince's riddle, is unprepared for the "noble change" he purposes. Warwick's wisdom, which foretells the future from the past, depends on constancy of character: Northumberland betrays Henry as he betrayed Richard, fails the Archbishop as he failed his son. But the Prince's change is a symbolic death and rebirth for which he himself is unprepared.

The crown—that "best" and "worst" of gold—is the crucial trial of Hal's wisdom: his knowledge of what to desire or shun, his understanding of himself. The Prince believes himself ready to rule, thinks his education complete; in a profoundly equivocal gesture, he crowns himself. And indeed, as he takes the crown, he speaks the very language of wisdom and justice, recognizing the burden of rule, yet claiming it as his due. But it is not his yet. He too is deceived in his expectation and forced to confess, non putaram:75 "I never thought to hear you speak again." The devasting reply—"Thy wish was father, Harry, to that thought"—is surely unjust, yet also surely justified; false, yet at some deep level true. The crime of which Hal stands accused is only superficially vanity or revolt: its real name is parricide. And Hal's action has betrayed the secret wish his words and tears deny. In the intellectual action of Shakespeare's play, he has no need of the dagger carried by the wild Prince of The Famous Victories. The physical weapon is here refined to an image, the symbol of the Prince's "thoughts," a dagger of the mind. And in this ultimate trial of intent, Hal's innocence consists less in freedom from the unconscious desire for his father's death than in his anguished repudiation of it. His is not the "rebel" or "vain" spirit of a Hotspur or a Falstaff: he is not swollen with the love of pleasure or infected with the ambition for honor, the lesser goods desired by the appetitive and spirited man. But the fulfillment of his nature is to rule: for Hal to be himself means to become king. And that cannot be so long as his father lives. Hal has seen the crown as a burden, but a burden that is his own. Now he sees it as his enemy and his father's murderer: it is the desire for this highest fulfillment of the self—"most fine, most honored, most renowned"—that has devoured the old King and now threatens the integrity of his son. For the good which the true king seeks is not his own. But in surrendering the crown, Hal proves his right to it: a tradition going back to Plato warns that only those deserve power who do not desire it.76 Hal's account of his earlier speech is a falsehood that becomes true as he utters it. Once more he turns past evils to advantages and makes offense a skill: God put it in his mind to take the crown, the King concludes, "That thou mightst win the more thy father's love, / Pleading so wisely in excuse of it."

Wisdom's emblem is the mirror. And in the dying King who shares his name, Hal sees reflected his own divided nature and the end to which it tends. Like his father, he has "snatched" at the crown "with boisterous hand"; like his father, he is now brought to confession and repentance, to what Renaissance theologians called "mortification." There is a reversal of roles, a fusion of identities: the usurper in Prince Hal dies with his father; what is royal in Henry is renewed in his son. The Prince has put off the old man who is his "former self," and it is this experience that gives him the moral authority, as well as the emotional motive, to speak to Falstaff as his father spoke to him: "like a death's head." For Falstaff suffers from the disease of not listening, the malady of not marking. Even when wisdom in the person of the Chief Justice cries out in the street, Falstaff regards it not: he lacks docility, that willingness to be taught which is one of the major divisions of prudence.77 But this failure to heed advice is even more unwise in a ruler, and at the beginning of the play, Falstaff s deafness is shared by the King: the Archbishop can gain no hearing for his grievances. But the King learns to hear the words of wisdom—"I will take your counsel," he tells Warwick—while Falstaff refuses them, even from Doll. It is thus left to the new King to make Falstaff remember his latter end. The justice that befalls him is not without mercy: Falstaff will be "very well provided for" and even the dram of imprisonment the Chief Justice administers is the cure he has earlier prescribed for Falstaff s deafness. And it is needed still: to the very end Falstaff pretends not to have heard the words of judgment and mortality by which Hal seeks to bring him to that self-knowledge and repentance he has himself so painfully attained.78

The rejection of Falstaff should never be discussed apart from the vindication of the Chief Justice, its thematic counterpart. The twin episodes round out the play's two themes, for as the reward of virtue and the punishment of vice shows the new King's justice, so the choice of "sage counsellors" and the rejection of flatterers reveals his wisdom.79 It is no accident that the dying King makes this choice the test and measure of his son's love, for both Falstaff and the Chief Justice have in their different ways presented Hal with an image of the King, the person of his father "in a second body." In rejecting the tutor of his riot, the flatterer whom all have thought his friend, and accepting as his advisor the severe judge whom all have thought his enemy, the new King proves his ability to discriminate between the true and false appearances of good or evil.80 "You shall be a father to my youth," he tells the Chief Justice; "My voice shall sound as you do prompt mine ear, / And I will stoop and humble mine intents / To your well practised wise directions." This docility is well and comely in so young a king, and it is fitting that the final integration of the body politic should emphasize such "limbs of noble counsel" as the Chief Justice. Yet the king must be the head of that body, and as Hal promises to be a father to his brothers, we realize that here is indeed the puer senex whose two-fold education has added the wisdom of age to the valor of youth, "That war, or peace, or both at once, may be / As things acquainted and familiar to us."81


The pattern I have traced bears on two recurrent controversies about Henry IV: the character of the Prince and the relation of the first part to its sequel. I cannot believe that Shakespeare trained his student prince in all the cardinal virtues in order to make him out a prig, a hypocrite, or dehumanized by his kingly role: it is no sin, as even Falstaff concedes, for a man to labor in his vocation. And surely no author ever followed a play about temperance and fortitude with another play about wisdom and justice as an "unpremeditated addition": the general pattern of both parts, though not necessarily their detailed execution, must have belonged to Shakespeare's original plan.

That plan culminates in Henry V. Here, surely, we have Shakespeare's final statement on the themes of blood and virtue. I have argued that Henry combines both claims. That this is Shakespeare's intention is shown by his handling of the Cambridge plot: whereas historically the Earl of Cambridge conspired in behalf of Mortimer, Shakespeare treats him simply as a traitor. For the purposes of this play, he deliberately represses—and the psychological term seems apposite—all memory of Mortimer and his claim. No one ever challenges Henry's lineal right to the throne—which is not to say that this is his most important or his only right. It is significant that the only English nobles to die at Agincourt are York and Suffolk. These are names ominous for the future of Henry's line, but here they become types of sacrifice, fellowship, and devotion. That York should die for Lancaster at Agincourt is a tribute not to Henry's pedigree but to the heroic virtue that unites all England under him.82 Conversely, the King's most dangerous antagonists are not the Dauphin and his butterfly nobility but Pistol and his crew, the corrupted "humors" in the English character and state which no royal example can change or redeem, which must be purged for the welfare of the whole.83 Virtue, it seems, is not a national trait. Those who are won by the force of Henry's example finally include not only the soldiers of his polyglot army but also those who thought themselves his enemies: the last of Henry's adoptive fathers is the King of France. The pattern of this compelling and exemplary virtue is familiar; it is systematically defined in the first four appearances of the King. These exhibit in reverse order the virtues he has mastered: wisdom in taking counsel, justice in judging the conspirators, fortitude in assaulting Harfleur, and temperance in sparing its inhabitants.

Agincourt, the climax of this sequence, is—like Bosworth—the judgment on a dynasty. The genealogy Henry sends to the French king which shows him "evenly derived" from Edward III is not ironic. It traces a lineage of the spirit. Henry proves himself the true inheritor of Edward and the Black Prince by reviving their virtues, by repeating and surpassing their heroic deeds. That, it seems, is genealogy enough. Henry's right to France—and by implication England—is finally vindicated by a higher power than the Archbishop of Canterbury. The night before Agincourt, Henry confesses the fault his father made in compassing the crown, and just before the fight begins, he places the outcome in God's hand: "Now, soldiers, march away / And how thou pleasest, God, dispose the day!" The battle that follows is the last of the trials by combat that run throughout the whole tetralogy, beginning with the abortive duel between Mowbray and Bolingbroke. Here, as there, the appeal is to God's justice, but now, in the almost miraculous outcome, the divine verdict is clear. The kingliness of virtue is affirmed, a virtue that has now come to include religion as well as the cardinal and secular four, rounding out with fine numerical decorum the five royal virtues listed by Elizabeth.

This mode of characterization, by which the behavior of the hero typifies some abstract value like prudence or fortitude, differs radically from Shakespeare's normal method. The difference supplies a clue to his generic intent. For it is in epic—or at least in the Renaissance reading of epic—that we find Achilles typifying valor and Ulysses prudence, or Aeneas uniting in himself the virtues of the good governor and the good man. The "Henriad"—the two parts of Henry IV and Henry V—is thus indeed an epic. Its hero is not England, as Tillyard and others have supposed, but England's king. Under the dubious reign of Henry IV, formal epic would be out of place. Not until Prince Hal becomes king does England become a heroic people: qualis princeps, talis populus. Nevertheless the three plays are unified by a heroic theme: they are an epic of education like the Cyropaedia of Xenophon, which Sidney considered an "absolute heroicall poem" because under the name of Cyrus it presents "ejfigiem iusti imperii, " the model of a righteous governor.84 Xenophon's institution of the prince, like Shakespeare's, takes the form of fictionalized history, and his story of a young prince who masters the five virtues, invades a great kingdom, wins it in a battle against overwhelming odds, and marries a princess reveals many likenesses to the career of Shakespeare's hero.85 Cyrus is contrasted to his uncle Cyaxares, the weak though legitimate heir to a kingdom, much as Henry V is constantly though implicitly contrasted to Richard II. Cyrus, like Henry, is of royal blood, but character, not lineage, makes him a ruler: men of all nations instinctively follow and obey him who is . . . one formed by nature to be king.86

Xenophon's title—"The Education of Cyrus"—thus takes on a double meaning. Cyrus seeks to make himself a "perfect model of virtue,"87 and the virtues he himself learns in the first book, he teaches to his followers and his new subjects in the remaining seven. Like Prince Hal, he masters a double spirit of teaching and of learning, and his students include the readers of his story as well as the other characters in it. For the aim of such heroic narrative is to "form the mind to heroic virtue by example": the maker of a Cyrus, Sidney argues, can make many Cyruses.88 Here poetry and politics coincide, for the purpose of Sidney's poet—"the winning of the minde from wickednesse to vertue"—is identical with the function which James I in the Basilikon Doron ascribes to the ruler.89 Both work by example, the "mirror" of virtue which lesser men behold in the imagined hero or the historic king. For the king, as James declares in another traditional image, "is as one set on a stage, whose smallest gestures, all the people gazinglie do behold."90 Thus Henry V, who is both king and hero, acts to a double audience, on stage and in the theater—and beyond it. By his example, both his subjects in Shakespeare's play and all who see or read it are moved to imitation: his education is also ours. We too must learn to distinguish true and false honor, to choose justice and reject vanity. For the cardinal virtues of the king are likewise traditionally the virtues of everyman, and it is by imaginative participation in Hal's gradual mastery of them that his heroism could be renewed in the age of Elizabeth—or in our own.


This essay expands a talk given at the Shakespeare Association of America's first annual meeting in Spring 1973 and outlines the argument of a full-length study of "Henriad" now nearing completion. Since my notes are lengthy, I have not attempted to specify my debts to previous Shakespeare scholarship. They are obvious and gratefully acknowledged.

1A Kingdom for a Stage (Cambridge, Mass., 1972), p. 18. But Ornstein's summary of the Tudor myth (p. 15) is incomplete, omitting Tillyard's stress on the crimes of the House of York and their punishment: cf. Shakespeare's History Plays (New York, 1946), pp. 60-61.

2The English History Play in the Age of Shakespeare (Princeton, N. J., 1957), ch. 6.

3 Ben Jonson, "Prologue" to Every Man in His Humour (1616), 11. 10-11, in C. H. Herford and Percy Simpson, Ben Jonson, III (Oxford, 1927), 303. In quoting early texts I have normalized i/j and u/v and omitted random italics.

4 For "true inheritor," see 2 Henry IV IV.V.168. Shakespeare is quoted from The Complete Works, ed. Alfred Harbage (Baltimore, 1969), though I have sometimes repunctuated for dramatic emphasis. Since the plays discussed are so familiar, I have ventured to omit further citations except when—as here—the source is not clear from the context.

5 Cicero, De Officiis, trans. Walter Miller (Cambridge, Mass., 1913), II, 13. Herodotus' account is considerably less idealized: see The Histories I, 96-98. Compare Aristotle, Politics 1285b, 1286b, 1310b.

6The Education of a Christian Prince, trans. Lester K. Born (New York, 1936), pp. 139-40; cf. The "Adages" of Erasmus, trans. Margaret M. Phillips (Cambridge, Eng., 1964), p. 220. The comparison between elective and hereditary monarchy forms a standard chapter in institutions of the prince. Though hereditary succession is usually preferred, the arguments concern not theories of legal or natural right but considerations of public concord and the moral character of the ruler. Jaques Hurault, in his Politicke, Moral, and Martial Discourses, trans. Arthur Golding (1595), concludes dispassionately that some men prefer hereditary succession and some elective; in both "there be divers inconveniences, and reasons enow both to commend them, and to discommend them" (p. 30).

7The King and the Education of a King (Toledo, 1599), trans. G. A. Moore (Chevy Chase, Md., 1948), p. 121.

8Six Books of the Commonwealth, abridged and trans. M. J. Tooley (New York, 1955), pp. 60-66. Note, however, that Bodin distinguishes princely from private virtue and quotes approvingly the proverb that "a bad man makes a good king." His example of a good man who makes a bad king is Charles the Simple; it might well be Henry VI. But the private virtues he cites, like credulity and simplicity, would not be virtues even of a private man for Aristotle and the tradition; conversely, the virtues discussed in this paper are all exhibited by Bodin's true king. Note also that the insistence that virtue, not lineage, marks true kingship need entail no revolutionary results. Erasmus believes tyrants should be resisted, but Bodin, who regards kings as responsible only to God, does not.

9Politics 131 la. I quote Benjamin Jowett's translation in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon (New York, 1941). The association of kingship with justice is, of course, scriptural as well as classical: see e.g. 2 Sam. 8.15, 1 Kings 10.9.

10De Natura II, viii, quoted in S. B. Chrimes, English Constitutional Ideas in the Fifteenth Century (Cambridge, Eng., 1936), p. 14. See also Fortescue's Governance of England, ed. Charles Plummer (Oxford, 1885), p. 116.

11 Quoted in Chrimes, p. 15, n. 1; I have translated Bracton's Latin. For the tradition, see Kantorowicz's important essay, "On Transformations of Apolline Ethics," in Selected Studies (Locust Valley, N.Y., 1966), esp. pp. 404-06. For a sixteenth-century statement, complete with reference to Justinian, see Guillaume de la Perrière's Mirrour of Policie, trans. anon. (1599), sig. [CIV]. Compare the emblem of a king bearing a book and sword with the motto "Legibus et Armis" from George Wither's Collection of Emblems, reproduced in Kantorowicz, plate 40.

12Politics 1281a.

13 Bodin, p. 192.

14The Basilikon Doron of King James VI, ed. James Craigie, 2 vols. (Edinburgh, 1944), I, 29.

15 The form of the aphorism in Cicero is ".. . qualis in re publica principes essent, talis reliquos solere esse cives" (Ad Fam. I, 9, 12).

16 Chelidonius Tigurinus, A Most Excellent Hystorie, Of the Institution . . . of Christian Princes, trans. J. Chillester (1571), p. 15.

17The Castle, or Picture of Pollicy (1581), sig. [9V].

18Somers Tracts I, 235; for "judgement" and "magnanimitie" as wisdom and fortitude see OED. In a schoolboy essay, Edward VI argues that a king should cultivate the cardinal virtues precisely so as to instill these in his subjects, who follow their ruler like sheep. See Literary Remains of King Edward the Sixth, ed. J. G. Nichols, 2 vols. (London, 1857), I, 21. For James I on the cardinal virtues, see below.

19 Most of this evidence is gathered in Josephine Waters Bennett, The Evolution of "The Faerie Queene" (Chicago, 1942), ch. 17, and William O. Harris, Skelton 's Magnyfycence and the Cardinal Virtue Tradition (Chapel Hill, N. C, 1965), pp. 145-53. Neither scholar associates the tradition with Shakespeare's histories. Perhaps the literary evidence deserves more particular note. For Sidney, see The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia (1590), II, 6: King Euarchus, famous for his "rightly royall vertues," shows not only justice in peace and magnanimity in war but also all the cardinal four: ".. . as he was most wise to see what was best, and most just in the perfourming what he saw, & temperate in abstaining from anything any way contrary; so .. . no thought can imagine a greater harte to see and contemne daunger . . ." (pp. 126-[126v]). These are the qualities Castiglione's courtier seeks to cultivate in his prince: see The Book of the Courtier, trans. Sir Thomas Hoby, The Tudor Translations 23 (New York, 1967), pp. 309-10, 314. When Panurge runs into debt as Warden of Salmagundia, he argues that his conduct conforms to all four virtues: see The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Bk. III, ch. 2. And while Don Quixote, in advising Sancho Panza how to behave as Governor of Barataría, covers only three of the four virtues—understandably omitting fortitude—Sancho actually exhibits them all, though his temperance and valor are enforced: see The Adventures of Don Quixote, Bk. II, chs. 43-53.

20 Craigie reports that a list—admittedly incomplete—of European treatises on princely education written in the sixteenth century numbers more than a hundred (Basilikon Doron, II, 74). A useful summary of important institutions before Erasmus is given by Lester Born in his introduction to The Education of a Christian Prince. See also Allan H. Gilbert, Machiavelli 's "Prince " and Its Forerunners (Durham, N.., 1938), and Felix Gilbert, "The Humanist Concept of the Prince and The Prince of Machiavelli," JMH, 11 (1939), 449-83.

21 Since this sentence was written, Moody Prior in The Drama of Power (Evanston, I11., 1973), ch. 13 and esp. pp. 250-53, has discussed the relation of the princely institutions to Henry IV. He rightly concludes that Hal's education, while unconventional in its means, is traditional in the kingly attributes that are its end. But his account of these follows the usual scheme of valor in Part I and justice in Part II.

22 It was, of course, the orthodox Renaissance objection to Machiavelli that he divided the two. Edward Dacres, his first published English translator, observes that "politicks presuppose Ethiques" (quoted in Felix Raab, The English Face of Machiavelli [London, 1964], p. 99, n. 4; italics mine). Dacres is probably thinking of Aristotle, whose Politics is quite literally the continuation of the Nicomachean Ethics.

23Basilikon Doron, I, 137.

24The Governaunce of Prynces (1422), in Three Prose Versions of the Secreta Secretorum, ed. Robert Steele, EETS, e.s., 74 (London, 1898), p. 147.

25The Regement of Princes, 11. 4754-55, in Hoccleve 's Works, ed. F.J. Furnivall, EETS, e.s., 72 (London, 1897), III, 171. For the contention that the Regement is organized around the cardinal virtues, see Harris, Skelton 's Magnyfycence, p. 82.

26 For the "parts" of wisdom, see Cicero, De Inventione II, 53. For Prudentia with three faces looking to past, present, and future, see Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance (Harmondsworth, Eng., 1967), pp. 260-61 and plate 91.

27Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, trans. W. H. Stahl (New York, 1952), p. 122.

28 Versions of this commonplace, with attribution to Aristotle and Plato, are the first two entries "Of Kings, Rulers, and Governours, and how they should rule their Subjects," in William Baldwin, A Treatise of Morali Philosophie... Enlarged by Thomas Palfreyman (1620), ed. R. H. Bowers (Gainesville, Fla., 1967), p. [53v].

29 For wisdom and justice as distinctively royal virtues, see the analysis of these virtues in Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, Q. 50, A 1. The tradition is of course much older: Plato and Aristotle regard wisdom (in at least one of its forms) as peculiar to the ruler, while justice is traditionally the primary office of the king.... The two are closely associated in Scripture: Aquinas quotes Jer. 23.5, "A king shall reign and be wise ['prosper' in King James], and shall execute justice and judgment in the earth." See also Prov. 1.1-3, 8.14-15; 1 Kings 3.9-12. For the association of virtues and faculties, see e.g. Hurault, pp. 58-59. Plato's definition of temperance as an inclusive virtue was later modified so that it became the virtue of the appetitive part. For this and for the classical association of temperance with childhood, see Helen North, Sophrosyne: Self-Knowledge and Self-Restraint in Greek Literature (Ithaca, N.Y., 1966). The valor of youth and wisdom of age is an epic and moral formula as old as the Iliad: see p. 340, n.81, below.

30 These locations for the faculties derive from the Timaeus. See e.g. Lodowyk Bryskett, A Discourse of Civili Life (1606), pp. 47-49.

31 Eph. 4.13. "Age" is the translation in the Geneva and Bishops' Bibles, "stature" in King James. Both physical and temporal aspects of the growth metaphor are clearly implicit in context: the body of Christ is to grow into a perfect man that henceforth we may be no longer children. The relevance of Ephesians to Henry IV has been explored by J. A. Bryant in Hippolyta's View: Some Christian Aspects of Shakespeare's Plays (Lexington, Ky., 1961), ch. 4, and by D. J. Palmer in "Casting Off the Old Man: History and St. Paul in 'Henry IV,'" CQ, 12 (1970), 267-83. The Pauline theme of conversion represents the other side of Prince Hal's development, fusing the historical tradition of his sudden moral transformation with the dramatic pattern of the moralities and interludes. This aspect of Henry IV is so familiar that I have not discussed it, but a moment's thought suggests how Shakespeare's attempt to combine the classical education of the prince with the Christian theme of conversion complicates both. The richness and subtlety that result from such a synthesis can be appreciated by comparing Henry IV with the Cyropaedia on the one hand and The Famous Victories on the other. But there is strain as well as gain. The critical controversy over Hal's first soliloquy reflects the tension between its first and last lines, between the Prince educating himself in the school of experience ("I know you all") and the prodigal not yet ready to abandon vice and return to his father's house ("Redeeming time"). And we see Falstaff both as the "tutor" from whom Hal has much to learn and the "old man" he must renounce.

32 See Adolph Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in Medieval Art. . . (New York, 1964), p. 55 and figures 33, 34. The fifteenth-century iconography described by Emile Mâle in L 'Art Religieux de la Fin du Moyen Age en France (Paris, 1908), pp. 335-36, which shows Temperance with a clock on her head and a bridle in her mouth, also reflects themes important for 1 Henry IV, and both attributes are not uncommon. See North's comments on the association of tempus and temperantia (Sophrosyne, p. 262).

33 Dover Wilson adopts "intemperature"; A. R. Humphreys in the Arden edition accepts the Quarto reading but regards "intemperature" as "the better word."

34 Recent editions I have seen identify Achitophel but do not explain the allusion: the parallel, complains G. B. Harrison, "is not particularly apt." The Arden editor quotes 2 Sam. 15.12: "The treason was great." That is Falstaff s point, but not Shakespeare's. The similarity between the preceding scene and 2 Sam. 18.24-33 suggests that the whole story was present to Shakespeare's imagination as he wrote.

35 This is a sweeping generalization, but I think it essentially true. These are, for example, the three authors most cited in the Basilikon Doron. Elyot in The Governour (London, n.d.), p. 47, believes that "those thre bokes be almoste sufficient to make a perfecte and excellent governour." Hence their prominence in these notes. The only authority of comparable (and sometimes competing) influence was Scripture itself: see A Woorke of Joannes Ferrarius Montanus, Touchynge the Good Orderynge of a Common Weale, trans. William Bavande (1559), whose subtitle declares it to be derived not from the vain traditions of philosophers but the sound doctrines and godly institutions of Christianity. With such pious exceptions, the institutions tend to use scriptural citations to support classical themes.

