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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act III. Scene II.

The First Part of King Henry the Fourth

London.A Room in the Palace.

Enter KING HENRY, the PRINCE, and Lords.

K. Hen.Lords, give us leave; the Prince of Wales and I

Must have some private conference: but be near at hand,

For we shall presently have need of you.[Exeunt Lords.

I know not whether God will have it so,

For some displeasing service I have done,

That, in his secret doom, out of my blood

He’ll breed revengement and a scourge for me;

But thou dost in thy passages of life

Make me believe that thou art only mark’d

For the hot vengeance and the rod of heaven

To punish my mistreadings. Tell me else,

Could such inordinate and low desires,

Such poor, such bare, such lewd, such mean attempts,

Such barren pleasures, rude society,

As thou art match’d withal and grafted to,

Accompany the greatness of thy blood

And hold their level with thy princely heart?

Prince.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 charg’d withal:

Yet such extenuation let me beg,

As, in reproof of many tales devis’d,

Which oft the ear of greatness needs must hear,

By smiling pick-thanks and base newsmongers,

I may, for some things true, wherein my youth

Hath faulty wander’d and irregular,

Find pardon on my true submission.

K. Hen.God pardon thee! yet let me wonder, Harry,

At thy affections, which do hold a wing

Quite from the flight of all thy ancestors.

Thy place in council thou hast rudely lost,

Which by thy younger brother is supplied,

And art almost an alien to the hearts

Of all the court and princes of my blood.

The hope and expectation of thy time

Is ruin’d, and the soul of every man

Prophetically do forethink thy fall.

Had I so lavish of my presence been,

So common-hackney’d in the eyes of men,

So stale and cheap to vulgar company,

Opinion, that did help me to the crown,

Had still kept loyal to possession

And left me in reputeless banishment,

A fellow of no mark nor likelihood.

By being seldom seen, I could not stir,

But like a comet I was wonder’d at;

That men would tell their children, ‘This is he;’

Others would say, ‘Where? which is Bolingbroke?’

And then I stole all courtesy from heaven,

And dress’d myself in such humility

That I did pluck allegiance from men’s hearts,

Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths,

Even in the presence of the crowned king.

Thus did I keep my person fresh and new;

My presence, like a robe pontifical,

Ne’er seen but wonder’d at: and so my state,

Seldom but sumptuous, showed like a feast,

And won by rareness such solemnity.

The skipping king, he ambled up and down

With shallow jesters and rash bavin wits,

Soon kindled and soon burnt; carded his state,

Mingled his royalty with capering fools,

Had his great name profaned with their scorns,

And gave his countenance, against his name,

To laugh at gibing boys and stand the push

Of every beardless vain comparative;

Grew a companion to the common streets,

Enfeoff’d himself to popularity;

That, being daily swallow’d by men’s eyes,

They surfeited with honey and began

To loathe the taste of sweetness, whereof a little

More than a little is by much too much.

So, when he had occasion to be seen,

He was but as the cuckoo is in June,

Heard, not regarded; seen, but with such eyes

As, sick and blunted with community,

Afford no extraordinary gaze,

Such as is bent on sun-like majesty

When it shines seldom in admiring eyes;

But rather drows’d and hung their eyelids down,

Slept in his face, and render’d such aspect

As cloudy men use to their adversaries,

Being with his presence glutted, gorg’d, and full.

And in that very line, Harry, stand’st thou;

For thou hast lost thy princely privilege

With vile participation: not an eye

But is aweary of thy common sight,

Save mine, which hath desir’d to see thee more;

Which now doth that I would not have it do,

Make blind itself with foolish tenderness.

Prince.I shall hereafter, my thrice gracious lord,

Be more myself.

K. Hen.For all the world,

As thou art to this hour was Richard then

When I from France set foot at Ravenspurgh;

And even as I was then is Percy now.

Now, by my sceptre and my soul to boot,

He hath more worthy interest to the state

Than thou the shadow of succession;

For of no right, nor colour like to right,

He doth fill fields with harness in the realm,

Turns head against the lion’s armed jaws,

And, being no more in debt to years than thou,

Leads ancient lords and reverend bishops on

To bloody battles and to bruising arms.

What never-dying honour hath he got

Against renowned Douglas! whose high deeds,

Whose hot incursions and great name in arms,

Holds from all soldiers chief majority,

And military title capital,

Through all the kingdoms that acknowledge Christ.

Thrice hath this Hotspur, Mars in swathling clothes,

This infant warrior, in his enterprises

Discomfited great Douglas; ta’en him once,

Enlarged him and made a friend of him,

To fill the mouth of deep defiance up

And shake the peace and safety of our throne.

And what say you to this? Percy, Northumberland,

The Archbishop’s Grace of York, Douglas, Mortimer,

Capitulate against us and are up.

But wherefore do I tell these news to thee?

Why, Harry, do I tell thee of my foes,

Which art my near’st and dearest enemy?

Thou that art like enough, through vassal fear,

Base inclination, and the start of spleen,

To fight against me under Percy’s pay,

To dog his heels, and curtsy at his frowns,

To show how much thou art degenerate.

Prince.Do not think so; you shall not find it so:

And God forgive them, that so much have sway’d

Your majesty’s good thoughts away from me!

I will redeem all this on Percy’s head,

And in the closing of some glorious day

Be bold to tell you that I am your son;

When I will wear a garment all of blood

And stain my favours in a bloody mask,

Which, wash’d away, shall scour my shame with it:

And that shall be the day, whene’er it lights,

That this same child of honour and renown,

This gallant Hotspur, this all-praised knight,

And your unthought-of Harry chance to meet.

For every honour sitting on his helm,—

Would they were multitudes, and on my head

My shames redoubled!—for the time will come

That I shall make this northern youth exchange

His glorious deeds for my indignities.

Percy is but my factor, good my lord,

To engross up glorious deeds on my behalf;

And I will call him to so strict account

That he shall render every glory up,

Yea, even the slightest worship of his time,

Or I will tear the reckoning from his heart.

This, in the name of God, I promise here:

The which, if he be pleas’d I shall perform,

I do beseech your majesty may salve

The long-grown wounds of my intemperance:

If not, the end of life cancels all bands,

And I will die a hundred thousand deaths

Ere break the smallest parcel of this vow.

K. Hen.A hundred thousand rebels die in this:

Thou shalt have charge and sovereign trust herein.


How now, good Blunt! thy looks are full of speed.

Blunt.So hath the business that I come to speak of.

Lord Mortimer of Scotland hath sent word

That Douglas and the English rebels met,

The eleventh of this month at Shrewsbury.

A mighty and a fearful head they are,—

If promises be kept on every hand,—

As ever offer’d foul play in a state.

K. Hen.The Earl of Westmoreland set forth to-day,

With him my son, Lord John of Lancaster;

For this advertisement is five days old.

On Wednesday next, Harry, you shall set forward;

On Thursday we ourselves will march: our meeting

Is Bridgenorth; and Harry, you shall march

Through Gloucestershire; by which account,

Our business valued, some twelve days hence

Our general forces at Bridgenorth shall meet.

Our hands are full of business: let’s away;

Advantage feeds him fat while men delay.[Exeunt.