Henry IV, Part 1

About the Book

Henry IV sits on a usurped throne, his conscience and his nobles in revolt, while his son Hal is immersed in a self-indulgent life of revelry with the notorious Sir John Falstaff. Shakespeare explores questions of kingship and honor in this masterly mingling of history, comedy, and tragedy.

Under the editorial supervision of Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, two of today’s most accomplished Shakespearean scholars, this Modern Library series incorporates definitive texts and authoritative notes from William Shakespeare: Complete Works. Each play includes an Introduction as well as an overview of Shakespeare’s theatrical career; commentary on past and current productions based on interviews with leading directors, actors, and designers; scene-by-scene analysis; key facts about the work; a chronology of Shakespeare’s life and times; and black-and-white illustrations.

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Henry IV, Part 1

Chapter 1

Act 1 Scene 1 running scene 1

Enter the King, Lord John of Lancaster, [the] Earl of Westmorland, with others

KING HENRY IV 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 strands 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 flow’rets with the armèd hoofs

Of hostile paces. Those opposèd 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-sheathèd knife,

No more shall cut his master. Therefore, friends,

As far as to the sepulchre of Christ —

Whose soldier now, under whose blessèd cross

We are impressèd and engaged to fight —

Forthwith a power of English shall we levy,

Whose arms were moulded in their mother’s womb

To chase these pagans in those holy fields

Over whose acres walked those blessèd feet

Which fourteen hundred years ago were nailed

For our advantage on the bitter cross.

But this our purpose is a twelvemonth old,

And bootless ’tis to tell you we will go:

Therefore we meet not now.— Then let me hear

Of you, my gentle cousin Westmorland,

What yesternight our council did decree

In forwarding this dear expedience.

WESTMORLAND My liege, this haste was hot in question,

And many limits of the charge set down

But yesternight, when all athwart there came

A post from Wales loaden with heavy news;

Whose worst was that the noble Mortimer,

Leading the men of Herefordshire to fight

Against the irregular and wild Glendower,

Was by the rude hands of that Welshman taken,

And a thousand of his people butcherèd,

Upon whose dead corpse there was such misuse,

Such beastly shameless transformation,

By those Welshwomen done as may not be

Without much shame retold or spoken of.

KING HENRY IV It seems then that the tidings of this broil

Brake off our business for the Holy Land.

WESTMORLAND This matched with other like, my gracious lord.

Far more uneven and unwelcome news

Came from the north and thus it did report:

On Holy Rood day, the gallant Hotspur there,

Young Harry Percy, and brave Archibald,

That ever-valiant and approvèd Scot,

At Holmedon met, where they did spend

A sad and bloody hour,

As by discharge of their artillery,

And shape of likelihood, the news was told,

For he that brought them, in the very heat

And pride of their contention did take horse,

Uncertain of the issue any way.

KING HENRY IV Here is a dear and true industrious friend,

Sir Walter Blunt, new lighted from his horse,

Stained with the variation of each soil

Betwixt that Holmedon and this seat of ours,

And he hath brought us smooth and welcome news.

The Earl of Douglas is discomfited,

Ten thousand bold Scots, two and twenty knights,

Balked in their own blood did Sir Walter see

On Holmedon’s plains. Of prisoners, Hotspur took

Mordake, Earl of Fife, and eldest son

To beaten Douglas, and the Earl of Athol,

Of Murray, Angus, and Menteith.

And is not this an honourable spoil?

A gallant prize? Ha, cousin, is it not?

WESTMORLAND In faith, it is a conquest for a prince to boast of.

KING HENRY IV Yea, there thou mak’st me sad and mak’st me sin

In envy that my Lord Northumberland

Should be the father of 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. O, that it could be proved

That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged

In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,

And called mine Percy, his Plantagenet:

Then would I have his Harry, and he mine.

But let him from my thoughts. What think you, coz,

Of this young Percy’s pride? The prisoners,

Which he in this adventure hath surprised,

To his own use he keeps, and sends me word

I shall have none but Mordake Earl of Fife.

WESTMORLAND This is his uncle’s teaching. This is Worcester,

Malevolent to you in all aspects,

Which makes him prune himself, and bristle up

The crest of youth against your dignity.

KING HENRY IV But I have sent for him to answer this.

And for this cause awhile we must neglect

Our holy purpose to Jerusalem.

Cousin, on Wednesday next our council we

Will hold at Windsor, and so inform the lords.

But come yourself with speed to us again,

For more is to be said and to be done

Than out of anger can be utterèd.

WESTMORLAND I will, my liege. Exeunt

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About the Author

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was a poet, playwright, and actor who is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers in the history of the English language. Often referred to as the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare's vast body of work includes comedic, tragic, and historical plays; poems; and 154 sonnets. His dramatic works have been translated into every major language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. More by William Shakespeare
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About the Author

Jonathan Bate
SIR JONATHAN BATE is an academic, broadcaster, critic, novelist, and prize-winning author of biographies of Wordsworth, Keats, and John Clare. He is the Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University, as well as a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he holds the title of Professor of English Literature. Until September 2019 he was Provost of Worcester College, Oxford. He was knighted in 2015 for services to literary scholarship and higher education. More by Jonathan Bate
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Eric Rasmussen
Eric Rasmussen, a professor of English at the University of Nevada, is one of today's leading textual experts on Shakespeare. More by Eric Rasmussen
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