36 For the use of De Officiis as a school text and the detailed methods with which it was studied, both by kings and commoners, see T. W. Baldwin, William Shakespere's Small Latine & Lesse Greeke, 2 vols. (Urbana, Ill., 1944). If we may assume Shakespeare's acquaintance with Cicero's long account of temperance (I, 27-42), such passages as the duties of age and youth (I, 34)—which reflects on Worcester and Hotspur as well as Falstaff and Hal—leap into prominence. So do Cicero's passing observations on learning temperance by studying the conduct of others (I, 40) or the impropriety of boasting about oneself—especially falsely—and playing to the derision of one's hearers the miles gloriosus (I, 38).

37Shakespeare 's Festive Comedy (Princeton, N. J., 1959), ch. 8. See De Officiis I, 29, and compare Aristotle, Politics 1937b, Ethics 1176b.

38De Officiis I, 31.

39De Officiis I, 30-34.

40De Officiis I, 33.

41 For a sixteenth-century parallel, see Bodin's adaptation of Plato's class structure to the three estates in France: the clergy, the military, and the "scholars [!], merchants, craftsmen, and peasants," whose virtues are respectively prudence, courage, and temperance. The king represents the transcendent unity from which these derive; he administers the justice which reconciles his subjects to one another and to himself (Six Books, p. 212).

42The Republic of Plato, trans. F. M. Cornford (Oxford, 1945), IV, 444.

43 Temperance can be seen as a virtue exclusively concerned with the pleasures of touch and taste (as in Aristotle) or as including the irascible passions as well (as in Plato). Shakespeare has it both ways, I think: the first half of the play deals with temperance in the narrow sense and the second with fortitude, but Hal achieves temperance in the broader sense only at the end of the play. See Hurault's account of temperance as a virtue which governs not only the belly and reins but choler and the tongue (pp. 306-07, 310): thus his discussion includes a chapter warning "That princes must above all things eschue Choler" (Bk. II, ch. 14) and another "Of refraining a mans tongue . . . of liars . . . of flatterers, of mockers, of railers and slaunderers, and of tale-bearers" (ch. 13). The relevance of 1 Henry IV seems obvious. For the political dimension of Hotspur's intemperance, see John Higgins' Preface to Parts Added to the Mirror for Magistrates (1574), ed. Lily B. Campbell (Cambridge, Eng., 1946). Higgins acknowledges that those in authority need all four cardinal virtues, but stresses the special necessity of temperance to overcome ambition and the "desire of fame, glorie, renowne, and immortalitie" which have led to the fall of so many valiant and victorious personages (pp. 31-32). Compare Cicero's account of fortitude without justice (De Officiis 1, 19).

44Republic IV, 443. Like the passage quoted above, this follows the definition of justice, and illustrates the close connection between Platonic justice (which assigns each part of the soul its proper function) and temperance (which produces the agreement of all to the rule of reason). When the proper function of each part consists "of ruling or of being ruled" (loc. cit.) the two virtues become almost indistinguishable.

45 The horse imagery, in general, recalls the charioteer of Phaedrus and his steeds, which "becomes for later Platonists, pagan and Christian, the standard symbol for the operation of sophrosyne in the soul" (North, Sophrosyne, p. 179, n. 59; see also pp. 380-81). But Pegasus as the divine steed which, when bridled, enables a young prince to slay the monster Chimaera has more specific relevance. The soul, says Plato, can be imaged as a composite creature like the Chimaera; its appetitive part is a "multifarious and many-headed beast" (Republic IX, 588). So Hal's spirited impulses, properly controlled and directed, help him overcome the bestial impulses of appetite. For Ronsard, Bellerophon represented the "temperate philosopher, well controlled and well exercised in the moral virtues, who was killing, subjugating, and dominating his own affections"; see Frances Yates, The French Academies of the Sixteenth Century (London, 1947), p. 130.

46Nicomachean Ethics 1104a, trans. W. D. Ross in The Basic Works.

47Nicomachean Ethics 1105a, 1104b, 117a-b, 1115a.

48Nicomachean Ethics 1119a.

49Nicomachean Ethics 1109a.

50Faerie Queene II.xii. 56-57.

51Republic HI, 414.

52 On this iconographic convention, which goes back to the Psychomachia of Prudentius in literature and to the classical motif of victors standing over the vanquished in art, see Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of the Virtues, p. 14. A pageant of virtues—including Justice and Wisdom—each treading down two vices greeted Elizabeth at her coronation. See Sydney Anglo, Spectacle, Pageantry, and Early Tudor Policy (Oxford, 1969), p. 398 and cf. p. 355.

53 Cicero, De Inventione II, 53; De Officiis I, 5-6; II, 5. Definitions and divisions of wisdom multiply from Nicomachean Ethics VI on; for a survey of Renaissance conceptions, see Eugene Rice, The Renaissance Idea of Wisdom (Cambridge, Mass., 1958). The tradition is complex, and Shakespeare's treatment of wisdom in Part II is less systematic than the ambitious synthesis of Aristotelian, Platonic, and Ciceronian conceptions of temperance in Part I. I have restricted my discussion to aspects clearly relevant to the play and have avoided even elementary distinctions between, e.g., sapientia and prudentia. These often overlap in discussions of the cardinal virtue, which in English institutions and handbooks is called "prudence" and "wisdom" indifferently. The Concordance suggests that Shakespeare's term was "wisdom."

54De Officiis I, 43. Prudence as the knowledge of what is to be sought or avoided may be moral (the perception of good and bad) or practical (the choice of the best means to an end). The tradition includes both meanings; the second—for which see Nicomachean Ethics VI—emphasizes deliberation and the calculation of future probabilities, which are also important in 2 Henry IV.

55Republic VI, 502.

56Love's Labor's Lost II.i.45.

57 Erasmus, Education, pp. 140ff. For tutors as parentes mentis see W. H. Woodward, Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators (Cambridge, Eng., 1921), pp. 201-02.

58 These comparisons are not random. Hal's magnanimity in covering the "mangled face" of his fallen enemy with his own "favors" is modelled on the behavior of Alexander to Darius, as recorded in Plutarch. The events of Solomon's accession in 1 Kings—Adonijah's attempt to make himself king before his father's death, David's dying counsel, Solomon's treatment of his father's friends and foes, and the kind of wisdom he attains—are all relevant to Hal's accession in 2 Henry IV.

59De Officiis I, 43; II, 2.

60 Woodward, pp. 182-84; De Officiis I, 6.

61 Katzenellenbogen, pp. 55-56.

62 1 Kings 3.9; Erasmus, Education, p. 133.

63 See e.g. Hurault, Discourses, pp. 149ff.; Baldwin, Morali Philosophie, pp. 54-[54v].

64Measure for Measure III.ii.141-42.

65 Though Aristotle strives to define justice in terms of the mean in the Nicomachean Ethics, what emerges is a ratio, and he does not apply the excess-defect pattern of the moral virtues to the intellectual virtue of wisdom. Nevertheless, the prestige and simplicity of the pattern often caused it to be extended to these virtues. See the Preface to Barnabe Barnes, Foure Bookes of Offices (1606), where, in Barnes's musical metaphor, the "base" of prudence is folly, the "alte" "malicious wiliness and caliditie," as the "base" of justice is indulgence and the "alte" cruelty (sig. [Aiiiv]).

66 The irony of Falstaff s reference to the "law of nature" that makes the young dace a bait for the old pike becomes clear if we recall Cicero's constant invocation of natural law, which in De Officiis is a bond of human solidarity which forbids men to injure or defraud their neighbor (III, 5), and from which in De Inventione spring religion, duty to kin and country, gratitude, truth, and reverence for our superiors (II, 22)—all traits in which Falstaff shines. "Wisdom of the flesh," according to Aquinas in the Summa, is a false prudence which deliberates shrewdly but for carnal or worldly ends (II-II, Q. 55). Guillaume de la Perrière's examples are suggestive: "False Prudence is the disposition of thinges that tend to an evill end, as if a man should bend all his study to use the pleasure of the flesh, to steale and to robbe, and to enrich himselfe by fraud, subtletie, craft, and deceit. Of this false Prudence the Apostle . . . saieth: Wisedome of the flesh is death" (The Mirrour of Policie, sigs. Hiii-[Hiiil).

67 Prov. 26.12. As might be expected, the "wisdom literature" of the Bible is echoed in 2 Henry IV (see e.g. the preceding verse), and the recurring scriptural contrast of wisdom and folly illuminates both its theme and action. There is a further appropriateness in such allusions to Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, and Wisdom: they are recommended reading in institutions of the prince, partly because they were believed to be "what the wisest king of all teaches his own son, whom he is preparing to be his successor" (Erasmus, Education, p. 200). Like so many authors of secular institutions, Solomon duly cites the four cardinal virtues, "which are such things, as men can have nothing more profitable in their life" (Wis. 8.7).

68De Inventione II, 54.

69De Officiis II, 17; II, 3; III, 32. Aquinas in the Summa adopts Cicero's scheme of opposite and resembling vices. The spurious likenesses of prudence include wisdom of the flesh, craftiness, guile, and fraud (II-II, Q. 53-55). La Primaudaye's synthesis of Aristotelian and Ciceronian patterns shows how the second derives from the first: "unskilfulnes," the defect of prudence that errs through ignorance, is a vice contrary to virtue, while malice or craft, the excess that errs through deceit and subtlety, is the false likeness of virtue, more dangerous because it "seeketh to cover it selfe with hir name." See Pierre de la Primaudaye, The French Academie, trans. T[homas] B[owes?], 3d ed. (1594), pp. 109-10.

70De Officiis I, 13.

71De Officiis I, 10. Cicero insists that one must keep faith even with an enemy, and that in such vows and promises, the sense should be regarded, not the words (I, 13). The famous opposition that follows between force and fraud, the lion and the fox, neatly points the connection and contrast between Hotspur and Lancaster, the differing forms of wrong appropriate to Parts I and II. Both are inhuman, Cicero declares, but fraud is more hateful. Machiavelli's famous chapter on how princes should keep faith is a deliberate rebuttal of De Officiis, adopting Cicero's symbolism but reversing his values. That Shakespeare intends Prince John's faithlessness to be recognized as Machiavellian is doubtful, but it is clear that he intends our judgment of it to be Ciceronian. In fact, the Archbishop and Lancaster seem to echo the exchange between Thyestes and Atreus—"Fregestin fidem? / Neque dedi nequi do infideli cuiquam"—which Cicero quotes in a later discussion of fidelity to oaths (HI, 28).

72 Aquinas, quoting Isidore, Summa II - II, Q. 47.

73 Martin of Braga, Formula Vitae Honestae, in Opera Omnia, ed. Claude Barlow (New Haven, Conn., 1950), p. 239. For the importance of this treatise, which was attributed to Seneca, see Rosemond Tuve, Allegorical Imagery (Princeton, N.J., 1966), pp. 61-62. Barlow cites several Senecan analogues to the quoted phrase; for a Ciceronian parallel, see n. 75 below.

74Nicomachean Ethics 11422. Hence the special importance for a young king of heeding older counsellors: see Erasmus, Education, pp. 143-44, 156.

75De Officiis I, 23. The context is a discussion of fortitude without foresight. See also Erasmus, Education, p. 155: "If Africanus spoke the truth when he said, '"I did not think" is not a fit expression for any wise man,' how much more unsuited is it to a prince!"

76Republic VII, 520. Citing "divine Plato" and paraphrasing Erasmus (Education, p. 160) La Primaudaye argues that no man is fit to govern unless he does so unwillingly. Anyone who desires a crown must be wicked, seeking to reign for his own pleasure and profit, or a fool, ignorant of the burden he undertakes. "Therefore a wise prince will not thinke himselfe the happier, bicause he succeedeth in a greater Empire and kingdome, but remember rather, that he laieth so much the more care and paine upon his shoulders ... " (p. 617).

77 Docility as a "part" of prudence derives from Macrobius; Hurault calls it "Teachablenesse" (p. 157).

78 The epilogue shows that Shakespeare had not yet decided on Falstaff s fate. But the description of his death in Henry V is consistent with this interpretation, especially in juxtaposition with the scene in which Henry brings the doomed conspirators to repentance. That Falstaff cries out against sack and women, mutters the 23rd Psalm, and dies calling on God suggests that his "fracted and corroborate" heart is in fact broken and contrite (Ps. 51.17). The spectacle of a penitent Falstaff we could probably neither believe nor accept; the oblique way Shakespeare hints the idea, mingling pathos and bawdy, holy dying with the confusions of ordinary human language and feeling, must be one of the great examples of tact in drama.

79 See the opening of Chapter 22 of The Prince: here Machiavelli speaks for the tradition.

80 The themes of flattery and friendship, so interwined in 2 Henry IV, are intimately and traditionally connected to wisdom and justice. Friendship is closely associated with justice in De Officiis and the Nicomachean Ethics, while institutions of the prince repeatedly warn that the ruler who would know himself must specially beware of flatterers (see Erasmus, Education, ch. 2). The title of Plutarch's often-cited essay "How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend" nicely states Hal's problem as he seeks to know Falstaff in his true colors. That the flatterer turns out to be a detractor as well makes him doubly dangerous: the work of justice in the Prologue to Justinian's Institutes is "to expel the iniquities of slanderers" (Kantorowicz, Studies, p. 404). On detraction as a vice opposed to wisdom, and detractors disguised as friends and counsellors, see Elyot, pp. 288ff.

81 Despite its skirmishes and alarums, Part II is essentially about peace as Part I is about war. See Cicero on the victories of peace: the conquests of Tiberius Gracchus and Catiline, like that of the Archbishop, partake of the nature of war but are essentially triumphs of counsel (De Officiis I, 22). The distinction of the virtues that belong to "war, or peace, or both at once" goes back at least to Aristotle (Politics 1334a). But Shakespeare's actual grouping of temperance and fortitude vs. wisdom and justice is not identical with Aristotle's, and seems determined as much by the educational theme of ages and faculties as by the contrast of war and peace. Its dual pattern incorporates both the "arms and laws" of kingly rule and the "arts and arms" of princely education (for the relation between these formulae, see Kantorowicz, Studies). The educational ideal of arts and arms in turn parallels the heroic formula of fortitudo et sapientia. In epic tradition these are the virtues of youth and age, brave Diomedes and wise Nestor, the warrior and the counsellor. Once more poetry and politics coincide, for according to Aristotle these are the two classes who make up the state (Politics 1329a). The warriors who defend the city in the strength of their youth become the counsellors who "advise about the expedient and determine matters of law" when age gives them wisdom. They are, in other words, the rulers of Aristotle's ideal polity, who learn to obey in youth that they may command in age (Politics 1332b-1333a). His account of their training is incomplete, but the discussion that introduces it touches on the major topoi that shape Shakespeare's play: the connections of virtue and happiness, the good for the individual and the state, ethics and politics; the virtues of peace and war, action and leisure; the interplay between the ages of man, classes and functions in the state, and faculties of the soul; the relation of all these to the education of rulers (Bk. VII, chs. 13-15, 1332b-1334b).

82 The point becomes especially striking if we realize—and there is no sign Shakespeare did—that the Duke of York who volunteers for the post of greatest danger at Agincourt is Richard II's most loyal supporter, Aumerle.

83 This interpretation of Henry's invasion of France as an epic action which consolidates his subjects by heroic example while dispersing vices and "ill humors" parallels that of Daniel in The Civil Wars, Bk. v, especially stanzas 4-5, 17-23 (for convenience I use the numbering of the 1609 version, the copy text for Laurence Michel's New Haven, Conn., edition of 1958).

84An Apologie for Poetrie, in Elizabethan Critical Essays, ed. G. G. Smith, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1904), I, 160.

85 Almost forgotten today, the Cyropaedia was widely read in the Renaissance and regularly cited in institutions of the prince. This work gives considerable importance to the education of its hero. In Book I, Cyrus is trained with the other Persian youths in temperance and justice; practices fortitude both in hunting—a model of war—and actual battle at his grandfather's court; and finally, in a climactic "Socratic" dialogue, learns piety and wisdom from the King his father just as he is about to become himself a leader of men. These, together with patriotism and affability (which Cyrus also displays), are the virtues of the King in Xenophon's Agesilaus. The canon of five virtues was usual before Plato in the Republic reduced it to four by omitting piety, or rather by identifying it with wisdom (see North, Sophrosyne, chs. 4 and 5).

86Cyropaedia, trans. Walter Miller, 2 vols. (London, 1904), v, i, 24.

87Cyropaedia VIII, i, 21.

88 Dryden, "Dedication of the Aeneis," quoted in Hallett Smith, Elizabethan Poetry (Cambridge, Mass., 1952), p. 329; An Apologie, p. 157.

89An Apologie, p. 172.

90Basilikon Doron, I, 43.

James L. Calderwood (essay date 1979)

SOURCE: "Henry IV: Counterfeit Kings and Creative Succession," in Metadrama in Shakespeare's Henriad: Richard II to Henry V, University of California Press, 1979, pp. 47-67.

[In the following essay, Calderwood assesses Shakespeare 's use of metaphoric language to explore the nature of kingship in Henry IV, concluding that Shakespeare emphasizes the redemptive value of lineal succession through Hal, and that Prince Hal's restoration of English royal succession similarly re-establishes verbal creativity in the English language.]

At the battle of Shrewsbury Field the ferocious but somewhat befuddled Douglas discovers a superabundance of kings, or at least of kingly clothes, for "The King," as Hotspur informs him, "hath many marching in his coats" (5.3.25). Not gifted with Falstaff s unerring instinct for registering the presence of the true prince, Douglas must resort to trial-and-error empiricism:

Now, by my sword, I will kill all his coats.
I'll murder all his wardrobe, piece by piece.
Until I meet the king.

(I Hen. IV, 5.3.26-28)

Douglas's problem is more difficult than it seems. When he has done away with the Lord of Stafford, coat and all, he comes to Sir Walter Blunt and is told that this time he faces the true king. Sir Walter in his turn goes to it, and the disgusted Douglas, on learning of his mistake, says:

A borrowed title hast thou bought too dear.
Why didst thou tell me that thou wert a king?


Since Henry has possessed himself of a "borrowed title" also—for which he too has paid dearly, though not so dearly as Richard II or Sir Walter—there is much reason in Douglas's doubts when he encounters him:

What art thou,
That counterfeit'st the person of a king?
Henry. The King himself. . .
Doug. I fear thou art another counterfeit.


Once the identity of the king is no longer certified by divine authority, any man may march in a royal coat. Kingly trappings such as crown, throne, and vestments must substitute for congenital royalty as a guide to the king's person.

Moreover, not all those who can lay some claim to kingship are marching in the king's coats at Shrewsbury Field. In the first place, one of them can not march very far on any field and could hardly get into the king's tent, let alone his coat. Yet at the end of the last chapter we saw that Falstaff, King of Misrule, could counterfeit Henry IV in the suspenseful dramas staged by the Boar's Head Inn players. For that matter—after the deposition of Falstaff—so could Hal, rehearsing for realities to come. And according to Douglas there is still another pretender to royalty—Hotspur, "the king of honour" (4.1.10), whose favorite horse is appropriately his "throne" (2.3.73). Henry himself has called our attention to Hotspur as a potential king when he upbraided Hal in 3.2:

Now, by my sceptre and my soul to boot,
He hath more worthy interest to the state
Than thou, the shadow of succession.

(lines 97-99)

If Falstaff is, as critics have suggested, a father-substitute, and hence a king-substitute, then Hotspur is a son-substitute, and hence a figurative heir apparent, a king in potentia.

Thus the striking picture of Douglas roaming Shrewsbury Field murdering wardrobes in hope of finding a king in the flesh as well as in the coat, this stress on royal counterfeits not merely reinforces the fact that Bolingbroke is prudentially devious, which we have known for a good while anyhow. Nor does it only reemphasize the spuriousness of Bolingbroke's title, which makes him indistinguishable from other counterfeit kings. It also emphasizes a situation not limited to the battle-field but pervasive throughout the play: the disappearance of authentic kingship among a host of counterfeits.

With the collapse of a language founded on names—a language in which words are true designators bonded firmly to the world of things, as the name of king seemed bonded to Richard—all language must hence-forth appear a collective lie, and all kings counterfeit. If true authority and kingship have not permanently disappeared with Richard's death, they have at least receded into conceptual vagueness—an unexampled ideal and abstract mystery. Since abstractions can be apprehended only indirectly, through metaphor,1 we are presented in Henry IV with four metaphoric versions of kingship: the nominal King of England, the abdominal King of Misrule, the chivalric King of Honor, and the wastrel heir apparent. Or are they metaphoric? As we mentioned earlier it is part of the disarming nature of metaphor to march in the coat of the lie and to be identifiable only after a slaughter of wardrobes. For, like Bolingbroke, the metaphor and the lie are usurpers. They confiscate the names that rightfully belong to other concepts. But whereas the stealthy theft of names by the lie impoverishes reality and truth, it is only by means of such a theft, conducted openly by metaphor, that abstract realities and truths can be possessed at all. The trick is in knowing which is which, and it is a trick worthy of a prince's study:

The Prince but studies his companions
Like a strange tongue, wherein, to gain the language,
'Tis needful that the most immodest word
Be looked upon and learned; which once attained,
Your Highness knows, comes to no further use
But to be known and hated. So, like gross terms,
The Prince will in the perfectness of time
Cast off his followers. And their memory
Shall as a pattern or a measure live,
By which his Grace must mete the lives of others,
Turning past evils to advantages.

(2 Hen. IV, 4.4.68-77)

Warwick speaks truer than he realizes, for Prince Hal's vocabulary study extends beyond his rowdy followers. As the heir apparent in search of true kingship, Hal addresses himself to Bolingbroke, Falstaff, and Hotspur, the pretenders to kingship, as though they were words which he must study to determine whether each is a lie—a total counterfeit—or a metaphor containing a certain kingly truth. In the course of the two plays he imitates Douglas searching through counterfeits for the true king.

Warwick's speech should remind us of Hal's first soliloquy, his address to the audience in 1 Henry IV on the theme of turning evils to advantages, and especially of the passage in which Hal refers to his future reformation as a transcending of his word:

So when this loose behaviour I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes.


The soliloquy as a whole suggests certain connections between Hal and not only Falstaff but Shakespeare too. It may be Falstaff who says in 2 Henry IV that "A good wit will make use of anything, I will turn diseases to commodity" (1.2.276-278) and who then tries to make financial use of Shallow—as he has sought all along to make use of Hal—but in the soliloquy it is Hal who reveals himself as the man whose wit will make use of anything or anyone. He conceives here of a sophisticated version of Falstaff s world of pikes preying on daces. What Falstaff does not realize is that the princely dace he has been trailing around has, on closer inspection, a distinctly pike-like and snappish look to him. Unlike Falstaff, whose specialty is improvisation to satisfy present needs, Hal is capable of long-range calculations to secure the future. Indeed, as he presents himself here, Hal is a master plotter, a princely dramatist in whose political drama Falstaff and company are to play an unwitting role. Hal's drama is a history play in the comic/heroic mode, featuring the radiant emergence of the true king by means of a sudden peripeteia that brings the national audience of Englishmen to its feet united in patriotic feeling.

From the standpoint of language as well as that of plotting, Hal is an "interior" version of Shakespeare the controlling playwright. Whereas Falstaff is a walking hyperbole, the man whose speech dwarfs his performances, Hal is the embodiment of meiosis, the man whose deeds will as he says prove him "better than [his] word." As it stands, his word is very much in need of redemptive bettering, for as the instrument by which he will "falsify men's hopes" it is nothing less than a lie. And this too he shares with Shakespeare. Hal begins his "interior drama" as Shakespeare begins Henry IV, with a fallen language whose lack of inherent truth is emblemized in the lie. But as his soliloquy indicates, Hal is prepared to use the lie rather than wilt before it as Richard did. After all, he who uses Falstaff must by definition use the lie. But also, by creating from the false image of the wastrel prince a true symbol of English kingship, Hal will incorporate the lie into a constructive political program, a drama of skillful offence "redeeming time when men least think [he] will" (1.2.240). And that is Shakespeare's artistic goal as well—to wrest truth from a language devoid of divine or natural authority, to shape from the unseemly material of the lie an authentic order and meaning. No less than Hal, Shakespeare must turn past evils to advantages and prove better than his words.

