King Henry IV, Part II–Act III

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And we witness the declining health of King Henry at the opening of this scene Unable to sleep with the weight of the country on his shoulders, he’s making himself worse. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the amount of things that a king must have to do, all the while keeping a composure worthy of royalty. He still wants to go on the Crusade–the unifying war that he wanted in the beginning of part one. But, we can see that Henry here is starting to lose it, seeing that Richard had foretold all his misfortunes. I love Warwick’s response (I’m not even quite sure completely why) so much so, that I’m going to block quote it!

There is a history in all men’s lives,
Figuring the nature of the times deceased;
The which observed, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, which in their seeds
And weak beginnings lie intreasured.
Such things become the hatch and brood of time;
And by the necessary form of this
King Richard might create a perfect guess
That great Northumberland, then false to him,
Would of that seed grow to a greater falseness;
Which should not find a ground to root upon,
Unless on you. (III.i.)

I guess I’m interested in the necessity that actions take from other actions, playing themselves out from the root and core of the character. Northumberland was going to rebel from Henry, because he acted against Richard. Actions are like seeds that take root.

I don’t have much to say about this short act, and I honestly have no idea what an earth to do with the second scene of this act. I enjoyed the really in depth conversation about the certainty of death being smack dab in the middle of a load of gossip which I couldn’t make heads or tails.

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As far as I can tell, Falstaff is being Falstaff, and I still don’t know what to do with his character, and I refuse to see him as solely comic relief, because fools are the heart of every Shakespeare play I’ve ever read. So, someone help. What do I do with this man?

King Henry IV, Part II–Acts I & II

Hello! Long time, no see. Let’s cut to the chase and dive into part two!

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The first act begins and ends with a similar theme. (Now, let’s look at “theme” as if we were looking at a piece of music–it’s a vein running through a piece.) That of course being hope. We open the play with Rumour, who raises up a hope so high in Northumberland, only for him to be brought so low by the truth. We could say that this raising of hopes is done merely for he sake of dramatic flair, but I think there is a particular reason Northumberland has his hopes raised, only to find out his son is dead and the rebellion at Shrewsbury defeated.

I see a strange confession in thine eye:
Thou shakest thy head and hold’st it fear or sin
To speak a truth. If he be slain, say so;
The tongue offends not that reports his death:
And he doth sin that doth belie the dead,
Not he which says the dead is not alive.
Yet the first bringer of unwelcome news
Hath but a losing office, and his tongue
Sounds ever after as a sullen bell,
Remember’d tolling a departing friend. (I.i.)

I suppose the reason I find the hopefulness that opens the play interesting, is that it would have gone on to be interesting regardless of if “rumour” had reared her ugly head or not. However, it might explain Northumberland’s later actions, so I’ll let the opening rest for now.

The act wraps up, though, commenting that it shouldn’t hurt to hope in success in the continued rebellion against the king, though the Archbishop’s forces are substantially weak without the aid of Northumberland. This however is a more, I suppose, “practical” hope. It is the hope that comes with planning, and then we get a long speech about the war being planned as a house. And what is this war for, but for the sake of a place to call home.

Which leads me to my last comment about the first act, so I can cover a little more of the second. Falstaff says something in his rambling that I found extremely interesting. It’s his comment on the English identity. While I don’t usually take my identity advice from a man who’s identity lies in his stomach, it’s a little different with the confusing figure of Falstaff. “There is not a/dangerous action can peep out his head but I am/thrust upon it: well, I cannot last ever: but it/was alway yet the trick of our English nation, if/they have a good thing, to make it too common.” I’ll just leave that one for thought, because I’m not quite sure what to do with it.

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Coming into the second act, the concentration is mostly on the old gang of Hal’s. Hal’s conversation with the page is exploding with Christian allusions (you can say they’re all over, but there are points where that is the only language Shakespeare uses, and this is one of those points), references to Ephesians, the old church, parish heifers–and the following quotation is how this conversation ends. Please, tell me what it smells like…

From a God to a bull? a heavy decension! it was
Jove’s case. From a prince to a prentice? a low
transformation! that shall be mine; for in every
thing the purpose must weigh with the folly.(II.ii.)

Hmm, high to low, god to sacrificial animal…doesn’t sound familiar?

Then, we have a completely different tone in the next scene. Pistol is throwing every curse of ancient Greece upon Doll. And when Falstaff kicks him out? She sings his praises, comparing him to every Greek hero that has ever done anything heroic–Well, that’s a lie. She actually compares him to the ancient heroes of Troy.

Until tomorrow.

Life!

My apologies, but I have (obviously) taken the week off. I’ll begin on Henry IV, Part II this coming Monday. In fact, my life is getting really crazy (and is about to get crazier) so I may have to be on hiatus until things settle down.

Thank you for understanding! Sometimes the Bard cannot be the priority over real-life events.

King Henry IV, Part I–Act V

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While I tend to be on the side of glory, honor, and all things heroic, I can’t help but understand Falstaff’s sentiments on going into battle. “What is honour? A word. What is that word honour? Air. A trim reckoning!” (V.i.133-135). I’ve been thinking more and more about the character of Falstaff. I’ve been doing some background reading on the play, and it seems the influence of this play comes from Holinshed’s Chronicles. From my internet sleuthing, there is no Falstaff. What does his character change about this “history” play? I’m trying to capture what dimension he adds to understanding Shakespeare’s unfolding of Hal’s character.

