Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 632
In envy that my Lord Northumberland
Should be the father to so blest a son,--
A son who is the theme of honour's tongue;
Amongst a grove, the very straightest plant;
Who is sweet Fortune's minion and her pride:
Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him,
See riot and dishonour stain the brow
Of my young Harry...
King Henry expresses his frustration at his son Hal, the first Bolingbrook prince, at the outset of the play. Because King Henry is a usurper, he cannot fill the gap in the monarchy, which is why he looks to Hal. The play's dominant conflict -- whether Prince Hal is fit to be king -- is established early on.
So please your Majesty, I would I could
Quit all offences with as clear excuse
As well as I am doubtless I can purge
Myself of many I am charged withal...
Hal, in conversation with his father, promises to change his ways. This marks the turning point in the play, and the transformation of Hal, although Hal's character change is foreshadowed earlier.
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 wonder'd at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.
These are Hal's words at the beginning of the play, hinting that his association with the tavern crew must end so that he can fulfill his destiny as King of England. Even so, Hal's association with the tavern lends him an aura of sincerity -- a genuine quality seen in the common people. The quote is an excellent example of Shakespeare's poetry -- a vivid but unadorned metaphor.
See how this river comes me cranking in,
And cuts me from the best of all my land
A huge half-moon, a monstrous cantle out.
I'll have the current in this place damn'd up;
And here the smug and sliver Trent shall run
In a new channel, fair and evenly:
It shall not wind with such a deep indent,
To rob me of so rich a bottom here.
Hotspur is the play's most extreme character in the sense that he is single-minded and stubborn. Here he talks figuratively of changing the course of rivers to achieve his aims. (Go to the quote in the text of the play)
Tell your nephew, The Prince of Wales doth join with all the world
In praise of Henry Percy: by my hopes,
This present enterprise set off his head,
I do not think a braver gentleman,
More active-valiant or more valiant-young,
More daring or more bold, is now alive
To grace this latter age with noble deeds
Although Hotspur is slain at the hand of Hal, the latter recongizes his admirable traits. Hal also recongizes that in this "latter age" -- perhaps a less noble age -- Hotspur is an anachronism.
I am a rogue, if I were not at half-sword with a dozen of them two hours together.
I have 'scaped by miracle.
For all of his laziness and gluttonous appetites, Falstaff is the play's (and perhaps Shakespeare's) most endearing character. Here he begins a comical and highly exaggerated description of a confrontation with a bunch of "rogues" -- although Falstaff is about as roguish as one comes.
O Harry, thou hast robb'd me of my youth!
I better brook the loss of brittle life
Than those proud titles thou hast won of me...
Hotspur's dying words, he nonetheless retains his dignity, describing life as "brittle" and less important than the "proud titles", or ideals, that he fought for.