It appears as we move from Richard II into Henry IV that the lie and the metaphor are the joint consequence of the collapse of a language of names. If so, it is not by accident that both verbal forms abound in Henry IV. Not of course that earlier Shakespearean plays are devoid of lies and metaphors but that lie and metaphor do not in themselves rise to thematic prominence or become incorporated into a metadramatic development. Perhaps it is worth noting that even the word lie appears far more often now than in earlier plays—twice as often in 1 Henry IV, for instance, as in a lie-fraught play like Richard III. As for metaphor, how deeply Shakespeare's imagination has delved in figuration in these plays needs little documentation at this late date. Working chronologically through the early plays, and especially through the histories, one is taken aback by the sudden plenitude of comparatives, analogues, parallels, versions, and similitudes in Henry IV—all the vast network of metaphoric association by which everything appears in the likeness of something else. With characters, actions, and images multiplying with the spontaneous fertility of Falstaff s men in buckram, we may despair of isolating any one feature of the play for consideration, and despair no less of encompassing the whole. But because it figures in Hal's quest for true kingship among various usurping counterfeits, let me linger a bit over Shakespeare's metaphoric employment of the double plot.

That double plots may be structural metaphors is perhaps most obvious in The Merchant of Venice, where by playing Belmont off against Venice Shakespeare dramatizes the metaphor "love is a form of commerce," or in Troilus and Cressida, where the two plots embody the metaphor "love is a form of war."2 In similar fashion 2 Henry IV places the major actions of the historical and the nonhistorical plot in metaphoric juxtaposition to dramatize the notion that "Shrewsbury is a form of Gadshill," which suggests that the English rebels are merely history's cutpurses—as anxious to split their take in English soil (see 3.1.70-141) as Falstaff s "gentlemen of the shade" are their liberated gold—and that the two great leaders, Falstaff and Hotspur, may have a kind of half-faced fellowship despite vast differences.

More important in light of Prince Hal's search for kingship is the fact that at Gadshill and Shrewsbury the heir apparent both protects a crown and seizes a crown. What is being robbed at Gadshill is in large part Henry himself—"There's money of the King's coming down the hill; 'tis going to the King's exchequer" (2.2.56-57)—and what is stolen is pointedly associated with the royal symbol of office, the crown, as in Poins's invitation, "If you will go, I will stuff your purses full of crowns" (1.2.145-146). In low-life metaphor Falstaff, by stealing crowns from the royal exchequer, usurps Henry's crown and so becomes a mock-king, as befits a King of Misrule. And Falstaff suffers from Henry's royal ailment also—a reign marked by internal dissension. After a brief but heroic skirmish against armies of rebellious knaves in Kendall green and buckram, Falstaff is "uncrowned" by Hal, who subsequently restores the crowns/crown to the dispossessed Henry ("The money is paid back again," 3.3.200). Later in the Boar's Head Tavern, Hal uncrowns Falstaff twice more, once metaphorically when he makes the master of humor the butt of the whole joke and once theatrically when he demotes him from a kingly to a merely princely role:

Prince. Dost thou speak like a king? Do thou stand for me, and I'll play my father.

Falstaff. Depose me? If thou dost it half so gravely, so majestically, both in word and matter, hang me up by the heels for a rabbit-sucker or a poulter's hare.


At the battle of Shrewsbury Field the metaphors of robbery, crowns, and kingly coinage are convened again. Douglas, fighting his way from one counterfeit king to another, finally locates Henry and comes dangerously near seizing his life and crown before his robbery is prevented by Hal, "Who never promiseth but he means to pay" (5.4.43). The major highwayman in the rebel company, however, is Hotspur, who has spent an almost furiously busy life relieving chivalric travelers of their martial reputations. His roadside cry is not Falstaff s "Your money or your life" but "Your honors and your life." On the one hand, as leader of the rebels at Shrewsbury, Hotspur is in the role of robber attempting to seize Henry's life, land, and crown, which Henry has of course robbed from Richard. At the same time Hotspur is himself the victim of a robbery. In this role he is, in Douglas's phrase, the "king of honor" and is concerned to retain his title despite the challenge of Hal. Thus their encounter is figured as a contest for a crown, as in Hal's baiting remarks on their dual sovereignty:

I am the Prince of Wales; and think not, Percy,
To share with me in glory any more.
Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere,
Nor can one England brook a double reign
Of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales.


Hal's uncrowning of Percy is suggestive of Bolingbroke's uncrowning of Richard. Henry himself a bit earlier had claimed that history was about to repeat itself, but in rebuking Hal for bad conduct he put him and Hotspur in the wrong roles:

For all the world
As thou art to this hour was Richard then
When I from France set foot at Ravenspurgh,
And even as I was then is Percy now.


In fact, of course, Hal the careful plotter and manipulator of his followers has been very much his father's son; and Percy, despite his un-Ricardian life of action, has been like Richard in that for him the split in speech, the breakdown of a monistic language of names, has never occurred. Hotspur still lives in a world in which honor, Esperance, and truth have real and substantial being and in which a man's name or reputation is a possession as dear as life itself.

Percy's defeat at the hands of Hal, then, is appropriately a usurpation of "name." Like his father coming ashore at Ravenspurgh, Hal is essentially nameless compared to Hotspur, who complains, as titled champions will, of having nothing to win and everything to lose:

and would to God
Thy name in arms were now as great as mine.


Thus when Hotspur dies it is not the loss of "brittle life" but the loss of "those proud titles thou hast won of me" that grieves him deepest (5.4.78-79), which might remind us of Richard's loss of identity and his sense of personal emptiness once he is deprived of his kingly name (Rich. II, 4.1.255-262). That emptiness is a measure also of the Hotspur code of value, and the question of the Shrewsbury moment is whether in conquering the King of Honor Hal has not only taken Hotspur's crown but adopted his limited moral vision as part of the spoils too.

That Hal might not only defeat but in a sense become Hotspur seemed a real danger when, in his interview earlier with his disapproving father, he spoke of redeeming his sorry reputation:

Percy is but my factor, good my lord,
To engross up glorious deeds on my behalf.
And I will call him to so strict account

That he shall render every glory up,
Yea, even the slightest worship of his time,
Or I will tear the reckoning from his heart.

(I Hen. IV, 3.3.148-152)

Here Hal translates Falstaff s world of daces and pursuing pikes into financial terms. Falstaff collects purses, Hotspur collects titles of honor, and Hal—a princely internal revenue service—collects from both. But whereas Hal has earlier been capable of registering amusement at the extravagant self-absorption of Hotspur's code of honor (2.4.113-125), in his remarks now to his father and again to Percy just before they fight it does not seem apparent to Hal that all he can collect from Percy are counterfeit "crowns."

But the Gadshill parallel holds true in the event. Just as Hal transcended Falstaff s pursetaking by returning the Gadshill money to the king's exchequer, so now, after Hotspur's death, he transcends Hotspur's obsession with names and titles of honor not only by surrendering his rightful earnings to the old horsebackbreaking highwayman himself—

There is Percy. If your father will do me any honour, so. If not, let him kill the next Percy himself. I look to be either earl or duke, I can assure you.


—but by even contributing amusedly to the thievery:

For my part, if a lie may do thee grace,
I'll gild it with the happiest terms I have.


In so doing he earns title to a far more impressive kingship than any of the pseudo-versions put before him throughout the play.

And yet Hal registers in each of these counterfeit kingships a certain metaphoric truth in the process of transcending them, collecting something from each as he prepares to pay England the debt he never promised. His most glorious payment to England occurs at Agincourt, where all debts come due, and it is there that his "factors" Falstaff and Hotspur pay off for him as well. Without expatiating on the kingly and human lessons Hal learns from the men he has uncrowned—an old theme—we can merely observe that his easy way with men, which is summed up on the eve of battle by the choral phrase "A little touch of Harry in the night," is as inconceivable without Falstaff and Gadshill as his rallying Saint Crispían speech, with its "But if it be a sin to covet honour / I am the most offending soul alive" (Hen. V, 4.3.28-29), is without Hotspur and Shrewsbury.3

At Gadshill and Shrewsbury Prince Hal defeats Falstaff and Hotspur on their own terms, stealing a laugh from the one, a life from the other, and a metaphoric crown from both. There remains in the plays a final version of kingship—the king himself. If we wonder what metaphoric truths hal discovers in Henry or what debts he collects from him, we are obliged to consider the deathbed scene in 2 Henry IV (4.5), for it is here that hal uncrowns Henry. Both men give and receive. With Henry's apparent death, Hal picks up what is owing him, the crown, and relinquishes what he has long owed Henry, the tears of genuine personal feeling:

Thy due from me
Is tears and heavy sorrows of the blood,
Which nature, love, and filial tenderness
Shall, O dear father, pay thee plenteously.
My due from thee is this imperial crown,
Which, as immediate from thy place and blood,
Derives itself to me.


Like Falstaff and Hotspur, Henry it appears is also Hal's factor, to engross up not easy ways or glorious deeds but that one indispensable possession of a king, the crown itself. Not that Hal has hungered for power—but even so, no heir apparent is unconscious of what he is heir to (as Hal has made clear since his first soliloquy). At any rate, when Henry has an untimely recovery, Hal finds himself in a most unpleasant, even Falstaffian situation.

Standing before Henry, crown in hand, Hal appears in the likeness of the one-time tutor and feeder of his riots, Falstaff himself, who was always quick to seize crowns going to or from the king's exchequer. He must also call to mind Hotspur, whose Shrewsbury exploits, had they proved successful, would have uncrowned Henry before his time. Finally and most significantly, Hal must remind us of Bolingbroke himself, who "met this crown," he is shortly to tell Hal, by "indirect crooked ways" (4.5.185-186). But if Hal's apparent theft of the crown raises the image of usurpation, Shakespeare's intention is to suggest a likeness in order to point a difference. Unlike all the counterfeit kings, who in their various fashions are or would be usurpers, "player kings," Hal is not feigning kingship. The role of the man cultivating kingly virtues he has deliberately avoided playing; he has not coveted the crown and pretended otherwise:

if I do feign,
O let me in my present wilderness die
And never live to show the incredulous world
The noble change that I have purposed!


And unlike Hotspur and especially Henry himself, Hal has not contended for the crown. He has raised no armies against England's monarch, sent no soldiers to their deaths, killed no king. His only contest is with the crown, a private inquiry and test of merit:

Thus, my most royal liege,
Accusing it, I put it on my head,
To try with it, as with an enemy
That had before my face murdered my father,
The quarrel of a true inheritor.


That Hal's contest with the crown is only a metaphoric battle, the "quarrel of a true inheritor" instead of the ambitious struggles of a usurper, is owing to Henry himself. To Richard II, despite all his keening over it, the crown was essentially an irrelevant possession. Symbols of kingship confer nothing on one who so luminously and infallibly is king, who has been king from birth, and who is descended from a line of kings. For Bolingbroke, possession of the crown is another matter; the symbols of kingship are his only identifying marks. Having killed a king to gain a crown, Bolingbroke has spent a restive reign suffering from the guilt of his possession and from the fear of dispossession—even down to this final moment. But what was a piece of stolen property in Henry's hands is modified by its transfer to his son:

To thee it shall descend with better quiet,
Better opinion, better confirmation,
For all the soil of the achievement goes
With me into the earth. It seemed in me
But as an honour snatched with boistrous hand.

And I had many living to upbraid
My gain of it by their assistances,
Which daily grew to quarrel and to bloodshed,
Wounding supposed peace. All these bold fears
Thou see'st with peril I have answered—
For all my reign hath been but as a scene
Acting that argument, and now my death
Changes the mode. For what in me was purchased
Falls upon thee in a more fairer sort,
So thou the garland wear 'st successively.

(4.5.188-202; my italics)

The major function of this scene is to present us with a transfer of the crown from Henry to Hal that is made to look like an act of usurpation, a theft—

Thou hast stolen that which after some few hours
Were thine without offence


—but that, upon reinterpretation, is seen to be a matter of direct lineal descent. After Hal exonerates himself, both he and Henry recognize that the kingship Bolingbroke so craftily sought for himself has been his only to hold in trust. In the drama of history his role has been that of keeper of the crown, as Hal's has been that of the prince who must withdraw into seeming dishonor, playing truant to his royal calling, so that the stain of his father's usurpation will not discolor his own kingship in time to come.

We asked what debts Hal collects from Henry. Concerning true kingship Henry can hardly offer much. But then Hal does not demand much:

My gracious liege,
You won it, wore it, kept it, gave it to me.
Then plain and right must my possession be.

(lines 221-223)

The crown's the thing—not in itself, as seized possession, but as the symbol of regal inheritance. Possession of the crown may not guarantee true kingship—it certainly has not in Bolingbroke's case—but it is the sine qua non of the royal succession, the means by which an "honour snatched with boist'rous hand" can be transformed into "the garland [worn] successively," or what Hal calls "this lineal honour":

and put the world's whole strength
Into one giant arm, it shall not force
This lineal honour from me. This from thee
Will I to mine leave, as 'tis left to me.


The crown is the instrumental thing, but the succession is the thing itself, so powerful is Shakespeare's stress. The circular and tortured redundancy of Hal's last sentence—"This from thee / Will I to mine leave, as 'tis left to me"—helps hammer home the redemptive virtues of the royal succession, of lineal descent. Henry's death, as he says, "changes the mode." Because of him, history's scapegoat, Hal, can enter on kingship "in a more fairer sort" (4.5.201), relatively unburdened of guilt for the past, capable of creating "King Henry the Fifth" in his own image, after his own style, and yet conscious that "King" and "Henry" are two things and that the crown does not grow to his head. It is just this that was impossible in Richard's time, for the absolute fusion of "King" and "Richard" implied, at least in Richard's imagination, that the institution of kingship could not survive its incumbent. The price of Richard's autonomous Divine Rightness, pressed to such extremes of faith, was that it accompany him to the grave. Whoever followed Richard would of necessity "change the mode," for so long as his view of kingship prevailed there could be no such thing as a succession. "The King is dead; long live the King" could only be "Richard is dead; kingship is dead."

The "change of mode," then, liberates kingship from its corporeal bonds to Richard and makes possible a "line" of English kings. It also has a crucial bearing on the verbal issues discussed earlier. As I read him, Shakespeare dramatizes his realization that the lie is the price language pays for metaphoric creativity. A fully monistic language of Richard's kind, a language of names invested with automatic truth and consonance to nature, though it looks appealing to the poet, would actually be a linguistic version of maximum entropy—a thought-benumbing collection of verbal signs pinned to a dead universe of things.5 If in Richard's conception of kingship there can be no new kings (hence maximum political entropy), in a language directly bonded to nature there can be no new meanings. The price of infallible speech is a language and a nature mutually sealed off from change, as Edenic language and nature appear to have been before the beguiling satanic hiss introduced new and dangerous notions, among them newness itself.6 Once divine authority and human faith are withdrawn from such a language—once Richard is deposed—words must seem hopelessly disengaged from nature and quite incapable of transcending their fallen state. The emblems of this fallen state in politics are the counterfeit usurping king, in language the lie, and in drama that gross, open, palpable father of lies himself, Falstaff.

Despite the appeal of a monistic language, however, Shakespeare evidently perceives that automatic truth—truth where there is no possibility of error—is not truth at all but merely tautology, an endless reaffirmation of what is. If this is the case, then Shakespeare realizes also that his verbal art rests on the most unlikely of foundations, the lie. For without the possibility of the lie there can be neither creative metaphor, nor meaningful truth, nor in any authentic sense poetry. As with language, so with politics: without the possibility of counterfeit kings like Bolingbroke, there can be no genuine kings like Henry the Fifth. Not "genuine" in Richard's lost sense of having perfect title granted by God but genuine in the only ways kings can be in an imperfect world where no title is infallible but must be earned with the familiar human equipment—courage, sense of justice, intelligence, knowledge, all the old virtues that, from the nation's perspective, spring up so miraculously in the redeemed Hal.

Thus the poet can never be exempt from the charge of lying pressed by Platonic camp followers like Agrippa and Stephen Gosson. Nor, so long as he aspires to be a maker of meanings, should he want to be. Like the young Hal taking the dubious route through Eastcheap on his way to Westminster Abbey and his coronation, the poet must put his reputation in jeopardy, not only acknowledging the lie as part of the language he uses but even taking on its unprotective coloration, in order to claim his right to metaphor and his title to truth. From this perspective, to reinstitute royal succession in England is to restore to English itself nothing less than the verbal creativity without which poetry cannot survive.7


1 We can never satisfactorily conceive of abstractions like being, justice, relation, situation, by approaching them on their own terms, abstractly. That is what dictionary definitions seek to do as they send us back and forth inside a closed system of abstract reference: being means existence which means having actuality which means being, and so on. So we metaphorize, taking a detour through the concrete. Though we tend to think of poets as being in flight from abstractions, they are not; a language full of concrete metaphors is itself an index of the poet's concern with abstractions, because metaphor is the only way in which abstractions may be made intellectually accessible—which is why most abstract words are crystallized metaphors.

2 In Some Versions of Pastoral (London, 1935), William Empson analyses double plots along these lines (pp. 25-84).

3 I should add here that Hal's covetousness about honor—his claim not to want an additional soldier present because he can't bear to divide up the glories of the coming day—is quite a different thing from Hotspur's refusal to await reinforcements at Shrewsbury in favor of a "Die all, die merrily" policy. At Agincourt there are no reinforcements to wait for, so Hal makes the rhetorical and military most of what he's got, adopting the Hotspur mode because, given the situation, none other is available.

4 The word feign here carries the meaning both of "act" or "deceive" and, in homonymic pun, "crave." The First Folio spelling, incidentally, is "faine." Thus, on the one hand, "if I do merely 'act' contrite" and, on the other, "if I do actually covet the crown" then "let me die."

5 Maximum entropy is of course a maximum extreme, not likely encountered. But the second law of linguistic thermodynamics holds good at more familiar ranges of experience too. When a culture still trusts its master metaphors after their semantic candlepower has dimmed, as the eighteenth century trusted the "great chain of being" metaphor and the twentieth century trusted Descartes' "ghost in the machine," or when living meanings surrender to cliché and platitude, or petrify into jargon, then the creative energies of symbolism have begun to dissipate, and the world turns gray.

6 In De Vulgari Eloquentia Dante spoke of Adam's language—Hebrew, he believed—as divinely created. It survived the confusion of tongues at Babel so that Christ "might use, not the language of confusion, but of grace" ( In canto 26 of the Paradiso, however, Dante speaks of language as created by reason and therefore subject to change:

for as they should,
Like leaves upon the branches of a tree,
The words of mortals die and are renewed.

(lines 136-138; trans. Dorothy Sayers,
New York, 1962)

The "renewing" is only possible in a language capable of change, as the poet in the act of creating meanings himself instinctively realizes.

7 Sigurd Burckhardt ingeniously translated the Shakespearean stress on royal succession into a question of whether Shakespeare himself in the second tetralogy is to proceed with the lineal, successive development of his creative talents or to repeat his own earlier, orthodox treatment of history as a circular, repetitive, restorative process submissive to divine order, as he had done in the first tetralogy (Shakespearean Meanings [Princeton, 1968]). . . .

Barbara J. Baines (essay date 1980)

SOURCE: "Kingship of the Silent King: A Study of Shakespeare's Bolingbroke," in English Studies, Vol. 61, No. 1, February, 1980, pp. 24-36.

[In the following essay, Baines argues that, despite what many critics have previously argued, Shakespeare portrays Bolingbroke in a sympathetic manner and that this depiction of the future king highlights Shakespeare's "very realistic" attitude toward kingship.]

Few, if any, characters in the Shakespeare canon evoke such diverse and strong emotional response as the key figures of the second tetralogy: Richard II, Bolingbroke, and Hal. They are of course fascinating psychological portraits, but their special appeal derives from the political and moral issues which they dramatize. Together they present Shakespeare's courageous exploration of the controversial subject, kingship: the right to reign, the use and abuse of power, and the reciprocal responsibility of sovereign and subject. In these three kings whose fortunes and identities are inextricably linked, the playwright dramatizes the formidable conflict between political necessity and Christian morality. This conflict, which gives the plays their singular vitality, is part of what Michael Manheim has defined as the 'weak-king dilemma' and what Moody Prior, relying on Friedrich Meinecke, has called the dilemma of raison d'état.1 That Bolingbroke's behavior often demonstrates Machiavelli's precepts of political necessity has been irrefutably demonstrated in the past and again recently.2 But the significance of this behavior in the minds of Bolingbroke and his creator has never been satisfactorily resolved. The complexity of the political-moral issues of the tetralogy is, therefore, most evident in this ambiguous, keystone figure who, like his heir, demonstrates the cardinal virtues requisite of a king.3 Bolingbroke's triumph, through the glory of his heir, is made possible by a pragmatic acceptance of the tenuous balance between the claims of political necessity and Christian ethics. I hope to demonstrate that Shakespeare's attitude toward Bolingbroke is much more sympathetic than critics have been willing to acknowledge and that this sympathy underscores the playwright's very realistic attitude toward kingship.

We know of course that the Tudor establishment, like Richard, expounded the theory of the divine right of kings and the incontestability or virtual infallibility of the king body politic.4 The Tudor concept of kingship and the subject's obedience is so pervasive and eloquently expressed that, as G. R. Elton notes, 'theories of kingship which stressed the rights of subjects and the dominance of law have tended to be overlooked in the dazzling light of God-granted authority'.5 But the fact remains that these conflicting theories did exist, and it is not likely that Shakespeare would have overlooked them. The struggle between Richard and Bolingbroke for the crown shows clearly that he did not. Richard II presents both the Lancastrian sympathetic interpretation of Bolingbroke's motives and actions and the Yorkist view of Bolingbroke as hypocrite and despicable traitor. Robert Ornstein has recently pointed out that Holinshed, Shakespeare's primary source, presents essentially a Yorkist view, one that stresses the principle of legitimacy too strongly to have been much comfort to the Tudor monarchs and thus had to be qualified or balanced by the playwright with the Lancastrian view.6 For many readers the fascination and pathos evoked by Richard in the last two acts tend to overshadow the Lancastrian argument. I would like to argue here that the justification of Richard's deposition, if we consider the entire tetralogy and give adequate attention to the first three acts of Richard II, is more important to an accurate assessment of the political statement of the plays than the tragic suffering of Richard. In light of the complexity of conflicting ideas about kingship, the singular nature of Bolingbroke—the morally accountable Machiavellian prince—takes on new significance.

How Bolingbroke acquires the crown is of course a crucial issue in any assessment of the character. Richard II loses the crown because he denies the principle and laws upon which his right to the crown rests. York, who, along with Gaunt, supports the theory of the divine right of kings, points out that Richard denies his own legal right when he denies Bolingbroke's rightful inheritance. The destruction of the hereditary order in the duchy of Lancaster prefigures the destruction of the hereditary order in larger England. It is Richard, not Bolingbroke, who causes this destruction. Richard has disturbed the old order of possession by insisting that possession of the crown means possession of Gaunt's estate. Ironically enough, he discovers that he must live by the new order of possession which he has himself created and sanctioned. The crown and the Lancastrian estate do in fact go hand-in-hand—not because Bolingbroke is a usurper but because Richard has inadvertently disinherited himself through a series of crimes. Disregard for royal blood, for the offspring of King Edward, has already become a practice before the action of the play begins, in the cruel murder of Thomas Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. The strongest condemnation of Richard, 'Landlord of England art thou now, not king, / Thy state of law is bondslave to the law', calls to mind the worst of his sins as they are depicted in the anonymous Woodstock.7 Accordingly, Richard's fate and the justice of that fate are clearly prophesied by the dying Gaunt:

O, had thy grandsire, with a prophet's eye;
Seen how his son's son should destroy his sons,
From forth thy reach he would have laid thy shame,
Deposing thee before thou wert possessed,
Which art possessed now to depose thyself.


