Henry IV, Part 1 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry IV, Part 1 | Act 4, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

The Archbishop of York gives letters to Sir Michael to deliver, and they discuss the battle that will happen the next day. The archbishop says the king is angry, and the archbishop fears for the fate of 10,000 men, since Northumberland and Glendower are missing from the rebel side. Michael tries to reassure him by listing the great warriors who have rebelled, but the archbishop is unconvinced. What is worse, the king knows that the archbishop sympathizes with the rebels, so if King Henry wins, the archbishop is in trouble.

Analysis

This scene introduces two new characters, who appear only in this scene. When the play is performed, the scene provides a break in the action so actors can change clothes. The scene also serves to reinforce the negative foreshadowing of the battle and to underscore the threat the rebels face.

Thematically, this dialogue functions to emphasize how completely the rebellion has disrupted England; even an archbishop has been pulled into the struggle and is actively working with the rebels. Now he worries about what will happen if the king wins. Even though an archbishop would have been answerable to the pope and not the king, he would still have been in an extremely dangerous situation if he was known to have conspired against a victorious monarch. Additionally, Queen Elizabeth I, during whose reign the play was performed, was the head of the Church of England, and her religious leaders answered only to her. The connection between religion and state, although different in the different time periods, would have been significant to the original audience of the play.

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