Henry IV, Part I Act IV
by William Shakespeare

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Act IV, Scene 1

ACT IV.

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Scene I. The Rebel Camp near Shrewsbury.

[Enter Hotspur, Worcester, and Douglas.]

HOT.
Well said, my noble Scot: if speaking truth
In this fine age were not thought flattery,
Such attribution should the Douglas have,
As not a soldier of this season's stamp
Should go so general-current through the world.
By God, I cannot flatter; I defy
The tongues of soothers; but a braver place
In my heart's love hath no man than yourself:
Nay, task me to my word; approve me, lord.

DOUG.
Thou art the king of honour:
No man so potent breathes upon the ground
But I will beard him.

HOT.
Do so, and 'tis well.--

[Enter a Messenger with letters.]

What letters hast thou there?--I can but thank you.

MESS.
These letters come from your father.

HOT.
Letters from him! why comes he not himself?

MESS.
He cannot come, my lord; he's grievous sick.

HOT.
Zwounds! how has he the leisure to be sick
In such a justling time? Who leads his power?
Under whose government come they along?

MESS.
His letters bears his mind, not I, my lord.

WOR.
I pr'ythee, tell me, doth he keep his bed?

MESS.
He did, my lord, four days ere I set forth,
And at the time of my departure thence
He was much fear'd by his physicians.

WOR.
I would the state of time had first been whole
Ere he by sickness had been visited:
His health was never better worth than now.

HOT.
Sick now! droop now! this sickness doth infect
The very life-blood of our enterprise;
'Tis catching hither, even to our camp.

He writes me here, that inward sickness,--
And that his friends by deputation could not
So soon be drawn; no did he think it meet
To lay so dangerous and dear a trust
On any soul removed, but on his own.
Yet doth he give us bold advertisement,
That with our small conjunction we should on,
To see how fortune is disposed to us;
For, as he writes, there is no quailing now,
Because the King is certainly possess'd
Of all our purposes. What say you to it?

WOR.
Your father's sickness is a maim to us.

HOT.
A perilous gash, a very limb lopp'd off:--
And yet, in faith, 'tis not; his present want
Seems more than we shall find it. Were it good
To set the exact wealth of all our states
All at one cast? to set so rich a main
On the nice hazard of one doubtful hour?
It were not good; for therein should we read
The very bottom and the soul of hope,
The very list, the very utmost bound
Of all our fortunes.

DOUG.
Faith, and so we should;
Where now remains a sweet reversion;
And we may boldly spend upon the hope
Of what is to come in:
A comfort of retirement lives in this.

HOT.
A rendezvous, a home to fly unto,
If that the Devil and mischance look big
Upon the maidenhead of our affairs.

WOR.
But yet I would your father had been here.
The quality and hair of our attempt
Brooks no division: it will be thought
By some, that know not why he is away,
That wisdom, loyalty, and mere dislike
Of our proceedings, kept the earl from hence:
And think how such an apprehension
May turn the tide of fearful faction,
And breed a kind of question in our cause;
For well you know we of the offering side
Must keep aloof from strict arbitrement,
And stop all sight-holes, every loop from whence
The eye of reason may pry in upon us.
This absence of your father's draws a curtain,
That shows the ignorant a kind of fear
Before not dreamt of.

HOT.
Nay, you strain too far.
I, rather, of his absence make this use:
It lends a lustre and more great opinion,
A larger dare to our great enterprise,
Than if the earl were here; for men must think,
If we, without his help, can make a head
To push against the kingdom, with his help
We shall o'erturn it topsy-turvy down.
Yet all goes well, yet all our joints are whole.

DOUG.
As heart can think: there is not such a word
Spoke in Scotland as this term of fear.

[Enter Sir Richard Vernon.]

HOT.
My cousin Vernon! welcome, by my soul.

VER.
Pray God my news be worth a welcome, lord.
The Earl of Westmoreland, seven thousand strong,
Is marching hitherwards; with him Prince John.

HOT.
No harm: what more?

VER.
And further, I have learn'd
The King himself in person is set forth,
Or hitherwards intended speedily,
With strong and mighty...

(The entire section is 3,112 words.)