What Gaunt is describing here is not usurpation but self-deposition. Moreover, he considers the act already accomplished ('Landlord of England art thou now, not king') before Bolingbroke's return from exile. Richard's crimes, not Bolingbroke's, dictate Gaunt's final address to Richard not as king but as 'my brother Edward's son' (II.i.124).

Bolingbroke receives the crown as a result of his morally sanctioned demand for his inheritance. The first crucial question, then, in an evaluation of Bolingbroke's policy and ethics is whether or not he has a right to return to England to claim and defend his inheritance. Even as a loyal supporter of the establishment, York reveals that he is torn between two loyalties: one to the state, the other to his conscience:

. . . Both are my kinsmen.
Th'one is my sovereign, whom both my oath
And duty bids defend; t'other again
Is my kinsman, whom the king hath wronged.
Whom conscience and kindred bids to right.


What is significant here is that duty and oath of office (aspects of political necessity) speak for Richard, whereas conscience speaks for Bolingbroke. To York's blustering accusations (II.iii.87-111) Bolingbroke appeals to the obligation of kinship, but what is more important, he asserts his right by law:

I am denied to sue my livery here,
And yet my letters patents give me leave.
My father's goods are all distrained and sold;
And these, and all, are all amiss employed.
What would you have me do? I am a subject,
And I challenge law. Attorneys are denied me,
And therefore personally I lay claim
To my inheritance of free descent.


But the rigidly idealistic York insists that the end, however justifiable, will not in this case justify the means. He will not exonerate Bolingbroke's attempt 'to find out right with wrong'. At the same time, York can offer no viable alternative to Bolingbroke's action; to the pragmatic question, 'What would you have me do?' he has no answer. This failure best explains York's impotence and the metaphoric appropriateness of his intention to remain 'neuter' (1. 159). The impotence of York (who is, after all, the King's Regent) underscores the necessity of the course taken by Bolingbroke.

Although Bolingbroke's action is morally justified, his motives and intentions remain a mystery; he never confides in the audience or in another character. There is ample evidence that Bolingbroke, from the beginning, anticipates the necessity of restricting drastically or else abolishing altogether Richard's authority.9 The idea of merely reforming or limiting Richard's power would hardly seem feasible to the realistic Bolingbroke. He knows that Richard is an absolutist and that any form of resistance or criticism would not be tolerated. The fact that Richard is responsible for the death of Gloucester is from the beginning no secret in the Lancaster household. Bolingbroke knows, therefore, that his challenge to Richard's faithful servant Mowbray is, in fact, a challenge to Richard himself.10 Richard evidently recognizes the thinly disguised challenge when he accuses Bolingbroke of 'sky-aspiring and ambitious thoughts' (I.iii.130). The only easy way out is the unjust banishment of both men. The sudden, dramatic, and unjust decision to banish both lords is, in Bolingbroke's consciousness, sufficient example of Richard's intolerable abuse of absolute power. Compromise and reconciliation, therefore, could hardly seem a likelihood in Bolingbroke's mind when he returns from France.

It is highly probable, then, that the silent Bolingbroke at this early point—that is, before Richard confiscates the Lancaster estate—already intends a final confrontation with Richard. The time sequence of Act II, scene i, is deliberately ambiguous. It is impossible to tell whether Bolingbroke has had time to receive the news of the confiscation of his inheritance before he sets sail from Brittany with the eight tall ships. The confiscation of the Lancaster estate may not be the primary cause for Bolingbroke's return, but certainly it is a primary factor in Richard's self-deposition. Bolingbroke's defense of his refusal to accept banishment (II.iii. 113-36) is fundamentally an accusation of Richard rather than an explanation of his own motives.

Part of the ambiguity of Bolingbroke's motives and intentions derives from the role of resistance which he has chosen. From the beginning he prepares for what he knows will be Richard's ultimate mistake; the eight tall ships are waiting. Whether or not they actually sailed before Bolingbroke received news that Richard had confiscated the Lancastrian estate is ultimately of little importance. Bolingbroke has already been denied justice at the moment of his banishment, and he knows that Richard will continue, in some form or other, the pattern of injustice. When he returns to claim his rights, he is claiming more than his title and property. He is claiming the right which, according to one theory of kingship, every Englishman has—the right to be governed by a responsible king.

Bolingbroke does not reveal his plans because he still is not certain how far his confrontation will have to go or should go; a great deal depends upon how Richard behaves. There is no reason to believe that Bolingbroke is being hypocritical when he assures York that he does not intend to oppose himself against the will of heaven (III.iii.18-19). He does not define at this point what he thinks the will of heaven is because he does not know; Richard's behavior will, to a great extent, clarify the question. In the crucial confrontation scene (III.iii), Bolingbroke quickly kneels before Richard and declares, 'My gracious lord, I come but for mine own'. But Richard recognizes (as we should by now) that what Bolingbroke's 'own' is has not been defined by Bolingbroke; certainly among other things it includes the right to just government. Richard answers, 'Your own is yours, and I am yours, and all'. The reality of the situation is ultimately shaped by the mind of Richard, not by the action of Bolingbroke. Richard's followers have tried to direct his mind away from the madness of despair toward constructive action against Bolingbroke. But the prophecy of old John of Gaunt, who described Richard as one 'which art possessed now to depose thyself, proves to be an accurate statement of the will of heaven.

Another crucial matter to be dealt with in any evaluation of Bolingbroke is his execution of those 'caterpillars of the commonwealth', Bushy and Greene. This action has been interpreted as Machiavellian political necessity to assure the capitulation of Richard (Ribner, pp. 181-2). One certainly cannot help recalling this execution scene when much later Bolingbroke on his deathbed alludes to the 'by-paths and indirect crooked ways' to the throne (2 Henry IV, IV.v.184). But if we look closely at the situation in Richard II we see that the playwright has created ample grounds to justify Bolingbroke's behavior. By their own admission Bushy and Greene have emptied the purses of the commons (II.ii.129-32) and earned their hatred. The straightforward nature of Bolingbroke's statement of intention 'to weed and pluck away' the King's parasites and the assumption that he will have the Regent's authority supporting him (II.iii.162-6) imply a strong moral justification for his judgment and execution of the King's men. York certainly voices no objection to the idea that these men deserve to be executed. His reluctance apparently again concerns Bolingbroke's methods: 'It may be I will go with you; but yet I'll pause, / For I am loath to break our country's laws' (II.iii. 168-9). York freely chooses to go with Bolingbroke because he realizes that although Bolingbroke's methods may be questionable, the end result, the good of the commonwealth, is not.

More important than York's response to Bolingbroke's ministration of justice is that of his gardener in the emblematic garden scene (III.iv). The gardener's man asks:

Why should we, in the compass of a pale,
Keep law and form and due proportion,
Showing, as in a model, our firm estate,
When our sea-walled garden, the whole land,
Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers choked up,
Her fruit trees all unpruned, her hedges ruined,
Her knots disordered, and her wholesome herbs
Swarming with caterpillars?


This question does more than simply define the emblematic correspondences; it suggests that order on a secondary or personal level (within 'the compass of a pale') has little meaning when there is no order on the primary or national level (within 'the sea-walled garden'). The question implies that there is very little motivation to achieve moral order on the personal level when none exists on a national level. The gardener is able to satisfy this complaint and affirm the necessity for private order because Bolingbroke has acted to restore national order. It may well be that on his deathbed Bolingbroke still has the blood of Bushy and Greene on his hands, but their execution is clearly a part of the establishment of order and justice in the kingdom, without which the sea-walled garden would go to ruin.

Bolingbroke's ministration of justice continues with an effort to identify those involved in the murder of Gloucester (IV.i). This scene, which parallels the opening scene of the play in which Richard presides over the challenge brought by Bolingbroke against Mowbray, dramatizes Bolingbroke's sincere desire for the truth but even more clearly reveals that Bolingbroke already wields the power of arbitrator and judge, the power of de facto king.11 Bolingbroke's willingness to hear and weigh all evidence and his willingness to repeal Mowbray's banishment sharply contrast with the whimsical, capricious behavior of Richard in the earlier comparable situation. The disruptive intrusion by York to announce that Richard has abdicated and declared Bolingbroke his heir suggests clearly that the right to power goes hand-in-hand with the ability to use it properly. This point is made again through Bolingbroke by the gratitude and respect shown York, the mercy shown Aumerle (V.iii.59-66), and the tolerance shown Carlisle (

Thus the dominant theme of Richard II is the incompetence of Richard, not the ambition of Bolingbroke. We sympathize with Richard, the man, in Acts IV and V, but earlier in the play we see Richard, the King, in the cold light of his incompetence and crimes. The comparison which Richard draws between himself and 'glistering Phaeton' (III.iii.178-79) is intended as a criticism of 'unruly jades'—those who challenge the king's authority. The comparison, however, turns ironically on Richard, since in the myth it is Phaeton's presumption and incompetence which threaten the cosmic order. Richard discovers that he is but a mortal—that he is neither sun-god nor Christ. In the mirror episode (IV.i) the myths which Richard has created fade in the harsh light of truth. He sees in the mirror not the image of the king body politic but the image of a simple man. The image in the mirror is a much more accurate reflection of Richard's sins than any confession which Northumberland could draw up. The recognition of his mortal face forces an acknowledgment that Richard has unfortunately never made during his reign. The history he reads in the glass is one of folly: 'Was this the face that faced so many follies / And was at last outfaced by Bolingbroke?' (IV.i.285-86). In this moment of truth Richard does not use the word 'usurped' or 'deposed' but instead uses the word, 'outfaced', which is an accurate description of Bolingbroke's behavior and an important indicator of the author's attitudes toward both characters.

Richard's incompetence is stressed also by Shakespeare's deviation from his main source. In Holinshed's account of Richard's fall, Northumberland captures Richard by tricking him into an ambush. Richard is then firmly persuaded by advisors to agree to a peaceful abdication.12 In Shakespeare's play Richard rejects the course of resistance offered by Aumerle and Carlisle and retires to Flint Castle, where he quickly and without advice acknowledges Bolingbroke as king. Shakespeare's Richard clearly has an alternative to abdication. The alternative would require that he acknowledge the injustice of some of his decisions. But Richard, obsessed with the idea of his divine right and virtual infallibility, cannot bend to such a compromise. Since Richard will not change, his abdication is essential to the well-being of the nation. Its strategic location between Richard's surrender at Flint Castle and Bolingbroke's acceptance of the crown at Westminster makes the emblematic garden scene again crucial. The gardener may be sympathetic with the fallen king, but his main point and the point of the scene is that the garden must be tended. Bolingbroke understands this fundamental principle of kingship; Richard does not—at least not in time to save his crown.

Bolingbroke's competence as it contrasts with Richard's incompetence does not go unnoticed by the conservative York. As he observes the unfolding of events, York moves from suspicion and censure, to ambivalence, finally to complete acceptance of Bolingbroke as rightful sovereign. He can with good conscience shift his allegiance from Richard to Bolingbroke because Richard 'with willing soul' has adopted Bolingbroke as his heir (IV.i.108). York is willing to accept Bolingbroke as king for still another and perhaps more important reason. He realizes that fortune favors Bolingbroke; he has the support of the lords and the parliament and has found no positive resistance in Richard. Circumstances therefore indicate to York that Bolingbroke truly has not opposed the will of heaven.13 Since in Act V, scene ii, York is alone in his own home with his wife, he has no reason for saying something which he does not truly believe. He describes the joyous reception of Bolingbroke and the public contempt for Richard. Moved to compassion by Richard's suffering, he nevertheless concludes

That, had not God for some strong purpose steeled
The hearts of men, they must perforce have melted,
And barbarism itself have pitied him.
But heaven hath a hand in these events,
To whose high will we bound our calm contents.
To Bolingbroke are we sworn subjects now,
Whose state and honour I for aye allow.


York's loyalty to Bolingbroke—a loyalty which York considers divinely sanctioned—is put to the supreme test by Aumerle's involvement in the conspiracy to murder Bolingbroke.

York's providential view of Richard's fall and Bolingbroke's rise is reinforced years later by Bolingbroke's interpretation of the events and his motives for accepting the crown:

Though then, God knows, I had no such intent
But that necessity so bowed the state
That I and greatness were compell'd to kiss ...

(2 Henry IV, III.i.72-74)

Compelling necessity was his motive, not ambition. When Henry IV contemplates Northumberland's treachery, he remembers that Richard accurately predicted the situation. Warwick explains that Richard foresaw Northumberland's treachery, not because he had any supernatural perception or influence, but because he comprehended an easily discernible pattern in Northumberland's nature. The disorder which Bolingbroke faces as king is a result of a constant principle in human nature. Necessity cries out in the case of Northumberland's treachery, as it did in the case of Richard's incompetence, and Bolingbroke prepares himself once more to meet that political necessity (2 Henry IV, III.i.92-94). The point of Northumberland's rebellion is not that rebellion begets rebellion, but that a king proves his competence and thus his right to rule by his capacity to deal with rebellion.

But with all of his competence, Bolingbroke is still a human being, subject to weakness and sin, even in his role as king. In a moment of weakness he voices his wish for Richard's death. Exton, who makes the wish a reality, reminds Bolingbroke, 'From your own mouth, my lord, did I this deed' (Richard II, Bolingbroke does not deny this assertion, nor does he try to justify Richard's murder on the grounds of political necessity. As a morally responsible individual, Bolingbroke acknowledges his guilt and promises expiation: 'I'll make a voyage to the Holy Land, / To wash this blood off from my guilty hand' ( Unlike Machiavelli's model prince, Bolingbroke acknowledges the importance of reconciling political necessity with Christian morality. That he hopes to achieve expiation and at the same time 'busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels' does not imply religious hypocrisy, but a pragmatism consistent with the nature of this character. What is important is his refusal to dismiss the moral issue altogether and his awareness that all of his actions will be judged by the failure or success of his reign and by his capacity to perpetuate his reign through his heir.

What we see of the King in 1 and 2 Henry IV is a grim life of expiation and constant struggle to support a concept of kingship that has nothing to do with divine right. The suffering of Bolingbroke seems to derive from two sources: his own guilt in the murder of Richard II, symbolized by his isolation and serious illness; and the cares of state, represented by rebellion and perpetual disorder. 1 Henry IV begins with Bolingbroke's plan to cope with both through a campaign in the Holy Land. But Bolingbroke's destiny is not to free the Holy Land from infidels but to free England from rebels—to establish order and justice within the sea-walled garden. His atonement will therefore be made in England.

Scholars have recently argued that Bolingbroke's representatives, Westmoreland and Lancaster, manifest at Gaultree Forest a Machiavellian treachery that bears little resemblance to justice (Prior, pp. 240-41 and Hawkins, pp. 335-36). A second look at circumstances in 1 and 2 Henry IV indicates that justice tempered by the necessity of the times has, in fact, been administered. The negotiations at Gaultree recall Bolingbroke's gentle offer of reconciliation without fighting that was earlier rejected at Shrewsbury. Violence at Shrewsbury was necessary because of the willfulness of Worcester and Vernon. That willfulness lives again in Hastings who clearly defines the threat which the rebels represent:

And though we here fall down,
We have supplies to second our attempt.
If they miscarry, theirs shall second them,
And so success of mischief shall be born
And heir from heir shall hold this quarrel up
Whiles England shall have generation.


Here clearly is the spirit which perpetuated the Wars of the Roses. The willful spirit of the rebel leaders must be extinguished in order to avoid the repetition of rebellion. Their folly and irresponsibility indicate the threat which they pose to the kingdom. Although they at no time promise amnesty to the rebel leaders, Lancaster and Westmoreland listen to the complaints which the rebels present and promise redress. Then Lancaster accurately judges them: 'Most shallowly did you these arms commence, / Fondly brought here and foolishly sent hence' (V.ii.118-19). In spite of the apparent legitimacy of some of their grievances, these rebels differ very little from those at Shrewsbury who would have destroyed the kingdom by dividing it into three parts. Paul Jorgensen in his discussion of the Gaultree episode notes that, Machiavellian as the attitude may seem, the Renaissance audience would have had no difficulty reconciling Christian ethics with a guileful strategy that minimized bloodshed (p. 230).

Bolingbroke, a model in many instances of Machiavelli's wise prince, stresses the importance of human will as the determining factor in human events, but contrary to Machiavelli he also acknowledges that God expresses His pleasure or displeasure for the way men express their wills. Regardless of the demands of political necessity, he remains a Christian who has sinned. He longs to atone for his guilt in Richard's death because his soul is in peril, but also because he realizes the possibility that all the good which he has achieved in his lifetime can be undone. The good that Bolingbroke has achieved is a new kind of kingship based on competency, responsibility, and the acknowledgment of political necessity as opposed to a kingship based on an exaggerated theory of divine right. This accomplishment is threatened by Prince Hal who at first appears to Bolingbroke as the reincarnation of Richard's folly (1 Henry IV, III.ii.93-99). But whatever Bolingbroke's sins may be, they are not great enough to invalidate his accomplishments or the principles by which he reigned. The penalty for his sins remains private, inflicted upon the soul of Bolingbroke, not upon the nation. The nation, in fact, thrives as a result of his personal sacrifice.14 Although Bolingbroke does not reach the Holy Land, his spiritual pilgrimage is achieved.15 That he has achieved personal atonement is suggested symbolically by the fact that he dies in the chamber called Jerusalem:

Laud be to God! Even there my life must end.
It hath been prophesied to me many years
I should not die but in Jerusalem,
Which vainly I supposed the Holy Land.
But bear me to that chamber; there I'll lie,
In that Jerusalem shall Harry die.


These are the words of a man who has at the last hour received affirmation of his life and is at peace with himself because his conscience has acknowledged the moral consequence of political necessity.

No assessment of Shakespeare's attitude toward Bolingbroke is complete without an appreciation of the care with which he educates his heir. The first lesson which Bolingbroke offers Hal is that kingship is merited, not merely inherited (1 Henry IV, III.ii). Hotspur, because of his valorous service to the crown, is according to Bolingbroke a more worthy heir to Henry IV than is Hal (III.ii.97-99). Succession is a weak claim which must be supported by an ability to rule. Hal heeds his father's evaluation and proves his own right by rescuing Bolingbroke and defeating Hotspur on the battlefield at Shrewsbury (1 Henry IV, V.iv). Unlike Richard II, Bolingbroke acknowledges the fallibility of all kings and therefore urges Thomas of Clarence to be a good companion and advisor to Hal (2 Henry IV, IV.iv.20-48). Bolingbroke's death-bed speeches are carefully calculated to make Hal realize the awesome and miserable responsibility that comes with the crown. The king's rebuke of Hal (2 Henry IV, IV.v.119-37) is in reality an appeal for continued decency, order, and justice. Bolingbroke's account of the 'bypaths and indirect crooked ways' to the throne and the strife of his reign is calculated to stress his opponents' point of view. Hal must learn to comprehend that point of view and the degree of truth that lies in it. However idealistic Bolingbroke's intentions might have been, his means were all too human. It should be noted that Bolingbroke places emphasis upon how he came to the throne, not upon the fact that he came to the throne. There is no condemnation here of Bolingbroke's understanding of kingship or of his concept of his destiny. The taint upon Bolingbroke, the 'soil of the achievement' (1. 189), rests upon his soul but does not negate his achievement. For this reason Hal can confidently assert his own right to the crown:

My gracious Liege,
You won it, wore it, kept it, gave it me.
Then plain and right must my possession be,
Which I with more than common pain
'Gainst all the world will rightfully maintain.

(2 Henry IV, II.v.220-24)

Hal reflects here the same tough-minded pragmatism balanced with a respect for justice that has marked his father's reign.

As Richard's reign is a story of failure through incompetence and delusions of divine right, so Hal's reign is a story of success through competence and divine grace. That Hal's brilliant success is earned is obvious. His education, which began under his father's critical eye, continues throughout his own reign. The values of the father are carried over to the son in the person of the Lord Chief Justice whom Henry V promises to retain as his chief advisor. Henry V is 'the mirror of all Christian kings' primarily because he works hard at being just that. He proves himself the true heir of Edward III and the Black Prince by competence and virtue, not by the family tree.

Perhaps the most important lesson learned from Bolingbroke is the one that makes him so unpopular with many modern critics: the necessity of manipulating and exploiting the image others have of him. No soliloquy in the Shakespeare canon makes clearer the insight, intentions, and motives of a character than Prince Hal's at the beginning of 1 Henry IV (I.ii.183-205). With the one exception of his defeat of Hotspur—an act necessary to the survival of the nation—Hal follows his strategy and does not throw off his 'loose behavior' until the death of his father. The calculated effect of his sudden 'reformation' is clearly achieved: it appears miraculous. The Archbishop of Canterbury defines Hal's transformation in explicitly religious terms:

The breath no sooner left his father's body
But that his wildness mortified in him,
Seemed to die too. Yea, at that very moment
Consideration like an angel came
And whipped th' offending Adam out of him,
Leaving his body as a Paradise
T'envelop and contain celestial spirits.

(Henry V, I.i.25-31)

With this image as the new king transformed by the perfecting power of divine grace, Hal possesses a psychological power that enables him to lead his nation to greatness. That he calculates and exploits this image in no way negates the reality of his virtue; we know this virtue is real because it is rewarded by divine providence.

Human competence and divine providence work together at Agincourt to vindicate Henry V, his claim to the French throne, his claim to the English throne, and thus the life and concept of kingship of his predecessor and tutor Bolingbroke. Hal's claim to the English crown, a claim which Bolingbroke fears will be challenged, is at stake when he lays claim to the French throne. As Henry V sets sail for France, he declares himself 'No king of England, if not king of France' (II.ii.193). This assertion implies that the outcome of the war will be a vindication of all for which the two Henrys have stood. The French are miraculously defeated by the English, and Henry V attributes this victory solely to God's help. The playwright goes to considerable lengths to justify Henry's assertion and his sincerity.16 The number of dead on each side with the identity of the nobles is given, and the victory does, indeed, appear miraculous. The point, of course, is clear that the supreme human effort has been made by the English soldiers and their soldier-king; God has helped those who most courageously helped themselves.

The key to Henry's triumph is his understanding of himself as king. He has learned what Bolingbroke knew, that a simple peasant knows a joy and comfort which a king can never know. Yet there is very little to compensate the king for his suffering: 'And what have kings that privates have not too, / Save ceremony, save general ceremony' (IV.i.224-25). This ceremony is nothing like the 'Glorious angel' on the heavenly payroll for Richard's protection (Richard II, III.ii.58-62). Ceremony is nothing more than 'place, degree, and form, / Creating awe and fear in other men' (IV.i.232-33). This truth is dramatically presented when Henry goes among his soldiers dressed as an ordinary man and is justly received as an ordinary man.

As a Christian king, Hal realizes the possibility that the sins of his father affect his own life. He acknowledges Bolingbroke's sins by honoring Richard's body and praying for his soul. What is most important, Hal acknowledges that forgiveness and the confirmation through victory are possible only through God's grace:

Though all that I can do is nothing worth,
Since that my penitence comes after all,
Imploring pardon.


Hal receives divine grace, for no punishment is passed on to him. Bolingbroke dies at peace with a sense of fulfillment in the Jerusalem chamber. Henry V miraculously defeats the French army, marries the French princess, and joins the two kingdoms in what one critic sees as suggestive of a united Christendom (Thayer, p. 9). All the evidence seems clearly to indicate that Bolingbroke's sins have been forgiven and that the concept of kingship for which he gave his life has been affirmed through his son. The epilogue, accordingly, indicates that Henry VI failed as king because of his own inadequacy in the midst of ambitious nobles, not because his grandfather out-faced Richard II.

The unique quality of Shakespeare's ideal king is his paradoxical reconciliation of Christian ethics with Machiavellian statesmanship. He understands that the duty of kingship is to mirror as nearly as possible divine virtue, but he also understands that this duty must be fulfilled within the limitations of the fallen world. Without denying aspiration toward the Christian ideal, he must manifest a pragmatism that converts evil to his own positive end. Acknowledging the limitations of both king and subject, Bolingbroke and Hal accept the evil of political necessity and the moral responsibility it imposes. This acceptance, far from being antithetical to Christianity, affirms ultimate reliance upon divine grace.


