Henry IV, Part I "Able To Corrupt A Saint"
by William Shakespeare

Henry IV, Part I book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Henry IV, Part I Study Guide

Subscribe Now

"Able To Corrupt A Saint"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Prince Henry, known among his friends as Hal, is apparently dissolute. He is the friend of Falstaff, whose good character is at least questionable. In their various escapades, Hal and Falstaff banteringly insult each other. As the play opens, Falstaff is discovered asleep in Prince Hal's London house. Hal enters and wakes this sleeping comrade, and they immediately begin their friendly insults. Falstaff compains that "an old lord of the Council" berated him in the street about Hal. Hal replies that "wisdom cries out in the streets and no man regards it." Momentarily bested, Falstaff comments that Hal talks for an evil end ("damnable iteration"):


FALSTAFF
O thou hast damnable iteration, and art indeed able to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm upon me Hal, God forgive thee for it. Before I knew thee Hal, I knew nothing, and now am I, if a man should speak truly, little better than one of the wicked. . . .