I do think Harry does, in a certain way, love Falstaff. During the scene where they find Falstaff stabbing dead Hotspur, Falstaff taking the duty for killing him, Harry doesn’t get angry with Falstaff–even though the past three scenes have drove into our minds that Harry killing Hotspur is how he’s going to regain honor. Though, supposedly, it’s just a word.

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Moving on, the crux of this battle falls on Worcester’s decision to lie regarding the King’s mercy. Perhaps Hotspur would have fought regardless, but honestly, Worcester, you seriously just caused hundreds of lives, including your own, in order to risk not being treated as a traitor. Ugh. Sorry, I must vent my frustration. Who lies about mercy? Proud, arrogant jerks.

Let’s look at Hotspur’s ending words:

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;
They wound my thoughts worse than sword my flesh:
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. O, I could prophesy,
But that the earthy and cold hand of death
Lies on my tongue: no, Percy, thou art dust
And food for– (V.iv.176-185)

It echoes with Falstaff’s speech about honor, except, for Hotspur, that word is what he has spent his life earning. With his death, those things are taken by Harry, which haunts his lasting thought. Next to him, is the “pretending to be dead” Falstaff. Perhaps this is the expanse of a kingdom, the expanse of battle within the kingdom–the honorable next to the base. Who understands it better than Harry himself?

I’m going to start Part 2 this coming Monday. However, I have a trip to Louisville that I am taking, so if I am able to update, it will be extremely brief.

King Henry IV, Part I–Act IV

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During this act, I sometimes imagined Hotspur like a snarling bull-dog, anxious and foaming at the mouth for a fight. After his long-winded speech to Blunt, I can only think that his real purpose in the rebellion is simply to fight. I may be wrong, and I welcome being wrong.

And, let’s just look at the obvious, Vernon’s description of Hal is exactly what Harry was seeking in the long speech he made in the first act. “I saw young Harry with his beaver on,/His cushes on his thighs, gallantly arm’d,/Rise from the ground like feather’d Mercury,/And vaulted with such ease into his seat/As if an angel dropp’d down from the clouds/To turn and wind fiery Pegasus,/And witch the world with noble horsemanship,” (IV.i.104-110). Now, I think there may be a particular reason that Hal’s transformation is described in ancient pagan allusions. There seems to be an interesting tension with the allusions made about Hal, and the turn of speech of Falstaff. Neither is totally pagan or totally Christian. What I said yesterday about Hal’s overcoming Hotspur and “taking on” his honor now strikes me as a very classical idea in terms of war and glory. This idea is broadened by the very beginning of the play–instead of going on crusade, they must fight a civil war. Not only are they in civil war, but it becomes apparent that not everyone follows the same idea about God within the country (which makes the country more fit for crusade), at least when we look at Glendower’s comments in Act III.

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My last note is more just a fleetingly thought, it really may not have anything to do with what’s really going on. The last scene with the Archbishop. Sending his letters through a messenger, named Micheal. Letters that pertain to war. St. Micheal, defend us in battle. It smells like more is going on here. I mean, what is the purpose of that last scene?

Until tomorrow.

King Henry IV, Part I–Act III

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Opening on the bridge of civil war. It’s almost sad to think that the king began this play talking about unification through the one thing that everyone agrees on (Christ). If you can’t agree on who should be king, at least everyone wants to participate in a crusade.

Moving on. Let’s make a list of all the things Hotspur hates:

  1. Poetry
  2. Myth
  3. His wife
  4. Glendower
  5. Mystery
  6. Superstition
  7. “Signs”
  8. Anyone who likes the aforementioned list.

But hey, at least he can appreciate music. If not only for the sake of chiding his wife.

Also, I think it is quite apparent that Mortimer loves his wife, despite that fact that he literally can’t understand her. I’ve long railed against the ending of Henry V, that Henry couldn’t actually love Kathrine because they can’t speak to each other. Yet, I think this particular scene reveals Mortimer’s character. He loves her beauty, her music, and I don’t think that his love is shallow, either. I’m just looking at these two marriages on the eve of war, thinking, “Well, it won’t last long.” Love and war never do mix well.

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Now, I’m particularly interested in Hal’s comment that he will take on Hotspur’s glory by killing him. I’ve been thinking about the idea of transferring glory and deeds through facing off with another person. I don’t have anything solid to say about what I’ve been thinking about, but I will put it here when I have my thoughts flowing freely, and not super garbled as they’ve been…all week.

To end, Falstaff often speaks in biblical turn-of-phrase, or direct quote, or alluding to it. The word of God through the mouth of a sinner? And his treatment of the poor Hostess…I don’t know what to make of him.

King Henry IV, Part I–Act II

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My apologies that this is going to be another shorter entry. Few main points:

  1. No one ever seems to know the time. Yet, the play is a history, set at a particular time. But, seriously, no one knows what bloody time it is.
  2. The trick they play on Falstaff to, well, in a certain sense, humble him, does the opposite. What kind of man are we dealing with? I daresay, he’s referred to by Prince Hal as a sort of…Socrates? “That villainous abominable misleader of youth,” (II.iv.46), which, if I remember correctly, is the exact same slander that Socrates was tried and executed under.
  3. Hotspur’s denial of Kate’s love. Can a man only thinking of war be capable of love? Doesn’t look like it.
  4. The scene with the common folk that opens this act–to me, I always think of the “commoner” scenes as a deeper reflection of the world at large that we tend to be pre-occupied with in the rest of the play.

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Sadly, I again am lacking in the time department this evening. With Valentines Day and my mother’s birthday approaching, I’ve been lacking time to do other things.

Until tomorrow.