1 Michael Manheim, The Weak King Dilemma in the Shakespearean History Plays (Syracuse, 1973), pp. 12-13 and Moody E. Prior, The Drama of Power (Evanston, 1973), pp. 224-277 and 246-8.

2 For a detailed study of the correspondence between Machiavellian precepts and Bolingbroke's behavior see Irving Ribner, 'Bolingbroke, a True Machiavellian', MLQ, 9 (1948), 177-184.

3 For a discussion of the importance of the cardinal virtues to Shakespeare's concept of kingship, see Sherman H. Hawkins, 'Virtue and Kingship in Shakespeare's Henry IV', English Literary Renaissance, 5 (1975), 313-343.

4 A detailed study of this subject is Ernst Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology (Princeton, 1957).

5 Introduction to The Divine Right of Kings, by John Neville Figgis (1896; rpt. New York, 1965), p. xxi.

6A Kingdom for a Stage (Cambridge, 1972), p. 19.

7 A. P. Rossiter presents convincing evidence in his introduction to Woodstock (London, 1946) that Shakespeare was strongly influenced by Woodstock when he wrote Richard II.

8 All citations are from William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, ed. Alfred Harbage (Baltimore, 1969).

9 The contrary opinion, that Bolingbroke and even Northumberland may have intended only to force reform upon Richard and thus did not intend an ultimate confrontation, is argued by A. L. French, 'Who Deposed Richard the Second?' EIC, 17 (1967), 411-424.

10 For a detailed analysis of the dramatic function of Act I, scene i, see Larry S. Champion, 'The Function of Mowbray: Shakespeare's Maturing Artistry in Richard II', SQ, 26 (1975), 3-7.

11 Manheim, pp. 67-70, notes that Bolingbroke acts as de facto king from II.iii on and concludes that 'it is not a situation that he has backed into'. I would not, however, agree that 'it seems correct to infer that quietly he has engineered everything that has happened so far' (p. 70). The situation is not that simple, as I hope the following discussion of Bolingbroke's motives will demonstrate.

12Shakespeare 's Holinshed, ed. Richard Hosley (New York, 1968), p. 84.

13 York's conviction is a perfect example of what Paul Jorgensen describes as the Renaissance tendency to see fortune and divine providence as one. 'Elizabethan Views of God, Fortune, and War', PMLA, 90 (1975), 224-225.

14 Calvin G. Thayer, 'Shakespeare's Second Tetralogy: an Underground Report', Ohio University Review, 9 (1967), 13-14, concludes, 'Again, setting Bolingbroke's imponderable intentions aside, he becomes a kind of scapegoat, suffering intensely for what becomes in effect the salvation of his country'. Ornstein, p. 165, also suggests that Hal sees his father as a kind of scape-goat whose death will allow him a new identity.

15 Thayer (p. 14) also sees Bolingbroke's death in the Jerusalem chamber as a statement of triumph and exoneration; whereas Maynard Mack Jr., Killing the King (New Haven and London, 1973), p. 71, sees it as an ironic comment on Bolingbroke's failure.

16 Manheim, pp. 168-9, to the contrary sees Henry V's assertion that God has won the victory for the English as conventional and insincere.

Language And Rhetoric

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Wayne A. Rebhorn (essay date 1995)

SOURCE: "Bound to Rule," in The Emperor of Men's Minds: Literature and the Renaissance Discourse of Rhetoric, Cornell University Press, 1995, pp. 23-79.

[In the following essay, Rebhorn compares the "rhetorical kingship" of King Henry IV, which relies more heavily on visual effects than on words to persuade, with Prince Hal's skillful use of rhetoric to reconcile with his father and, later as King Henry V, to rule his kingdom.]

. . . Shakespeare['s] . . . enlarged view of rhetoric .. . goes beyond that of the rhetoricians to stress the enormously persuasive force of visual displays, for his Machiavellian kings and princes also know that silent spectacles can often accomplish as much as a torrent of words. Richard III, for instance, works on the lord mayor and citizens of London by appearing before them silently reading a prayerbook between two bishops (Richard III, 3.7). Even more striking is Henry IV's decision to parade his army back and forth in front of Flint castle: "Let's march without the noise of threat'ning drum, / That from this castle's tottered battlements / Our fair appointments may be well perus'd" (Richard II, 3.3.51-53).45 As Henry goes on to say, his ostensible purpose is to avoid appearing to threaten King Richard, although that, in fact, is just what such a show of force is designed to do. A show thai persuades without any need for words at all, it is far more powerful than the nonexistent legion of troops that Richard earlier insisted the king's name alone could call forth to fight on his side (Richard II, 3.2.85-88). Henry's tactic thus confirms [that] although words may be an important source of a ruler's hold over his people, the silent display of physical force often constitutes a far more potent rhetoric. Richard II dramatizes the way that, in the arena of power politics, a calculating awareness of the rhetorical nature of the game being played is essential for success. Ironically, the voluble Richard is defeated in part precisely because he believes in language. Specifically, he believes in the magic of words, but that magic, although creating a wonderful spectacle for everyone watching it, is not directed at persuasion. For Richard, language is a ritual performance rather than a battlefield maneuver or an instrument of conquest and rule. By contrast, the laconic Henry recognizes that if he is to maintain his "name," he must defend it by the rhetorical manipulation of the world, including, of course, the rhetorical manipulation involved in staging silent spectacles of force.

That Henry sees politics in terms of rhetoric is made clear in the climactic scene of Henry IV, Part 1 (3.2), during which he is reunited and reconciled with the supposedly prodigal Hal. In this scene Henry accuses his son of many failings, including a failure to understand the nature of politics. To explain what he means, Henry offers his own behavior as a model, and as he does so, he elaborates a decidedly rhetorical theory of kingship. He tells Hal how he manipulated "Opinion" (3.2.43) by appearing only occasionally in public.

By being seldom seen, I could not stir
But like a comet I was wond'red at,
That men would tell their children, "This is he!"
Others would say, "Where, which is Bolingbroke?"
And then I stole all courtesy from heaven,
And dress'd myself in such humility
That I did pluck allegiance from men's hearts,
Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths,
Even in the presence of the crowned King.
Thus did I keep my person fresh and new,
My presence, like a robe pontifical,
Ne'er seen but wond'red at.


In this theory Henry, like the rhetoricians, assumes that the realm of politics is the realm of custom and contingency, where "Opinion" rather than inherited rights, let alone truth, determines who will be king. This is a realm in which, as Henry imagines it, sight is the chief sense: one's "presence" affects the "eyes of men" and must be shaped so that it produces wonder as a response. Indeed, Henry's language makes the king a showman and an actor: he dresses himself in humility, maintains the newness of his person—that is, his mask (persona in Latin)—and identifies his presenee as a "robe pontifical." Renaissance rhetoricians normally equate the ornaments of style with clothing, so that when Henry employs such terms to talk about his personal appearance, he is, in effect, treating it as something that can be turned into a trope. In Henry's theory of rhetorical kingship, personal appearance thus constitutes a compelling means of persuasion.

What is striking in Henry's theory is what is omitted: he says absolutely nothing about words. The king's performance, like Richard Ill's silent reading . . . , convinces without the benefit of language. Henry's king operates on the world from a great symbolic distance, no matter how close he may literally come to the crowds that turn out to cheer him. Henry himself knew how to put his theory into practice, at least if one is to accept York's account in Richard II of Henry's performance upon his entry into London after the deposition of Richard.

Then, as I said, the Duke, great Bolingbroke,
Mounted upon a hot and fiery steed
Which his aspiring rider seem'd to know,
With slow but stately pace kept on his course,
Whilst all tongues cried, "God save thee, Bolingbroke!"
You would have thought the very windows spake,
  So many greedy looks of young and old
Through casements darted their desiring eyes
Upon his visage, . . .

Whilst he, from the one side to the other turning,
Bareheaded, lower than his proud steed's neck,
Bespake them thus: "I thank you, countrymen."

(Richard II, 5.2.7-15, 18-20)

In York's speech, as in Henry's own theory, the emphasis falls on the visual spectacle the king creates, on the "greedy looks," the "desiring eyes" of the crowd, as well as on the actor-like (see 5.2.23-24) demeanor and gestures of Bolingbroke. York finally notes that the latter did speak, but what he says hardly counts as much of a rhetorical display; Bolingbroke's "thank you" is just a tiny note in the great visual show he has been orchestrating.

The end such a show aims to bring about is spelled out quite precisely by Henry in his speech to Hal: he wants to persuade the people to transfer their loyalty from Richard to him. Although Henry never once utters the word "persuasion," he does employ a phrase that recalls the highly charged language used by Renaissance rhetoricians to define the orator's goal: they conceived persuasion as a violent act, an invasion, conquest and possession of the auditor which works on him in the most intimate way imaginable. Henry repeats this notion when he proclaims that he "did pluck allegiance from men's hearts, / Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths." For Henry, persuasion affects the very organ that Renaissance rhetoricians singled out as well. Consider Bartholomew Keckermann, for example, who declares: "The orator especially looks to the heart [cor] that he may excite and move it with varied emotions" (Systema [Rhetorices (Hanover, 1608)], 4). That such affecting of the heart amounts to a violent assault on it is clear not only from the general insistence on the ideas of invasion and conquest running through the Renaissance discourse of rhetoric but from specific passages such as the following one from Nicholas Caussin's De Eloquentia sacra et humana [3rd ed., Paris, 1630]: "The entire force of persuasion is carried by emotion as by a vehicle and penetrates hearts [permeat in pectora]" (3). Henry presents his own rhetoric as having just such a devastating effect on those exposed to it. But there is a difference: whereas the rhetoricians all talk about the power of words, Henry's theory defines a sheerly visual assault. Ironically, the success of that silent spectacle is underscored precisely by the fact that it makes the crowd speak, makes them shout and cheer and ask with wonder "Where, which is Bolingbroke?"

Unlike his father, Hal is a talker. From his experiences in the tavern with Falstaff and his cronies, Hal has learned to "drink with any tinker in his own language" (Henry IV, Part 1, 2.4.18-19), a sentiment with which the Earl of Warwick later concurs when he reassures the sick and dying Henry that the "Prince but studies his companions / Like a strange tongue" (Henry IV, Part 2, 4.4.68-69). Fittingly, Hal is the only character in the Henriad who can move freely through all locales, a physical freedom doubled by the linguistic virtuosity that allows him to jest with Falstaff, utter high-sounding, martial sentiments on the battlefield like Hotspur and Douglas, and talk the language of Machiavellian political calculation with his father. Such linguistic skill would by itself tend to identify Hal as a version of the ideal orator as the Renaissance conceived the figure: someone capable of handling any audience by adapting his performance to the circumstances involved, the master of figures and tropes and of all styles, high, middle, and low. Shakespeare makes Hal's identification with the orator quite explicit in Henry V by having him deliver speech after speech, from the tennis ball rebuff of the French ambassadors in Act 1, through the Saint Crispin's Day oration before Agincourt, to the wooing of Katherine at the play's end. These speeches vary in style from regal, ironic, and angry, through martial and uplifting, to the simplicity and directness of a "plain soldier" (5.2.151). Like his father, Hal clearly regards kingship as a matter of staging spectacles, of performing a public role, but unlike Henry he sees that role not only as centrally concerned with words but as far more various and nuance than the distanced behavior, the "sun-like majesty" (Henry IV, Part 1, 3.2.79), that Henry recommends.

Hal's virtuosity with language elevates him above his father when they are judged from the viewpoint of tactics: that is, from the viewpoint of their success in manipulating other human beings. Or, at least, that is what the great reconciliation scene between Henry and Hal in the middle of Henry IV, Part I suggests, as the prince, in the short space of just thirty-one lines, is able to shift his father's opinion of him 180 degrees. Shakespeare constructs the scene to give Henry the lion's share of the dialogue, in fact to turn it into a virtual monologue; he rebukes Hal for almost ninety lines before giving him a real opportunity to reply. In those ninety lines Henry details his theory of kingship, then attacks Hal for behaving like Richard and running the risk of losing the crown, and finally comes to the bitter conclusion that Hal is likely to fight against him on Hotspur's side. Hal's reply is masterly. He affirms his love for his father, promises to compensate for his youthful misdeeds, and vows to defeat Hotspur or die in the attempt. The effect on Henry is dramatic as he completely reverses his earlier estimate of his son: "A hundred thousand rebels die in this! / Thou shalt have charge and sovereign trust herein" (3.2.1 58-59). Hal's persuasive words gain what persuasion always seeks to gain according to the rhetoricians: belief, the transformation or conversion of the auditor, as Henry himself suggests when he speaks of "sovereign trust."

What provokes this sudden conversion is less what Hal says than how he says it, for he both echoes the concepts and style of Henry's theory of kingship and matches the emotional intensity of Henry's denunciation. Hal begins by insisting upon his relationship to Henry, promising to demonstrate publicly that "I am your son" (3.2.134) and that he will redeem the reputation of "your unthought-of Harry" (141; emphasis added). But Hal demonstrates that he is his father's child most dramatically through his diction, for no sooner has he promised to avenge himself on Hotspur than he declares: "I will wear a garment all of blood / And stain my favors in a bloody mask, / Which, wash'd away, shall scour my shame with it" (135-37). Here Hal deliberately echoes his father's presentation of politics as rhetorical performance, a matter of dress if not a masquerade, which sometimes requires one to put on the cloak of humility, as Henry did in entering London, and sometimes to don the armor of the battlefield hero, as Hal promises to do. Later, Hal adopts the tones Henry employed earlier in the scene, mingling the martial bravado Henry seemed to admire in Hotspur with the tone of contempt that Henry, the powerful and cunning rhetorician, manifested toward the hapless victims of the spectacles he created. Thus, Hal proclaims: "Percy is but my factor, good my lord, / To engross up glorious deeds on my behalf; / And I will call him to so strict account / That he shall render every glory up, / Yea, even the slightest worship of his time, / Or I will tear the reckoning from his heart" (147-52). Hal's boastfulness and vehemence here respond to the image of Hotspur the warrior, the "Mars in swathling clothes" (112), whom Henry seemed to admire just a few lines earlier. At the same time, Hal turns the heroic Hotspur into a figure of contempt, reducing him to a mere "factor," a merchant's agent, who works unwittingly for Hal's benefit (Henry, of course, saw the public, the king's subjects, as just so many contemptible dupes). Hal's promise to defeat Hotspur ends with an image central to Henry's theory of kingship, the image of the heart. Just as Henry bragged of being able to "pluck allegiance from men's hearts" (52), so Hal declares, literalizing the image, that he will "tear the reckoning from his [Percy's] heart" (152) in mortal combat. Imitation—in this case, a carefully calculated imitation—is the sincerest form of flattery, and in consequence, Henry, who is aching to be reassured of the love and devotion of his son, immediately banishes all doubts and proclaims his complete trust in Hal. What the latter has done is to exercise a form of rhetorical kingship—and to succeed with it against his father!

By conflating the tones of heroic bragging and kingly contempt in his speech, Hal actually does more than merely echo his father, however; he subtly corrects him. Henry has a double and partially incorrect view of Hotspur's character. Although he rightly sees Hotspur as a figure out of epic, he is wrong when, in predicting that Hal will become another Richard, he assigns to Hotspur his own role of cunning, kingly rhetorician. The play makes clear that Hotspur is totally unlike the crafty Henry; indeed, with his volubility and almost magical belief in language, he seems far closer to Richard than to his Machiavellian adversary. Hal recognizes that his father is mistaken about Hotspur, and while he does duplicate Henry's tone of admiration for Hotspur as martial hero, he simultaneously treats Hotspur to the kind of contempt Henry reserved for Richard as well as for the public. In this way, not only does Hal undercut Henry's admiration for Hotspur as a heroic figure, but he recasts the parts Henry assigned Hotspur and himself, identifying Hotspur as a Richard figure and himself, as we have noted, with Henry. Although such a move clearly flatters Henry, it also constitutes an implicit rebuke, a suggestion that the clever, supposedly clear-eyed king is not so clear-eyed after all. In doing so, it also confirms for us what Henry's conversion confirms in other ways: Hal, not his father, is the real master of rhetorical kingship.

Hal's performances can be read as virtual reproductions of the notion from the Renaissance discourse of rhetoric that eloquence is power. In particular, Shakespeare constructs Henry V so that Hal's famous victories seem to result from his command of language even more than from his personal bravery and mastery of tactics—not to mention the technical superiority given the English by the long bow and the good fortune that made the battlefield at Agincourt a quagmire for the heavily armored French knights on horseback. Fluellen and his comrades may debate whether Hal's operations at Harfleur are done "according to the disciplines of the war" (3.2.58), but the play makes such considerations seem almost irrelevant. For Hal appears to maintain the siege not by strategical maneuvers but by the compelling speech that forces his men "unto the breach" and urges them to match their fathers, to be heroes "like so many Alexanders" (3.2.1, 19). In fact, he wins the victory in this case, as Henry IV won his over Richard, not by defeating his opponent in battle but by using rhetoric to persuade him to surrender. Moreover, although the great battle of Agincourt constitutes a genuine military victory, Shakespeare shapes his play to make it seem due to Hal's rhetorical masterpiece, the Saint Crispin's Day speech, as much as to battlefield heroics. For after the speech what we see is a French soldier surrendering to Pistol; the French commanders lamenting that all is lost; Hal instructing his troops to kill their prisoners; and finally, Hal learning from Montjoy that the English have in fact been victorious. What the audience does not see, at least according to Shakespeare's text, is any sort of battle, such as the fighting at Shrewsbury we were treated to in Henry IV, Part I. That Hal actually did participate in that battle and defeat Hotspur shows that he is not all talk, but what Henry V suggests is that talk is mostly what he needs.

And indeed, the play ends with one final, stunning rhetorical performance on Hal's part, the performance by means of which he woos Katherine of France by playing the clearly false role of plain, blunt soldier. His rhetorical move here is to adopt a consciously anti-rhetorical posture that enables him to project an ethos of sincerity and to dramatize the presumably genuine affection he feels for his future bride. Of course, the play reveals that she really has no choice but to marry the victor of Agincourt, a fact to which Hal himself alludes in passing (5.2.249-50). What Hal accomplishes with his rhetoric is precisely what Renaissance rhetors all wanted to accomplish with theirs: by using persuasion as a kind of force Superior to actual force, he brings his auditor to subject herself to him of her own free will, to believe in his arguments and in him, ultimately to love the one who commands her destiny.

Although Hal's virtuosity with language makes him superior to his father as a rhetor-ruler, and Henry V can be read at least in part as a celebration of his verbal mastery, Shakespeare does not let the matter rest at this point. In other words, he does not simply reproduce (with elaborations and extensions) the equation of rhetoric with power and rule which one can find in Renaissance handbooks and treatises. After all, both Henry and Hal also possess real force, whether one identifies that as personal prowess on the battlefield, an army under their command, or the legal power and authority granted by a treaty in which the French king agrees to give his daughter to Hal in marriage. Rhetorical displays of spectacular images and words may enable a ruler to terrorize his enemies and gain the allegiance of his subjects, but those displays are always, finally, connected to that ruler's possession of genuine force. In the end, for all that Shakespeare makes rhetoric alone appear to guarantee the famous victories of the English in France, he never lets us forget that other forces are also at work, forces that have nothing to do with rhetoric at all. The Henriad may stage the triumph of eloquence in many different ways, but it stubbornly refuses to allow eloquence to have the last word. . . .


45 All quotations from Shakespeare's plays cite act, scene, and line from The Complete Works, ed. David Bevington, 3d ed. (Glenview, III: Scott, Foresman, 1951).


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M. M. Reese (essay date 1961)

SOURCE: "Henry IV," in The Cease of Majesty: A Study of Shakespeare's History Plays, Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd., 1961, pp. 286-316.

[In the excerpt that follows, Reese offers a brief discussion on the character of Hotspur, maintaining that, despite Hotspur's admirable qualities and charm, the young knight dies having learned nothing.]

.. . For a prince of chivalry, as Hal was determined to be, Hotspur offered a different kind of seduction. This was the man whom the King wanted his own son to resemble, calling him the theme of honour's tongue, in a grove the very straightest plant, Mars in swathling clothes, and much else in eulogistic vein. He even wished it could be proved that 'some night-tripping fairy' had exchanged the infants in their cradles: which only shows how little he understood either Hotspur or his son.

Hotspur is a conspicuous example of the non-political man; and although there may always be some disposition to sneer at politicians and the necessary disciplines of political life, this means that he is a rather inadequate person altogether. His attractive qualities are all visible on the surface, and apart from physical courage they are not of a kind to enthuse over, even in an individual. Shakespeare has favoured him with a richly idiosyncratic way of speaking that perfectly matches his restless, passionate nature, and this is apt to misdirect one's judgment of him. It is difficult to resist such a fascinating talker, and he has usually received the indulgence allowed to those who refuse to grow up. Hotspur is 'humorous' in the Elizabethan sense—warm-hearted, choleric, unpredictable, vigorous in the expression of likes and dislikes that usually depend upon a passing whim. He is generous, because congenitally improvident; he detests 'policy' or calculation in others, because he is himself totally lacking in judgment or persistence; and having a contempt for ideas, he is quick to denounce what he suspects to be boasting or insincerity. These qualities have a good side, for Hotspur has sufficient charm and eloquence to make their opposites seem very unattractive. But he has all the crudity and innocence of the early Faulconbridge,1 and unlike Faulconbridge he does not outgrow them. It is characteristic of him that although he pounces quickly enough upon Glendower's mystical fantasies or the trickeries of the King, he never realises how he is being deceived and betrayed by his own father.

As so often, Shakespeare fully reveals the character on his first appearance. Hotspur's account of the popinjay courtier who came to him at Holmedon (I iii 29-69) is splendidly embellished. It is hot with resentment of pansies and civilians, and below the rhetorical surface Shakespeare has discovered the attitudes of the born fighter. But the speech is meaningless beyond its revelation of the speaker. It does not explain why Hotspur has still held on to his prisoners after the battle, and that, as Blunt points out, is the crucial question. Hotspur then reacts with passionate loyalty in defence of his kinsman Mortimer, and in this outburst he shows the impulsive generosity and quick-growing anger that his father and uncle are shrewd to exploit for their own purposes.

To your quick-conceiving discontents
I'll read you matter deep and dangerous,
As full of peril and adventurous spirit
As to o'erwalk a current roaring loud,
On the unsteadfast footing of a spear.

I iii 189.

In the last three lines Worcester is craftily appealing to Hotspur's love of excitement, and the absurdly exaggerated response is automatic:

Send danger from the east unto the west,
So honour cross it from the north to south,
And let them grapple: O! the blood more stirs
To rouse a lion than to start a hare. . . .
By heaven methinks it were an easy leap
To pluck bright honour from the pale-fac'd moon,
Or dive into the bottom of the deep,
Where fathom-line could never touch the ground,
And pluck up drowned honour by the locks;
So he that doth redeem her thence might wear
Without corrival all her dignities.

I iii 195.

This is famous but it is fustian. It is quoted (inaccurately) by Ralph in the Induction to The Knight of the Burning Pestle when he is asked to 'show the gentlemen what thou canst do; speak a huffing part'. To huff was to bluster or swell with pride and arrogance, and Ralph, who 'will fetch you up a couraging part so in the garret, that we are all as feared, I warrant you, that we quake again', was in love with swaggering roles, having played Jeronimo and Mucedorus. This is how Hotspur was taken at the time, and doubtless how Shakespeare meant him to be taken. At best he is invoking virtues that have been less dangerously mediated through the institution of compulsory games. 'He apprehends a world of figures' is Worcester's comment, and for the rest of the scene he and Northumberland try to restrain Hotspur's reckless passion. They tell him that he is drunk with choler, a waspstung and impatient fool plunged into a 'woman's mood' where he will listen to no voice but his own. But action will now be the only salve for his resentment, and Worcester has to rebuke the over-eager haste that would release the dogs before the game has been flushed. It is all quite useless, and Hotspur goes off begging that

The hours be short,
Till fields and blows and groans applaud our sport.

