Henry IV, Part 1 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry IV, Part 1 | Act 2, Scene 3 | Summary

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Summary

Alone onstage, Hotspur reads a letter that greatly upsets him; a nobleman he invited to join the rebellion has turned him down. Hotspur says that because the writer is such a coward, he might warn the king of the rebels' plans, and so they will move against King Henry that very night.

Lady Percy (Hotspur's wife, Kate) enters. She complains that she's barely seen her husband for the last two weeks and that he hasn't been eating or sleeping well. She demands an explanation. When Hotspur answers by calling for his horse, Kate voices her concern that Hotspur has gotten involved in Mortimer's maneuvering for the crown. Hotspur rejects her pleas for conversation. This is, he says, a time for violence and injury, not love or explanations, and he cannot tell her the truth anyway, because women cannot be trusted to keep secrets. The furthest he is willing to go is to say she can follow him the next day.

Analysis

This scene returns the audience's focus to the main political plot. The audience learns that the rebels are seeking more allies and that some threat of discovery by the king exists. Instead of using this chance to reflect on his actions, Hotspur decides to advance the rebellion, determining to move that night before the king can learn of their plans.

Hotspur's interaction with his wife continues the theme of order, showing the rebel warrior clashing with the order of the domestic sphere. Hotspur is unable to respond to his wife in a suitably affectionate way, telling her, "Away, you trifler. Love, I love thee not. / I care not for thee, Kate." He has not really stopped caring for her—he still calls her "Love"—but as he points out, the time is not suitable for domestic relationships. England's broken and disrupted social order influences everything, even the most intimate relationships.
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