I iii 302.

Hal and Hotspur do not touch each other closely. It is conceivable that if Hal really had been dissolute and had then undergone the conversion described in The Famous Victories, Hotspur is the sort of man he might have become in his reformed state. But in Shakespeare's play the two young men express fundamentally different values, and it is only the King, always blind to anything but the superficialities of character, who supposes that they could be judged by the same standards. Hal thinks of 'this northern youth' as a crude provincial who is the victim of an obsession.2 In a stupid altercation with his wife Hotspur has again shown his inadequacy for any kind of personal relationship, estranging her as he boastfully puts a further gloss upon his idea of honour. When she begs his love, he answers

This is no world
To play with mammets and to tilt with lips:
We must have bloody noses and crack'd crowns.

II iii 96.

In the following scene Hal makes a comment on this limited outlook:

I am not yet of Percy's mind, the Hotspur of the North; he that kills me some six or seven dozen of Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, 'Fie upon this quiet life! I want work!' 'O my sweet Harry,' says she, 'how many hast thou killed to-day?' 'Give my roan horse a drench,' says he, and answers, 'Some fourteen,' an hour after, 'a trifle, a trifle.'

II iv 116.

Even in conversation with his father he shows some reservations, admitting Hotspur's valour (Holmedon was not an achievement that could be brushed aside) but responding to Henry's exorbitant praises with a cold and slighting reference to him as 'but my factor.. . to engross up glorious deeds on my behalf.

It is evident that Hal will find his own way to an idea of honour that is very different from Hotspur's. Whereas Hotspur's chivalry is a complex of attitudes personal to himself, Hal evolves a truer conception in response to society's needs, and the battle at Shrewsbury lights up this contrast. There it is left to Falstaff to pass final judgment on Hotspur's creed of 'bloody noses'. 'What is honour? a word. What is that word, honour? Air.' It has no skill in surgery, cannot set a leg, is blown away by envy. Here is the true complement to Hotspur's adolescent heroics, which are seen to be futile and dangerous when tested by events. Echoed by Douglas, whose wit is in his forearms, he hails Northumberland's desertion as something to lend

A lustre and more great opinion,
A larger dare to our great enterprise.

IV i 77.

This gallant futility, refusing 'strict arbitrement' to the rebels' cause, is followed at once by Vernon's spontaneous tribute to Hal as he

Vaulted with such ease unto his seat,
As if an angel dropp'd down from the clouds,
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus
And witch the world with noble horsemanship.

IV i 107.

Lacking generosity to his enemies, Hotspur finds this praise worse than the sun in March, which nourishes agues. Reckless defiance is the only answer he knows how to make.

Let them come;
They come like sacrifices in their trim,
And to the fire-ey'd maid of smoky war
All hot and bleeding will we offer them:
The mailed Mars shall on his altar sit
Up to the ears in blood. I am on fire
To hear this rich reprisal is so nigh
And yet not ours.

IV i 112.

When Vernon again stresses the Prince's modesty and discipline, Hotspur's angry, ill-considered answer shows how far he is from possessing these qualities himself; and how far he is, too, from even valuing them. All human qualities seem to him inadequate before the immense authority of Time.

O gentlemen! the time of life is short;
To spend that shortness basely were too long,
If life did ride upon a dial's point,
Still ending at the arrival of an hour.

V ii 81.

With life's deeper values thus casually disposed of, he rides off to battle uttering incantations to the idea of glory in which he monotonously seeks compensation for his emotional immaturity.

It only remains to gather the various epitaphs spoken upon him. There is Morton's uncomplicated praise of the man 'whose spirit lent a fire even to the dullest peasant in his camp': a merited acknowledgment of the brave and generous leadership whose loss

Took fire and heat away
From the best-temper'd courage in his troops;
For from his metal was his party steel'd.

Pt II I i 114.

Lady Percy's wifely commendation speaks for all who found in him the 'expectancy and rose of the fair state', and her scorn for the ignoble evasions of the other conspirators lends her passion:

By his light
Did all the chivalry of England move
To do brave acts: he was indeed the glass
Wherein the noble youth did dress themselves.. ..
He was the mark and glass, copy and book,
That fashion'd others. And him, O wondrous him!
O miracle of men! him did you leave,—
Second to none, unseconded by you,—
To look upon the hideous god of war
In disadvantage; to abide a field
Where nothing but the sound of Hotspur's name
Did seem defensible.

Pt II II iii 19.

But there are other views. Lord Bardolph and the Archbishop both criticised the feckless generalship which rushed into battle with only the feeble sinews of 'conjecture, expectation, and surmise of aids incertain'. Hotspur

Lin'd himself with hope,
Eating the air on promise of supply,
Flattering himself with project of a power
Much smaller than the smallest of his thoughts;
And so, with great imagination
Proper to madmen, led his powers to death,
And winking leap'd into destruction.

II I iii 27.

This is, of course, a personal as well as a military criticism, reflecting upon the spiritual emptiness which Hotspur himself admitted in his own last words. He could more easily bear the loss of life than 'those proud titles thou hast won of me'. The glory that had been his adoration had failed him at the last, and there was nothing left.

But thought's the slave of life, and life time's fool;
And time, that takes survey of all the world,
Must have a stop.

Pt I V iv 81.

That is all. It is the miserable end of a life that dies in futility because it has learned nothing that might brave Time's scythe. Hal's own tribute is full of curious reservations. He will pay the respect that courtesy demands, but his understanding of Hotspur's true nature forbids him to be more than conventionally generous. His words simply echo Hotspur's own sense of futility:

III-weav'd ambition, how much art thou shrunk!
When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;

But now, two paces of the vilest earth
Is room enough. . . .
Adieu, and take thy praise with thee to heaven!
Thy ignomy sleep with thee in the grave,
But not remember'd in thy epitaph!

Pt I V iv 88.

He speaks in quite a different spirit when he turns to what he believes to be the body of Falstaff.

The Prince's distant epitaph on his enemy utters the full man's contempt for the adolescent. The master of all the humours has long ago realised the inadequacy of the brave, inflated creature whose moral unawareness has made him a danger to society, and it is one of the ironies of the play that Hal's association with Falstaff saves him from ever being anything like Hotspur. The dense obliquity of Falstaff s life at any rate protects his friends from the more destructive forms of innocence. At bottom Hotspur's gallant glorification of honour is as deeply flawed and selfish as Falstaff s professional disillusionment, and it is important to understand that these two complement one another, leaving the Prince to learn a little from each but to be infected by neither.

Hotspur is admirable in his courage and his freedom from the meaner forms of calculation, and to this extent, like Falstaff, he helps to soften in Hal the wooed austerities of political man. The self-denial becomes less painful for each recognition of acts that come from flesh or heart. But Hal rises in this first half of the play to an ideal of honour that has nothing to do with rewards and titles or with Hotspur's technicolour heroism. It is an ideal of service, requiring of him only the sober performance of his duty. Looking ahead to the subtle dissections of honour in Troilus and Cressida, he derives it from his own sense of a lofty purpose, and not from the opinions that men may chance to have of him. Thus he can endure his father's rebukes and the country's scorn because he knows that there will come some glorious day when he will be 'more myself. On this day 'this same child of honour and renown, this gallant Hotspur' will surrender his ephemeral glories, and Hal himself, indifferent to the outward prizes, will carelessly lay his plume and sword on Hotspur's body and leave to Falstaff and Prince John the credit for the day's achievement. His own consciousness of having done his duty is the only reward he needs4 . . .


1 He resembles Faulconbridge also in his preference for a homely imagery which broadens the picture of England. See III i especially.

2 Hotspur's incompleteness is evident again in HI i, where he picks a quarrel over trifles and boasts of a whole crop of prejudices, including music, poetry, bourgeois self-control and the Welsh language.

3 About which Hotspur is heavily contemptuous, e.g. I iii 230-3, IV i 94-7. But whereas Hal never lets Falstaff lead him into baseness, Hotspur's idea of honour makes him the noble but disastrous tool of men who do not know what the word means.

4 Superficially there is a considerable resemblance between Hotspur's thoughts on honour (lack of numbers brings 'a larger dare' to our enterprise, and so forth) and Henry V's famous speech before Agincourt, in which he admits that he cherishes honour above everything else and says, just like Hotspur, 'the fewer men, the greater share of honour'. But Henry is then looking for words to inspire his troops in face of daunting odds, and with his instinct for the common touch he discovers exactly the right address. He says nothing that diminishes his own personal sense of honour, which he has lately re-defined in his conversation with Bates and Williams. 'Methinks I could not die any where so contented as in the king's company, his cause being just and his quarrel honourable.'...

Robert J. Fehrenbach (essay date 1979)

SOURCE: "The Characterization of the King in 1 Henry IV" in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 1, Winter, 1979, pp. 42-50.

[In the following essay, Fehrenbach argues that while King Henry's failure to be viewed as Henry IV 's protagonist is "understandable, " the characterization of the king has "unfortunate[ly]" received little critical attention. Fehrenbach then analyzes Shakespeare's portrayal of King Henry, maintaining that the characterization is achieved through indirect means, and is appropriate for a character who routinely masks himself to those around him.]

Despite the play's title, critics generally regard the central figure of 1 Henry IV as just about anybody except Henry IV. The usual candidates, of course, are Hal and Falstaff, but one also finds an occasional scholar asserting that Hotspur all but runs away with the play as the appealingly passionate quasi-tragic figure. Now and again someone will argue for the elevation of Henry to his rightful place as chief protagonist of his play as against those usurpers Hal, Hotspur, and Falstaff; but these departures from the critical tradition are rare and usually are not as revolutionary as they might first seem.1

Relegation of the King to the status of a secondary character is understandable: when compared to Hal, Hotspur, and Falstaff, he has fewer speeches and fewer lines;2 he is generally less active in the play and arouses less interest in the audience. As Bolingbroke in Richard II, a significant and immensely interesting antagonist, he has been the subject of considerable study.3 But as King in 1 Henry IV, Henry has received little attention,4 and virtually nothing has been written on the method employed by Shakespeare to make his character. This inattention is unfortunate, for Shakespeare's method of creating Henry is instructive. It illustrates how a master playwright marries characterization with character.

In a successfully constructed drama—and 1 Henry IV has always been considered one of Shakespeare's best plays—one expects to find methods of characterization appropriate to the characters depicted. This expectation is not disappointed in 1 Henry IV. The excessively passionate and open Hotspur is primarily revealed by honest and direct, if immature and unguarded, speeches, by active movement, and only incidentally by the more indirect method of description, which generally supports the characterization already created by what the young nobleman says and does. Falstaff, too, is an open book. His actions and statements on their face reveal a vain, irresponsible, and indulgent, if nonetheless likable, personality—a characterization supported by the less direct method of characterization: statements by others. Thanks to his famous soliloquy at the end of Act I, scene ii, Hal is also an open book. To be sure, he appears to be the profligate—and to a considerable degree he is a lover of good times—but owing to his soliloquy we know him to be a responsible and serious, even calculating prince. The several unfavorable comments about his character are made by men who lack the perspective of the audience; none of these comments coincides with Hal's true personality. Primarily by his actions and by his statements—which occasionally contain an irony clearly apparent to the audience because of the soliloquy in I. ii—and only to a small degree by the descriptions of others, do we understand the person of the Prince of Wales.

King Henry is a different kind of person, and his characterization is formed differently. He is by no means an open book; he is secretive and distant, more guessed at than known. He is a man we know but do not know, a man we watch but are not sure of. For reasons as selfless and politically necessary as they are self-serving and ambitious, Henry is a private man and a Machiavellian king, alone with his own thoughts of political responsibility and personal guilt. While Hal, Hotspur, and Falstaff are primarily created by direct means—appropriate to their open characters—Henry is formed primarily by indirect means—appropriate to his close character. For example, in contrast to the ways in which the speeches and actions of Hal, Hotspur, and Falstaff inform the audience about them, Henry's speeches and actions say more about him through indirection, through irony, and through a peculiar emphasis on what is left unsaid. Also, in a play abounding in character foils, Henry's person is especially dependent upon other characters, juxtaposed and compared to him, for his characterization. At the same time, descriptions of the King play a much larger role in creating the person Shakespeare intends us to know than do descriptions of the other three major figures. In short, to portray King Henry IV, Shakespeare employs methods of characterization that appropriately deny us intimacy with this necessarily private man, this troubled ruler who in his dual struggle against past sins and present threats must always be the masker. However advantageous masking is to Henry the King ruling a beleaguered state, it does not make Henry the man a warm and sympathetic figure.5


Occasionally, Henry's speeches and actions can be trusted to be literal and accurate presentations of his character. For example, his expression of concern about his son's apparent profligacy in I. i. 78-906 and his agonizing, nearly confessional conference with Hal in III. ii convey his sincere fears for England and for the throne. His comment before the battle of Shrewsbury that "nothing can seem foul to those that win" (V. i. 8), along with his orders preparing for war in III. ii. 170-80 and those speeches and actions throughout Act V with which he directs his forces and swiftly metes out justice after Shrewsbury, reveal the King to be an adroit, efficient ruler and a no-nonsense military leader.

Usually, however, the King says or does little that can be taken at face value, little that does not ironically reveal an otherwise hidden part of his character. But the kind of irony associated with Henry IV is not the same as the dramatic irony surrounding Hal's words and deeds. Because of the Prince's soliloquy in I. ii, the audience enjoys a peculiar and intimate relationship with him, a relationship that allows us generally to know how to respond to him at particular moments. The irony surrounding Henry's words causes us to suspect and to guess, not really to know. There remains a distance between us and the King, and because we never get close to him we can never feel sure of him.

In his opening statement to the court in Act I, scene i, Henry would have us believe that now, tired of war but pleased with the end of civil strife, he would give thanks to God by traveling to Jerusalem on a crusade. Consider this pious vow in terms of the rest of that scene, especially Henry's subsequent speeches. The long-delayed crusade, if he sincerely wishes to organize one, is an act of penance for a sin Henry scrupulously and characteristically avoids mentioning (his responsibility for the murder of Richard II), but by the end of the scene we must question his guilt-born intention. It is likely that Henry has known all through his speech that the wars are not really over—in which case his call for a crusade becomes only a show of kingly piety. His haste in vowing to go to the Holy Land is matched only by his haste to "Brake off (I. i. 48) the intended crusade, which he "must neglect" (I. i. 101) until the matter of Hotspur's refusal to send him the prisoners captured at the battle of Holmedon is settled. Certainly the King had known of the battles in the North and of Hotspur's refusal when he made his public call for a crusade, for Henry himself relates to the court the details of young Percy's acts from news brought to him by Sir Walter Blunt. Before Henry made his vow to go on the crusade, he had already sent for Hotspur to provide an explanation for his decision to keep the prisoners (I. i. 100-102).7 Henry's penitential speech is, therefore, difficult to take at face value, and consequently we soon find ourselves suspecting the King's public expression of Christian commitment.

Henry's statement to Westmoreland which closes this first scene—

But come yourself with speed to us again;
For more is to be said and to be done
Than out of anger can be uttered

(I. i. 105-7)

—clearly tells the audience that the King does not consider a public, open discussion of Hotspur's rebuff (utter carries the Elizabethan meaning, "to make public") to be the most effective way of preparing for his confrontation with the Percy family. In secret, therefore, he and Westmoreland will prepare a strategy to counter the Percies.

When Henry next appears (I. iii), his plan has been determined and put into action. He now plays the role of a long-suffering ruler whose patience has been mistaken for weakness by his subjects. But a perceptive audience will probably laugh silently at such a picture of Henry. His characterization of himself as "smooth as oil, soft as young down" (I. iii. 7), and "Unapt" to have his "cold and temperate" blood stirred (I. iii. 1-2), only serves to disclose to the audience, through irony, an imperious nature and a real anger. If Henry has lost the "title of respect" as he says (I. iii. 8), the loss has hardly occurred because he has been too humble and malleable. Though Henry's words may deceive the Percies, Shakespeare reveals to the audience by ironic indirection that the King is angered, yet controlled, and, above all, that Henry is a subtle defender when crossed or threatened.

The royal dismissal of Worcester continues the indirect characterization of Henry. The King would have it understood that he dismisses Worcester because of the Earl's impertinence to "majesty," but what must equally offend him is Worcester's implicit reference to Henry's usurpation by reminding the King that the Percies aided him in gaining the throne:

Our house, my sovereign liege, little deserves
The scourge of greatness to be us'd on it;
And that same greatness too which our own hands
Have holp to make so portly.

(I. iii. 10-13)

Henry's testy reaction and his dismissal of Worcester with a self-serving statement about his majesty call our attention to his extreme sensitivity to the history of his climb to the throne—a subject he scrupulously avoids speaking about candidly throughout the entire play. Though Worcester's statement is uncomfortably pointed, his charge that the Percy house is being oppressed is substantiated by the facts. In requiring Hotspur to turn over all his prisoners to the crown, the King is demanding more than military custom allows.8 However accurately Henry judges Worcester to be a danger, therefore, the temper of the King's reaction, his defensive imperiousness, reveals that the Earl has touched a sensitive nerve and that one subtle plotter has recognized the threat of another almost intuitively.

The rest of this important scene finds Henry insisting that Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March and brotherin-law to Hotspur, traitorously surrendered to Glendower during the recent civil wars. This charge is not accepted by the Percies, nor is it accepted unequivocally by Shakespeare's sources: Holinshed's Chronicles and Samuel Daniel's Civil Wars. Holinshed, Daniel, and Shakespeare all agree (historically inaccurate though we know them to have been) that Mortimer was Richard II's designated successor, a fact known by Worcester and Northumberland and, one must assume, by Henry—though in keeping with his close nature the King never openly refers to that line of succession. More important, the Percies and Shakespeare's sources agree that when Henry charges Mortimer with treason, making him a traitor not deserving ransom, his objective is to avoid enlarging a rival to the throne.9 Although the audience is not likely to know Holinshed or Daniel, the force of the Percies' argument—the dramatic expression of the authority of the playwright's sources—causes us to suspect the King's motives to be politically self-serving (see I. iii. 145-59). Henry's speeches in these two early scenes arouse our skepticism not so much by what they say as by what they leave unsaid. The King's real motives, his true feelings, are kept at a remove from the audience, but they are not as well hidden as he would wish.

Appearing next in Act III, scene ii, Henry once again ironically and indirectly reveals what he, but not the dramatist, would hide. A. R. Humphreys has noted that Henry IV's expression of sadness at Hal's behavior indicates a "covert sense of guilt,"10 guilt about his usurpation to which he will not openly admit and on which he attempts to put a good face for Hal. Moreover, as he compares himself to Hotspur in praising the young man's leadership and prowess in battle, Henry ironically and unintentionally identifies himself with a plotter against the throne:

For all the world
As thou art to this hour was Richard then
When I from France set foot at Ravenspurgh,
And even as I was then is Percy now.

(III. ii. 93-96)

Later in this scene, Henry says that Hal is morally capable of joining the rebels, allying with the Percies to fight against his own father. Such an unfair attack reveals by indirection the King's own values and his own covert guilt. This is the "politician" talking, the man who views ambition for the throne as paramount and as a motive annihilating all other considerations. However profligate Hal may appear to the King, there is nothing in the son's actions to warrant the charge of treason and perfidy which the father lays against him.11

After an absence of several scenes, Henry next enters in Act V, scene i. There he engages in an interesting exchange with the man who has become his archenemy: Worcester. The hostility between these men can be explained as much by their similar personalities as by their different goals. Worcester, who seeks Henry's dethronement as earnestly as the King seeks to retain his position, is as subtle and shrewd as the King himself. He is therefore more dangerous to Henry than the passionate, open, and frequently foolish Hotspur. The King attempts to disarm Worcester with statements. When they do not work, he treats Worcester with disdain, making an offer he must know Worcester will reject for the very reason the Earl has hinted at earlier: distrust of Henry.

Henry's self-serving description of Worcester's disruption of the King's peace and his call for his cousin's obedience, to say nothing of his attempt to elicit sympathy as an aging man reluctantly but dutifully suffering the discomforts of war (V. i. 9-21), contrasts sharply with Worcester's detailed, substantive charge that Henry is responsible for the civil strife because he broke faith with his early supporters:

Whereby we stand opposed by such means
As you yourself have forg'd against yourself
By unkind usage, dangerous countenance,
And violation of all faith and troth
Sworn to us in your younger enterprise.

(V. i. 67-71)

Worcester's accusation cannot be entirely dismissed as an argumentum ex nihilo after what we have seen of Henry's relationship with the Percies earlier in the play and heard in Henry's private conversation with Hal. As usual, Henry will not actually deny the accusation; rather, from the position of majesty, he disdainfully and sarcastically charges that Worcester has merely found a deceptively plausible justification for rebellion (V. i. 72-82). To be sure, Henry does not want war, but the peace must be on his terms. His offer of pardon, capped with the contemptuous and peremptory "So, be gone; / We will not now be troubled with reply: / We offer fair; take it advisedly" (V. i. 112-14), must be taken in context with his refusal to deal with the substance of Worcester's argument, no small part of which is the Earl's belief that the King cannot be trusted to keep his word. For the second time in the play Henry curtly dismisses Worcester. None of this is to suggest that Worcester's view of the King is the entire story or that his rebellious attitude is wholly without fault. But again, Shakespeare, through indirection, causes us to see more of the person of Henry than the close King would allow. What Henry leaves unsaid suggests more than what he says informs.

In the end, Henry is understandably indignant with Worcester in his public chastisement of the Earl for not conveying the royal offer of pardon (V. v. 1-10), and Worcester admits to an attempt to save his own skin by his deceitful actions. But there was never any question about Worcester's concern for his safety. The important question, whether Henry could have been trusted to keep his promise to pardon all rebels, is not answered. The seeds of doubt, having been planted so plausibly by Worcester's statements and by Henry's reaction, grow so that Henry's character is affected as much by what we do not know as by what we do.


As our understanding of Henry comes less from what he says than from what he does not say, our acquaintance with other characters in association with Henry often tells us more about the King than do his own actions. In a play virtually structured around characterfoils, Henry's character is notable for its subtly rich contrasts and comparisons with other actors in the drama. Thus, the almost natural hostility revealed in the exchanges of Worcester and Henry—appropriate antagonists—is in great part explained by their similarity in cunning, shrewdness, and self-concern. As Henry makes his own comparison with Hotspur (III. ii. 96), we note his ironic self-identification with rebellion. Their argument over Hotspur's prisoners and Mortimer's behavior in battle, however, causes us to be aware of the two men's contrasting temperaments and, further, forces us to doubt Henry's sense of honor when his highly questionable motives are compared with his honor-driven young cousin's impulses. And, of course, Hal, who asserts that he is the "king of courtesy" (II. iv. 10) and who promises when he is King of England to command the "good lads of Eastcheap" (II. iv. 14), contrasts markedly with the present King of England, who demonstrates no particular friendship with the commons and is anything but a "king of courtesy." Because each of the other characters is more open, even more visible in these comparisons with Henry, the foil-relationships are more indirectly informing about Henry than they are about Worcester, Hotspur, and Hal.

The incident, however, that serves most vividly to characterize Henry through other characters is the famous mock-king scene (II. iv. 413-528) in which both Falstaff and Hal play the King. When Falstaff first stands for Henry IV, he chooses props at hand to represent the accoutrements of office. Hal's humorous comments on these objects carry ironic implications about his father's realm: "Thy state is taken for a joined-stool, thy golden sceptre for a leaden dagger, and thy precious rich crown for a pitiful bald crown!" (II. iv. 418-20). The King's regality as parodied by Falstaff and Hal is considerably less than grand, appropriate for a throne that is as unmajestic and troubled as Henry's.

Hal's rotund drinking companion then adopts the broad rhetorical style of Preston's Cambises, saying: "Give me a cup of sack to make my eyes look red, that it may be thought I have wept; for I must speak in passion, and I will do it in King Cambyses' vein" (II. iv. 423-26). Falstaff s role as a weeping king is appropriate to the character of the suffering Henry IV, who, guilt-ridden, grieves over his son's apparent irresponsibility and sees it as divine retribution for Richard's murder. At least three instances of the King crying are found in the play—weeping which derives from fear of his son's profligacy, from guilt (III. ii. 90-91), and, as Hotspur would have it, from deceit (see IV. iii. 63, 81-84).

King Falstaff s jocular comment that Hal is unlike his father parodies the King's earlier speech about Hal's lineage (I. i. 78-90) and prepares us for the King's later chastisement of Hal in Act III, scene ii. Falstaff s charge that Hal would depose King Falstaff-Henry (II. iv. 479) parodies the threat of the rebels and introduces the King's fear, as yet unexpressed in the play by the King himself, that Hal will turn against him. Only after Act III, scene ii (the private conversation between the King and the Prince at court) do the serious implications of these otherwise comic exchanges become clear. When Henry appears in that scene with his son, his actions and speeches are reminiscent of the earlier tavern scene, and their full meaning is underscored by what Falstaff-Henry has already shown us. In short, if we have been perceptive, we already know a significant part of Henry's personality—especially regarding his attitude toward Hal—through another: Falstaff.

Hal also presents a side of Henry not introduced by the worried, less than majestic King Falstaff-Henry. It is the severe, intolerant, no-nonsense Henry IV that King Hal-Henry portrays in his rhetorical attack upon the "villainous abominable misleader of youth, Falstaff, that old white-bearded Satan" (II. iv. 508-9). As Hal reveals to those who would hear how he as Henry V will react to Falstaff and the world old Jack represents ("I will," he says to Sir John's plea not to banish Falstaff), he also conveys Henry IV's reaction to the corpulent old man: "I do," he says to the same plea as the Prince-King (II. iv. 528).

Whether or not Hal and Falstaff are consciously portraying these facets of the character of the King—I suspect that Hal, with his perception, knows precisely how accurate his portrayal of the King is and is suggesting, however indirectly, that he is Henry's son and will be so proven in the future—it is clear that one of Shakespeare's purposes in this delightful scene is to disclose as much, if not more, of the character of the King by this indirect method as we already know by Henry's actual speeches and actions.


The third major indirect method utilized by Shakespeare to create the character of Henry from a distance is description. References to Henry are often neutral, such as when he is called "king" or "father." Occasionally, however, they are totally unfair, such as when Hotspur says, "I think his father loves him not / And would be glad he met with some mischance" (I. iii. 231-32). But most of the descriptive comments provide both a credible and an unsympathetic picture of Henry. The major sources of the portrayal of the King by this method are hardly objective persons. But the contribution these descriptions make to our attitude to this guilt-ridden politician—through their cumulation and by their often powerful rhetoric, whatever their source—cannot be denied.

One of the first descriptions not only provides an unfavorable view of Henry, but utilizes as well the earlier device of character-comparison. Hotspur chastises his father and uncle for having "put down Richard, that sweet lovely rose, / And plant[ed] this thorn, this canker, Bolingbroke" (I. iii. 175-76). The several uncomplimentary references to Henry by his patronymic and his dukedom—he is called Bolingbroke six times (I. iii. 137, 176, 229, 241, 246; III. i. 64) and Lancaster once (III. i. 8)—have the effect of portraying the King as a usurper and an impoverished claimant to majesty. The King's Machiavellian side is kept before us as Hotspur in his several speeches in I. iii describes Henry as "subtle," a "proud king, who studies," a "vile politician," the "king of smiles," a "fawning greyhound." To the youthful Percy, the King is an "ingrate," "unthankful" and "forgetful" of what others have done for him, a man who once offered the young supporter of his rebellion against Richard a "candy deal of courtesy" only later to prove himself a "cozener."

Henry's dismissal of the Percies with threats in I. i (an incident manufactured by Shakespeare) is cited by Worcester as an indication of the King's dangerous disloyalty to his earlier supporters. According to Worcester, this danger makes it necessary for them to defend themselves by taking arms (I. iii. 283-90). As selfserving as the Earl's speech is, its argument is sufficiently credible to make one wonder about the King. Henry the politician cannot be trusted. In a later attack upon the King that is more substantive than any of the charges brought by the firebrand Hotspur, Worcester details Henry's history of broken oaths (V. i. 30-71). Despite his dishonesty, even his treachery, Worcester offers a plausible justification for his refusal to convey the King's offer of pardon to the rebels (V. ii. 3-23), a justification also manufactured by Shakespeare. One must wonder why Shakespeare chose to relate the history of the usurpation and of Henry's ingratitude to his supporters twice in less than a hundred lines (IV. iii. 52-105 and V. i. 30-71) if not to impress us with the plausibility, perhaps even veracity, of the Percies' perspective on Henry. Never does the King openly deny the charges: he merely ignores or dismisses them with disdain.12

Hotspur's sarcastic statement to Blunt, Henry's conveyor of pardon, that

The king is kind; and well we know the king
Knows at what time to promise, when to pay

(IV. iii. 52-53)

is a fitting introduction to that passionate young man's unattractive description of Henry's earlier actions. According to Hotspur, when Henry arrived in England seeking his Lancastrian lands, he was "Sick in the world's regard," "wretched," "low," an "outlaw sneaking home." He appeared "to weep / Over his country's wrongs," and with this "face" captured the loyalty of all those he "did angle for." More recently, Hotspur says, the King unfairly "Disgraced" him in the midst of his victories and sought to "entrap" him with spies. Now Henry refuses to enlarge the Earl of March, captured by Glendower while fighting for the King's cause (see IV. iii. 52-105). Percy's rhetorically powerful denunciation of the King effectively overwhelms Sir Walter Blunt's earlier favorable, but by comparison formal and pedestrian, description (IV. iii. 38-51), neutralizing Blunt's representation of Henry as a merciful king offering pardon.

As a threatened, conscience-ridden, yet ambitious and coldly effective politician, Shakespeare's Henry IV must perforce mask both his personal self and his political self. Appropriately, the playwright forms this masking character not by means of intimate contact and not directly and openly, but as from a distance and indirectly. These indirect methods of characterizing Henry, methods that inhibit a familiarity with the man, create an almost unfailingly private man and an always political prince, who—to alter the meaning of Henry's description of himself—is "Ne'er seen but wond'red at" (III. ii. 57).


1 Anne Marie McNamara, "Henry IV: The King as Protagonist," Shakespeare Quarterly, 10 (1959), 423-31; and Fredson Bowers, "Theme and Structure in King Henry IV, Part I," in The Drama of the Renaissance: Essays for Leicester Bradner, ed. Elmer M. Blistein (Providence: Brown Univ. Press, 1970), pp. 42-68.

2 According to Marvin Spevack, A Complete and Systematic Concordance to the Works of Shakespeare, II (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1968), the King has 30 speeches with a total of 341 lines (p. 295), while Hal speaks 170 times in 575 lines (p. 309), Falstaff 151 times in 621 lines (p. 268), and Hotspur 102 times in 562 lines (p. 284).

3 See, for example, Irving Ribner, "Bolingbroke, A True Machiavellian," Modern Language Quarterly, 9 (1948), 177-84; Brents Stirling, "Bolingbroke's 'Decision,'" SQ, 2 (1951), 27-34; Johannes Kleinstück, "The Character of Henry Bolingbroke," Neophil, 41 (1957), 51-56; and portions of two larger studies: John Palmer, Political Characters of Shakespeare (London: Macmillan, 1945), pp. 118-79; and H. M. Richmond, Shakespeare's Political Plays (New York: Random House, 1967), pp. 123-40.

4 Two notable exceptions are H. M. Richmond's observations on Henry in his discussion of 1 Henry IV in the work cited above, pp. 141-58, and Robert Ornstein's instructive comments about the King in A Kingdom for a Stage: The Achievement of Shakespeare's History Plays (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1972), pp. 125-51.

5 J. Leeds Barroll has observed this indirect means of characterization, this making of a character by distancing, at work in Antony and Cleopatra. In "The Characterization of Octavius," Shakespeare Studies, 6 (1970), 231-88, Barroll argues that the effect of this "curious technique of distance" in Octavius' characterization provokes an ambivalent reaction in the audience, causing it to question Caesar's sincerity and to suspect his motivations, never knowing whether he is a hypocrite or a "well-intentioned, if slightly cold-blooded, ruler" (p. 236). Similar ambivalent reactions are provoked by Shakespeare's indirect characterization of Henry.

6 All Shakespeare quotations are from The Complete Works of Shakespeare, eds. Hardin Craig and David Bevington, rev. ed. (Glenview, III.: Scott, Foresman, 1973).

7 For a discussion of the question of Henry's sincerity, especially as it is related to the structural and textual complexities of I. i, see Samuel Burdett Hemingway, ed., The New Variorum Edition of "Henry the Fourth, Part I" (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1936), pp. 16 n. and 23 n.

8 A. R. Humphreys, ed., The First Part of King Henry IV (London: Methuen, 1960), p. 8 n. and The New Variorum Edition, pp. 21-22 .n.

9 Holinshed terms Henry's depiction of Mortimer as a traitor a "fraudulent excuse," and Daniel speaks of Mortimer as "A man the king much fear'd, and well he might / Least he should looke whether his Crown stood right." See Geoffrey Bullough, ed., Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, IV (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962), 182-85 for the section of Holinshed's Chronicles dealing with Henry and Mortimer; see IV, 209 for the portion of Daniel's Civil Wars that treats this incident.

10 Humphreys, p. 101 n.

11 This distortion of the Prince of Wales is the result of Henry's inability to understand the whole man that the Prince is—or is becoming. Henry, a much narrower person than his son, is an emotionally limited human not unlike the cerebral, practical Brutus described by Marvin L. Vawter in "'Division 'tween Our Souls': Shakespeare's Stoic Brutus," Shakespeare Studies, 7 (1974), 173-95. Both Brutus and Henry are stiff, defensive men, uncomfortable with—perhaps even afraid of—that sensitive, emotional, warmer side of the human creature. In his almost single-minded pragmatism, the King views the fun-loving Prince of Wales as defective in character, and a defect in a crown prince could easily lead to the worst of disorders. When Hal reassures his political father that events will prove that "I am your son" (HI. ii. 134), the King's fears about the Prince are allayed, but one suspects that the father's bewilderment about his son remains.

12 Shakespeare's several modifications of his sources in these scenes with the rebels are not insignificant. Larry S. Champion argues in "The Function of Mowbray: Shakespeare's Maturing Artistry in Richard II" SQ, 26 (1975), 3-7, that Shakespeare not only learned to modify history for dramatic ends, but also enlisted the words and actions of one character thus altered to provide subtle and indirect observations about the characterization of others. Thus Mowbray's words and deeds as found in Shakespeare's sources are artistically manipulated by the playwright in the first act of Richard II to inform us about the relationship of Richard and Bolingbroke. Similarly, Shakespeare's minor modifications of his sources regarding Worcester, especially the addition of the Worcester-Vernon conversation, indirectly tell us a great deal about Henry.

David M. Bergeron (essay date 1991)

SOURCE: "Shakespeare Makes History: 2 Henry IV" in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Vol. 31, No. 2, Spring, 1991, pp. 231-45.

[In the following analysis of Henry IV, Part Two, Bergeron maintains that Falstaff serves as the means by which Shakespeare explores the concept of "ahistory."]

In the tavern scene in 1 Henry IV, Falstaff asks somewhat incredulously: "Is not the truth the truth?"1 Shakespeare explores the province of history by wrestling with Falstaff s question, raising doubts about the very purposes of history that some critics have assumed define the history play. Nowhere is the evidence of making history more apparent than in 2 Henry TV, In Act IV the Archbishop of York says of King Henry: he will "keep no tell-tale to his memory / That may repeat and history his loss / To new remembrance" (IV.i.202-204).2 Shakespeare uses "history" as a verb only this one time in the entire canon. This special focus on the word "history" corresponds to an unusually rich concern for the issues of history in 2 Henry IV, a self-consciousness about history that I do not perceive in the earlier English history plays.

This essay will explore the several versions of history that operate in the play, arguing that these strands culminate in Falstaff, the special artifice of Shakespeare's construction of history, the one who brings narrative history and narrative fiction face to face. Shakespeare summons selected details of the past, shapes that particular fiction, and gives it a dramatic present; in other words, he makes history. His characters provide the principal means by which Shakespeare examines and constructs history. They have independent lives in the fiction of the drama, but they also assist the investigation and production of history. Falstaff, for example, one of Shakespeare's most popular creations, amuses and amazes us; simultaneously, he aids and abets the production of history. The richness of these characters' fictional lives renders suspect any reductive attempt to limit their functions or impact. Their presence and actions in Shakespeare's narrative make unlikely the possibility that a single "historical truth" can be attained.

Constructing history underscores its fictional quality. Louis O. Mink writes: "narrative form in history, as in fiction, is an artifice, the product of individual imagination."3 Into the debate among contemporary historians about the function of narrative in historical writing—indeed, the occasional blurring of history and fiction—Shakespeare had already stepped several centuries earlier by means of his dramatic fiction. In fact, Shakespeare regularly "makes" history, especially in the early years of his dramatic career. He was, of course, not alone. The final two decades of the sixteenth century witnessed an outpouring of historical drama: plays by Marlowe, Peele, anonymous dramatists, and others.4The Famous Victories of Henry V, for example, lies as a probable source behind Shakespeare's Henry IV plays; his Richard II has close affinities with Marlowe's Edward II. One can multiply the examples of historical drama and Shakespeare's participation in this development as the century closes. Ribner says that a history play is "an adaptation of drama to the purposes of history" (p. 29), but therein lies the interpretive problem.

The ordered, providential concept of history, epitomized in Tillyard's seminal study of the history plays and accepted by Ribner,5 has given way to a recognition that Shakespeare exhibits a sophisticated and at times problematic understanding of the nature of history. David Quint has argued that in "Shakespeare's poetic treatment, history ceases to be the didactic instrument of classical humanism and becomes instead an occasion for historicist self-reflection."6 Graham Holderness takes the matter farther when he writes: "Shakespeare's historical plays are not just reflections of a cultural debate: they are interventions in that debate, contributions to the historiographical effort to reconstruct the past and discover the methods and principles of that reconstruction."7 Writing itself, as Michel de Certeau and others have noted, produces history. Certeau suggests that writing is an archive that makes possible the creation of a stable history.8 Anyone familiar with Shakespeare's use of his sources in the history plays knows how the dramatist reshapes history to suit artistic purposes.

This shaping of history is especially characteristic of 2 Henry IV. If, for example, we think of the three parts of Henry VI and Richard III, we do not find there a grappling with historical problems on the magnitude of 2 Henry IV; these plays seem more a relatively straight-forward chronicle of events. Edward II, The Famous Victories, and The Life and Death of Jack Straw all focus on historical action without, I think, an understanding of the problematic nature of history itself. Even in Shakespeare's second tetralogy, 2 Henry IV stands out because it is more self-aware of its literary history. By this I mean that it pays relatively more attention to its indebtedness to the drama that has preceded it. It is, for example, the only one of the Henriad plays that quotes directly from its predecessor—in this case, Richard II. In a word, 2 Henry IV looks back with a historical perspective unlike the other plays of its group, including Henry V, which takes little notice of its precursors: witness the report of Falstaff s death, a sign of this play's distance from the others.

At least three different but related strata of history operate in 2 Henry IV. Shakespeare explores "ahistory" in Falstaff, national history in Prince Hal and the royal party, and literary history within the text of his own play. He therefore reflects not only on political and military history but also on a fictional character woven into that history and on his writing. He meditates on and mediates literary history. I will argue that these various manifestations of history combine and meet in Falstaff. His rejection, expulsion, and imprisonment become the overthrow of "Rumour," or false history, so that a "correct" historical discourse can be inscribed in national life. Shakespeare makes a new history out of the source material available to him. This process questions the nature and method of historical writing. In each category the dramatist dismembers history in order to re-member it.

Any play that opens with the appearance of Rumour, "painted full of tongues, " invites a consideration of how one can know what even happened in the past. Given Rumour's function, this character initiates the exploration of national history where one of the principal activities will be to ascertain what happened. Through the fictions that Rumour offers, history is both created and distorted. As Rumour boasts:

Upon my tongues continual slanders ride,
The which in every language I pronounce,
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.

(Induction, 6-8)

False reports lead to false history, as Rumour sends out word that Prince Hal has succumbed to Hotspur's sword in the battle at Shrewsbury. Most of the play's opening scene will be devoted to assessing conflicting evidence about the battle in order not to be reliant merely on rumor.

In fact, the political and military life in this play struggles to provide a reliable account of national history and to interpret its significance. Falstaff says of a battle in Act IV: "let it be booked with the rest of this day's deeds" (IV.iii.45-46). "Booking" national history is part of the business of 2 Henry IV, as it makes a fiction out of events, proceeding by synecdoche to offer what history can: a partial view of the past. Shakespeare's "book" produces history. Louis Mink observes that "historical narratives are capable of displacing each other" (p. 196). The struggle between competing narratives clearly functions in the play's opening scene. Out of such contests and displacing narratives the dramatist "books" national history.

In the play's first scene, Northumberland, eager for news about his son, welcomes the word from Lord Bardolph, who reports of the battle: "The King is almost wounded to the death; / And, in the fortune of my lord your son, / Prince Harry slain outright" (Li.14-16). Before he expresses his joy at such news, Northumberland pauses to ask: "How is this deriv'd?" (line 23). That is, what is the source; where is the evidence for such presumed fact? Northumberland had dispatched his own servant Travers to learn about the battle, who then enters with a contradictory report, having learned that the "rebellion had ill luck, / And that young Harry Percy's spur was cold" (lines 41-42). Lord Bardolph questions the reliability of Travers's source.

The historical impasse cannot be resolved until Morton enters. Interestingly, Northumberland sees in him a book: "Yea, this man's brow, like to a title-leaf, / Foretells the nature of a tragic volume" (lines 60-61). To Northumberland, Morton looks like a bound volume of some tragic history. Before Morton can give his account of Shrewsbury, Northumberland recalls the story of Priam, who too late discovered that half of Troy had been burnt. The construction of history proceeds therefore not only by synecdoche but also by metonymy.9 Morton has actually witnessed the Shrewsbury battle, unlike either Lord Bardolph or Travers. He reports:

But these mine eyes saw him [Hotspur] in bloody state,
Rend'ring faint quittance, wearied, and outbreath'd,
To Harry Monmouth, whose swift wrath beat down
The never-daunted Percy to the earth.

(lines 107-10)

Morton reports many other details of the battle and concludes: "The sum of all / Is that the King hath won.../.. . This is the news at full" (lines 131-35). Eyewitness interpretation drives out rumor, thereby making possible a credible report of the past. Functioning like a historian, Northumberland has sifted the conflicting reports and made a history of the Shrewsbury battle: the past is a fiction of the present.

In the closing lines of Act I, scene i, Morton reports that the Archbishop of York is rallying troops for the rebels' cause. Morton explains the Archbishop's technique: he "doth enlarge his rising with the blood / Of fair King Richard, scrap'd from Pomfret stones" (lines 204-205). In this especially telling, if not grotesque, way, the Archbishop galvanizes his troops through historical recollection. Like the ghost of Hamlet's father, Richard's blood seems to cry out: "Remember me." History is memory. As they round up men and materiel, the rebel forces hope to have sufficient to wage battle because, as Lord Bardolph says, "Conjecture, expectation, and surmise / Of aids incertain should not be admitted" (I.iii.23-24). The Archbishop responds: "'Tis very true, Lord Bardolph, for indeed / It was young Hotspur's case at Shrewsbury" (lines 25-26). They remember the foolhardiness and desperation of Hotspur's plight, "Eating the air and promise of supply" (line 28). In this case, memory instructs.

King Henry IV s speech in Act III, scene i, has special importance for the subject of history. He says: "O God, that one might read the book of fate, / And see the revolution of the times" (lines 45-46); that is, if only one had the power of a special, privileged historical perspective and could divine the future. If that were possible, Henry says, even the happiest youth "Would shut the book and sit him down and die" (line 55). For better or for worse, we cannot know the future; we know instead the past and draw from it whatever significance we can. In this sense, the book of the future remains closed to us; the book of the past is open—that is the province of history. Warwick responds: "There is a history in all men's lives / Figuring the nature of the times deceas'd" (lines 80-81); from such, Warwick suggests, "a man may prophesy, / With a near aim" (lines 82-83). While this sentiment hints at a predictive value of history, rather like Richmond's final speech in Richard III the dramatist here stops short of accepting it. Historiographers construct the past, remember it; they carry with them no special gifts of prophecy about the future.

Knowing and reconstructing the past may, of course, affect one's actions; that is, history may provide a basis for one's decisions. This idea Shakespeare demonstrates in the case of Northumberland. His wife Lady Northumberland and widowed daughter-in-law Lady Percy gather around him in II.iii, attempting to dissuade him from joining the wars. They succeed. Lady Percy's poignant recollection of the past persuades with special force: history may not predict the future, but it surely may shape it. More tellingly than elsewhere in this examination of national history, Shakespeare here focuses on the matter of death, a topic crucial in the making of history. Because Shakespeare essentially drops the Northumberland story from the remainder of the play, this scene calls attention to itself, reinforcing the dramatist's process of constructing history. The scene functions as synecdoche: a partial instance for the whole issue of death in understanding and making history.

Writing history, Certeau suggests, "plays the role of a burial rite" (p. 100); it "speaks of the past only in order to inter it" (p. 101). He adds: "writing makes the dead so that the living can exist elsewhere," making it possible to connect "what appears with what disappears." Shakespeare understands this function well; his character Lady Percy focuses on the dead in order to open space for the living and the choices that they must make in the present. Shakespeare's writing of the dead both buries the past and commemorates it, what Certeau might characterize as "a labor of death and a labor against death" (p. 5). Lady Percy illustrates this point. She begins by remembering Northumberland's failure to come to the aid of his son at Shrewsbury, when she says, "my heart's dear Harry, / Threw many a northward look to see his father / Bring up his powers; but he did long in vain" (lines 12-14). Out of this past Lady Percy summons a recollection of her husband: "He was the mark and glass, copy and book, / That fashion'd others" (lines 30-31). Yet he was abandoned "To look upon the hideous god of war / In disadvantage, .../.. . so you left him" (lines 35-38). Had the necessary soldiers been supplied, Lady Percy says, "Today might I, hanging on Hotspur's neck, / Have talk'd of Monmouth's grave" (lines 44-45).

Instead, she remains alone to champion her husband's history:

so came I a widow,
And never shall have length of life enough
To rain upon remembrance with mine eyes,

For recordation to my noble husband.


National history, not merely an accumulation of facts and events, here powerfully convinces us and Northumberland with its recordation of the dead. Lady Percy as Shakespeare's representative historian labors against the potential death of Northumberland by remembering her husband's death. Shakespeare inscribes death into the discourse of history with unusual force.

As a historian, the dramatist also recalls his own work; therefore, 2 Henry IV pays attention to literary history, another self-conscious attribute of this play. When Falstaff, for example, in II.iv asks Prince Hal, "Didst thou hear me?," Hal answers: "Yea, and you knew me, as you did when you ran away by Gad's Hill; you knew I was at your back, and spoke it on purpose to try my patience" (lines 303-305). Hal cannot be remembering actual history since Falstaff is essentially ahistorical; rather, he recalls II.ii of Shakespeare's I Henry IV, the Gadshill robbery scene. Shakespeare joins the links between history and fiction by reproducing his fictionalized versions of national history from earlier dramas. History therefore, and explicitly here, contains a fiction. In 2 Henry IV the dramatist works into his historical fiction recollections of his own writing; he makes history in part out of his own artistic history, providing thereby an intertextual construct.

References to Shakespeare's Richard II abound.10 At the end of Act I, the Archbishop of York speaks at length about the fickleness of the public that scorned Richard II when he lived and now would venerate him: "They that, when Richard liv'd, would have him die / Are now become enamour'd on his grave" (I.iii.101-102). The Archbishop's next example specifically recalls Shakespeare's earlier play:

Thou that threw'st dust upon his goodly head,
When through proud London he [Richard] came sighing on

Cry'st now, "O earth, yield us that King again."


In V.ii of Richard II the Duke of York had revealed to his Duchess the contrasting behavior of the London crowds toward the disgraced Richard and the newly exalted Bolingbroke. His account interrupted by weeping, York asks his wife, "Where did I leave?" The Duchess responds: "At that sad stop, my lord, / Where rude misgoverned hands from windows' tops / Threw dust and rubbish on King Richard's head" (lines 3-5).11 York adds a few lines later: "No man cried 'God save him!' / No joyful tongue gave him his welcome home, / But dust was thrown upon his sacred head" (lines 28-30). Because such details are unique to Shakespeare's version of this event, here in 2 Henry IV the dramatist obviously quotes himself.

Having mulled over what it would be like to know the future, King Henry in III.i turns to a memory of the past:

'Tis not ten years gone,
Since Richard and Northumberland, great friends,
Did feast together, and in two years after
Were they at wars.

(lines 57-60)

A mere eight years ago Henry and Percy were closest of friends, Percy even assisting in the defiance of Richard II. Pursuing this train of thought, Henry then recalls a specific moment in which Richard predicted Northumberland's future treachery. Richard "with his eye brimful of tears" spoke these words, according to Henry:

"Northumberland, thou ladder by the which
My cousin Bolingbroke ascends my throne"

"The time will come, that foul sin, gathering head,
Shall break into corruption."


Henry quotes directly and more or less correctly from Shakespeare's Richard II V.i.55-59. Since Henry Bolingbroke was not present in the scene in Richard II, one wonders how he could know this, unless it has become part of historical record. On the other hand, he obviously can know it because Shakespeare remembers his own literary history.

In Act IV Shakespeare again recalls the reign of Richard II and the play on that subject. In scene one Mowbray remembers his father, so prominent in Act I of Richard II. In fact, Mowbray offers a glorious account of the tournament in I.iii of the earlier play. He tells the rebels here in 2 Henry IV:

Henry Bolingbroke and he [Mowbray],
Being mounted and both roused in their seats,
Their neighing coursers daring of the spur,
Their armed staves in charge, their beavers down,
Their eyes of fire sparkling through sights of steel,
And the loud trumpet blowing them together,
Then, then, when there was nothing could have stay'd
My father from the breast of Bolingbroke,
O, when the King did throw his warder down,
His own life hung upon the staff he threw.


This superb description of the tournament at Coventry, Mowbray summons in memory of his father. The young Mowbray, who could not have been present, nevertheless has stored up a history of his father and now tells a crucial moment of the story.

Mowbray concludes his version with an interpretation of Richard's action: "Then threw he down himself and all their lives / That by indictment and by dint of sword / Have since miscarried under Bolingbroke" (lines 127-29). This historical analysis picks up on his father's warning in Richard II. As he went off to a banishment imposed by the king, Mowbray bade farewell with these words: "But what thou [Bolingbroke] art, God, thou, and I do know, / And all too soon, I fear, the king shall rue" (Richard II I.iii.204-205). Father and son both see in Richard's fateful action a curse for the future, one which the younger Mowbray views as having been fulfilled.

But such history is subject to ongoing and sometimes contradictory interpretation, a process that assists in distinguishing reliable account from rumor. The rebel leader Westmoreland in fact contradicts Mowbray's interpretation of the Coventry tournament: "You speak, Lord Mowbray, now you know not what" (line 130). Westmoreland reminds the listeners that Bolingbroke's reputation was very high at the time of the Coventry tournament. Therefore, Westmoreland adds:

Who knows on whom Fortune would then have smil'd?
But if your father had been victor there,
He ne'er had borne it out of Coventry;
For all the country . . .

Cried hate upon him.


Instead, the country "doted" on Bolingbroke. This squabble about history brings into focus the function of evidence, memory, and literary history. The exchange does not indulge some grand scheme of history, such as a providential view; rather, it underlines immediate problems of evidence and interpretation as the dramatist recalls his own artistic history in the process.

The curious Epilogue to 2 Henry IV also raises the matter of literary history. First, the speaker refers to some former play: "I was lately here in the end of a displeasing play, to pray your patience for it, and to promise you a better" (lines 8-10). What play he refers to we cannot know. Further, the speaker promises another play: "our humble author will continue the story, with Sir John in it, and make you merry with fair Katharine of France" (lines 27-29)—an obvious statement of the intention to write Henry V. In such a play, the Epilogue speaker says, "for anything I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless already a be killed with your hard opinions; for Oldcastle died martyr, and this is not the man" (lines 30-32). Shakespeare, responding to the protests of the Cobham family, makes clear that he intends no identification between his John Falstaff and John Oldcastle, though rather obviously he had such a thing in mind at one point. The Epilogue to 2 Henry IV helps rewrite literary history, even as the dramatist has responded to political pressure. In creating Falstaff, Shakespeare has constructed a past out of the present; that is, "ahistory" serves the purpose of his literary history, embedded in the national history of England.

Falstaff wanders between narrative truth and narrative fiction, between Shakespeare's rendering of national history and his creative license. Falstaff is historical because he exists in Shakespeare's literary history, clearly a fictional adjunct in the midst of political and military history. I argue that the dramatist also intends an identification between Falstaff and Rumour, a point also made by Porter and Abrams.12 The Hostess says of Falstaff: "he's an infinitive thing upon my score" (II.i.23). Though she presumably means "infinite," the idea of Falstaff as "infinitive" appeals. Rumour in the Induction makes clear its infinitive: "My office is / To noise abroad" (lines 28-29). Similarly, Falstaff noises abroad all kinds of half-truths or lies. His infinitive? "To lie" or "to counterfeit," to cite his term from 1 Henry IV. He has, for example, promised to marry Hostess Quickly, but clearly does not intend to do that. As the Chief Justice notes, Falstaff has the "manner of wrenching the true cause the false way" (II.i.108-109). Falstaff claims later: "I have a whole school of tongues in this belly of mine" (IV.iii.18). This image deliberately recalls Rumour, "painted full of tongues" It is tempting to imagine Falstaff s costume as containing pictures of tongues. Such loose tongues, untroubled by constraints of truth, noise abroad, slander, and deceive. Rumour offers a link to Falstaff: "what need I thus / My well-known body to anatomize" (Induction 20-21). The best-known body would likely be Falstaff's. The emphasis on Falstaff s body underscores the carnivalesque quality of his character.13 His irreverent, threatening, unruly, ludicrous, and possibly subversive qualities derive in part from carnival. In Rumour and Falstaff Shakespeare epitomizes the difficulty of establishing credible history.

The Chief Justice says to Falstaff: "You follow the young Prince up and down, like his ill angel" (I.ii.162-63)—another variation of Rumour. As such, Falstaff has "misled the youthful Prince" (line 143); to which Falstaff retorts: "The young Prince hath misled me. I am the fellow with the great belly, and he my dog." The Justice also likens Falstaff to a candle, "the better part burnt out" (lines 155-56). But Falstaff s presumed valorous past mitigates these charges: "Your day's service at Shrewsbury hath a little gilded over your night's exploit on Gad's Hill" (lines 147-48), says the Justice. One wonders exactly what "service" at Shrewsbury the Justice recalls; he has apparently accepted the story of Falstaff s slaying of Hotspur. If so, this scene, like the play's first, illustrates the process of constructing history—the selective use of detail, the synecdoche of history. With Falstaff involved, one always encounters difficulties. Despite his size, he functions like a moving target, impossible to pin down and possessing elusive, ahistorical qualities: a fiction that threatens the making of history.14

Having just learned about the "history in all men's lives" in III.i, we hear a different kind of history in III.ii: that of Justices Shallow and Silence, who focus not only on their past experiences but also on the issue of death. Shallow says: "Death, as the Psalmist saith, is certain to all, all shall die" (lines 36-37). Here in another key the dramatist through his characters confronts death as a constituent part of history, as he had in Lady Percy's appearance in II.iii. With Shallow's question, "O, Sir John, do you remember since we lay all night in the Windmill in Saint George's Field?" (lines 189-90), Falstaff enters their historical recollection, noting that they have indeed "heard the chimes at midnight" (line 209). Even "ahistory" may proceed by presumed memory. The synecdochic remembrance nevertheless must meet another test: credibility. Falstaff, the incarnation of Rumour, challenges the validity of the stories that he has heard, not unlike Northumberland's sifting of evidence in the play's first scene. Falstaff complains: "Lord, Lord, how subject we old men are to this vice of lying! This same starved justice hath done nothing but prate to me of the wildness of his youth, . . . and every third word a lie" (lines 296-301).

Just as Westmoreland undermines Mowbray's account of his father's tournament encounter with Bolingbroke (IV.i), so Falstaff reinterprets the shallow and silent history of these minor justices. Justice Shallow's references to "John a Gaunt" particularly gall Falstaff: "I'll be sworn a [he] ne'er saw him [Gaunt] but once in the tiltyard, and then he burst his head for crowding among the marshal's men" (line 316-18). With delicious historical irony, Falstaff then says: "I saw it and told John a Gaunt he beat his own name" (lines 318-19). In this special moment Shakespeare combines in the ahistorical Falstaff national and literary history. Falstaff seems to be part of national history but is indeed credible only in Shakespeare's own artistic work. And yet in an irony that doubles back on itself, the ahistorical character challenges the historical veracity of other ahistorical characters who have invoked a memory of their involvement with a historically great figure, John of Gaunt.

This same Falstaff captures one of the rebels, Coleville of the Dale, in IV.iii as his fictional world intersects with Prince John's exploits. When chided for his tardiness in arriving at the battle, Falstaff replies: "Do you think me a swallow, an arrow, or a bullet?" (lines 32-33). An invisible bullet, Falstaff cannot be found in history's chronicles. But for his valorous "conquest" of Coleville, Falstaff insists that it should "be booked with the rest of this day's deeds" (lines 45-46)—or perhaps a ballad or picture to capture the moment before it speeds away from memory. With such recordations of his deeds Falstaff conceives an image of himself: "I in the clear sky of fame o'er shine you as much as the full moon doth the cinders of the element" (lines 50-52). In the clear sky of fame resides Rumour/Falstaff. The only "booking" that Falstaff receives is Shakespeare's play. Of course the news of Prince Hal's accession to the throne leads Pistol to assert to Falstaff: "thou art now one of the greatest men in this realm" (V.iii.85-86). Caught up in the excitement, Falstaff claims: "I am Fortune's steward!" (lines 126-27). The desire to be written down in historical chronicles, to shine in Fame's clear sky, and to serve as Fortune's steward reinforces Falstaff s vainglorious concept of himself. History will finally puncture this illusion and expel "ahistory."

When Prince Hal becomes Henry V in the play's last act, the dramatist returns to the question of rumor with which the play began. The new king makes a speech of reconciliation to the Chief Justice and to his brothers. He says:

My father is gone wild into his grave,
For in his tomb lie my affections;
And with his spirits 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.


The history of Prince Hal, written down after his seeming, contains rotten opinion and rumor to which his new life as king will give the lie. As Abrams notes, in one sense Rumour is Hal's adversary (p. 485). His living history will supplant and subvert the record, establishing a truth not subject to rumor. Like the carnivalesque Falstaff, Prince Hal will mock expectations, rendering suspect historical prophecies about himself. Like Falstaff, the new king will mock conventional ideas about history; instead, he will construct a new history by erasing what has already been written about him. Overthrowing history is part of the process of making history. The new king readies himself to confront Falstaff in a final battle of competing histories.

Having borrowed a thousand pounds, having ridden night and day, having had no time to get new clothes, Falstaff nevertheless stands in the streets of London eagerly awaiting the new king's favor: "do but mark the countenance that he will give me" (V.v.7-8). In that excited conversation with Shallow and Pistol, Falstaff lets fall two phrases that impinge on his role in the historical strata of this drama: "not to remember" (line 21) and "putting all affairs else in oblivion" (line 26). In context these phrases make perfectly good sense; but if we focus on the making of history, we discern the fatal quality of not remembering and putting affairs into oblivion. This play has emphasized time and again the importance of recordation and snatching events from obscurity. Shakespeare underscores the inadequacy of Falstaff as historian.

As that large embodiment of Rumour, he must finally be expelled and imprisoned. He functions, of course, as a threat to Hal's sound government by his riotous behavior and lack of discipline. Hal says: "I have long dreamt of such a kind of man, / So surfeit-swelled, so old, and so profane" (lines 49-50). The new king must deny that dream, and he therefore banishes Falstaff. To expel and imprison Falstaff, as Hal does, may be in part to dispel Rumour, thereby making it possible to create a reliable history of Hal as Henry V. The expulsion of Falstaff also reveals written history's tendency to efface the other in order to imprint its image upon the erased surface. Though Falstaff anticipates only a momentary period of disgrace and banishment, believing that he will eventually be summoned by the king, in fact he does not again appear in historical drama, remaining only to have his death reported in Henry V Hal has somewhat ruthlessly if understandably decided to "raze out / Rotten opinion"—Rumour/Falstaff.15

As Elizabeth Fox-Genovese has recently pointed out: "History consists in something more than 'just one damn thing after another,' in something more than random antiquarianism, even in something more than what happened in the past."16 Shakespeare's 2 Henry IV offers "something more." Throughout this play Shakespeare questions and probes the written account of history, acknowledging that recorded history must always be subject to correction by the history that lives in our lives that may mock expectation and frustrate prophecy. Shakespeare contributes to historiographical efforts to reconstruct the past and to discern the methods and principles of that reconstruction, in part by demonstrating how closely narrative fiction and narrative history come to each other. He makes history out of the archives that he inherited, out of his own literary production, and out of ahistorical imagination. Shakespeare's historical writing buries the past and commemorates it by being a labor of death and a labor against death, as Certeau claims. He "histories" the past to new remembrance, to new life.


11 Henry IV, ed. A. R. Humphreys (New York: Vintage, 1960), II.iv.225.

22 King Henry IV, ed. A. R. Humphreys (New York: Vintage, 1967). All quotations from the play will be from this Arden edition.

3 "Narrative Form as a Cognitive Instrument," in Historical Understanding, ed. Brian Fay, Eugene O. Golob, and Richard T. Vann (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1987), p. 199. This essay first appeared in 1978.

4 For a handy survey, see Irving Ribner, The English History Play in the Age of Shakespeare, 2nd edn. (London: Methuen, 1965), especially chapters 2 and 3, pp. 30 ff. Ribner is eager to see a development from medieval religious drama through Shakespeare to the "degeneration into romance in the seventeenth century and its consequent final extinction as a vital force in English theatre" (p. 29). He wholeheartedly accepts an evolutionary development of the history play.

5 E. M. W. Tillyard, Shakespeare's History Plays (London: Macmillan, 1944).

6 David Quint, "'Alexander the Pig': Shakespeare on History and Poetry," Boundary 2, 10 (1982): 50.

7 Graham Holderness, Shakespeare's History (New York: St Martin's Press, 1985), p. 31. In her recent study of Richard III, Marjorie Garber observes that Richard's "twisted and misshapen body encodes the whole strategy of history as a necessary deforming and reforming—with the object of reforming—the past." "Descanting on Deformity: Richard III and the Shape of History," in The Historical Renaissance: New Essays on Tudor and Stuart Literature and Culture, ed. Heather Dubrow and Richard Strier (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1988) p. 86.

8 Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History, trans. Tom Conley (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1988), p. 215.

9 Albert Cook writes: "Written history aspires to the complete account, but it is constrained in the limitations of human knowledge, and also by the principles of its own domain"; therefore, "All writing of history is synecdochic." History/Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988), p. 137. Hayden White in Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1978) also explores the exclusionary nature of historical writing, its synecdoche.

10 A thorny problem in textual history occurs because the references to Richard II do not appear in Qa of 2 Henry IV. See Humphreys's extensive discussion of this problem, pp. lxviii-lxxxiv, in the Arden edition.

11King Richard II, ed. Peter Ure (London: Methuen, 1961). Citations from this play will be from this Arden edition.

12 Joseph A. Porter, The Drama of Speech Acts: Shakespeare's Lancastrian Tetralogy (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1979), p. 93; Richard Abrams, "Rumor's Reign in 2 Henry IV: The Scope of a Personification," ELR 16, 3 (Autumn 1986): 475, 491. Neither critic explores an identification of Rumour with the process of history.

13 See especially Holderness, Shakespeare's History, pp. 79-130; and Michael D. Bristol, Carnival and Theater: Plebeian Culture and the Structure of Authority in Renaissance England (London: Methuen, 1985). Holderness says that carnival liberty is opposed to historical necessity (p. 119)—certainly valid for Falstaff.

14 Referring to the Hostess's description of Falstaff s death in Henry V, Geoffrey H. Hartman in Criticism in the Wilderness (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1980) makes the pregnant observation that "in Shakespeare the visionary babble remains vision and babble" (p. 89). We rightly understand Falstaff to fulfill multiple purposes in the fiction: outrageously funny character and agent of Shakespeare's production of history. I thank Daryl Palmer for drawing my attention to the Hartman reference.

15 Abrams writes, "we the audience are finally made to bear responsibility for Rumor's overthrow through our own act of rebellion against tyranny" (p. 486). I disagree, as this interpretation takes us needlessly outside the play itself and imposes a moral burden that I doubt the dramatist intended. Near the end of his extended analysis of Rumour in the play, Abrams observes, "and as the country reunites, Rumor's reign paradoxically draws to a close and continues" (p. 494). This openended interpretation rather overlooks Hal's conclusive expulsion of rumor in the person of Falstaff. Of course, in one sense, rumor is always with us; but that recognition tells us little about this play.

16 Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, "Literary Criticism and the Politics of the New Historicism," in The New Historicism, ed. H. Aram Veeser (New York and London: Routledge, 1989), p. 216.

Further Reading

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Belsey, Catherine. "Making Histories Then and Now: Shakespeare from Richard II to Henry V." In Uses of History: Marxism, Postmodernism, and the Renaissance, edited by Francis Barker, Peter Hulme, and Margaret Iversen, pp. 24-46. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991.

Contests the idea that Shakespeare's history plays, specifically the Lancastrian tetralogy, are to be read and understood within the "postmodern condition" as fiction, not as history, and offers a historical interpretation of the plays.

Berry, Ralph. "The Scenic Language of Henry IV" In The Elizabethan Theatre XII, edited by A. L. Magnusson and C. E. McGee, pp. 181-91. Toronto: P. D. Meany, 1993.

Argues that Shakespeare purposely constructed the Falstaff scenes in Henry IV to be more appealing to audiences than the court scenes in order to emphasize key themes in the play.

Bromley, John C. "The Gardener's King: / and 2 Henry IV." In The Shakespearean Kings, pp. 61-74. Boulder: Colorado Associated University Press, 1971.

Charges that by examining the changing nature of this wholly public and political king, one may better comprehend the character of Henry and the Henry IV plays.

Dickinson, Hugh. "The Reformation of Prince Hal." Shakespeare Quarterly XII, No. 1 (Winter 1961): 33-46.

Argues that, based on a theatrical reading of Henry IV, Hal is the protagonist and hero, and demonstrates that "the supreme attribute of kingship" is self-sacrifice, not honor.

Frye, Northrop. "The Bolingbroke Plays (Richard II, Henry IV)" In Northrop Frye on Shakespeare, edited by Robert Sandler, pp. 51-81. Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry & White-side, 1986.

Offers an overview of the plot and themes of the first three plays in the Lancastrian tetralogy, and provides a detailed account of the historical marriages and births of the English royal family from Edward III and Henry VII, tracing the Yorkist and Lancastrian lines.

Grossman, Marc. "The Adolescent and the Strangest Fellow: Comic and Morally Serious Perspectives in 1 Henry IV" Essays in Literature XXIII, No. 2 (Fall 1995): 170-95.

Analyzes Hal's soliloquy in I.ii and offers a "fresh reading" of it which yields an understanding of Hal that differs from the two most common readings of the prince (the Machiavel and the prodigal son) and discusses at length Hal's relationship with and rejection of Falstaff.

Hart, Jonathan. "Temporality and Theatricality in Shakespeare's Lancastrian Tetralogy." Studia Neophilologica LXII, No. 1 (1991): 69-88.

Analyzes the treatment of time in the plays, focussing on the relationship between historical time and dramatic time.

Holderness, Graham. "Carnival and History: Henry IV" In Shakespeare Recycled: The Making of Historical Drama, pp. 130-77. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992.

Examines the significance of the commingling of saturnalian customs and Renaissance literature, and maintains that when Falstaff, who functions as "carnival" in the two parts of Henry IV, is viewed from this standpoint rather than a moralistic one, he may be acknowledged as a positive figure.

Kastan, David Scott. "'The King Hath Many Marching in His Coats,' or, What Did You Do in the War Daddy?" In Shakespeare Left and Right, edited by Ivo Kamps, pp. 241-58. New York: Routledge, 1991.

Places Henry IV's struggle to "consolidate and maintain his authority" within the context of Elizabethan England's political scene, in which Queen Elizabeth similarly ruled over a divided country.

Krims, Marvin B. "Hotspur's Antifeminine Prejudice in Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV" Literature and Psychology XXXX, Nos. 1 and 2 (1994): 118-32.

Explores other sources for the dominating attitudes of Hotspur and concludes that possible reasons for Hotspur's "phallocentricty" include, not only anxiety and defensiveness, but a desire to "conceal his own femininity, fearfulness, and self-destructiveness."

Mosley, Charles W. R. D. "This Royal Throne of Kings: Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2." In Shakespeare's History Plays. Richard II to Henry V: The Making of a King, pp. 129-46. London: Penguin Books, 1988.

Offers a detailed discussion of the education of Prince Hal and the nature of kingship, which Mosley views as primary themes in the two plays.

Mullaney, Steven. "The Rehearsal of Cultures." In The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England, pp. 60-87. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1988.

In section IV of this chapter, Mullaney focusses on a speech made by Warwick in Henry IV, Part Two (IV.iv.68-75) and discusses the roles of language and culture in the education of Prince Hal.

Pierce, Robert B. "The Henry IV Plays." In Shakespeare's History Plays: The Family and the State, pp. 171-224. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1971.

Maintains that in these plays, the structure of personal familial order in the royal family is a microcosm of political order within the country.

Ribner, Irving. "Shakespeare's Second Tetralogy." In The English History Play in the Age of Shakespeare, rev. ed., pp. 151-93. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1965.

Offers a detailed overview of the Lancastrian tetralogy, and stresses that Shakespeare's eight historical plays should not be viewed as "a single epic unit."

Richmond, H. M. "Henry IV, Part One" and "Henry IV, Part Two" In Shakespeare's Political Plays, pp. 141-58; 159-74. New York: Random House, 1967.

Discusses the reign of King Henry IV as a vindication of "the status of the Crown, which his own accession had seemed to invalidate."

Whitney, Charles. "Festivity and Topicality in the Coventry Scene of 1 Henry IV" English Literary Renaissance 24, No. 2 (Spring 1994): 410-48.

Provides a brief summary of the critical analyses of the carnivalesque in Renaissance literature in general and specifically the Henry IV plays and discusses the "Coventry scene" (IV.ii) of Henry IV, Part One within this context.

Williams, Michele. "Misconstruction in 1 Henry IV" Cahiers Elisabethains, No. 37 (April 1990): 43-57.

Argues that the while the reading which views Hal as the prodigal son is generally acknowledged to be an "incomplete reading of the play," it is in fact the view "encouraged by Shakespeare, in the same way as Hal encourages the kingdom to misconstrue him as a wastrel."


Festivity and Topicality in the Coventry Scene of 1 Henry IV


Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 (Vol. 49)