Henry IV, Part 1 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry IV, Part 1 | Quotes


So shaken as we are, so wan with care.

King Henry IV, Act 1, Scene 1

Henry IV, Part 1 opens with a lengthy monologue by King Henry IV, and this is its first line. By tradition, kings speak of themselves as "we," but this speech does more. In it, the king speaks for all of England. The entire country is stressed and disrupted by the rebellion. Additionally the king is distressed that the revolt is keeping him from going on a crusade.


A son who is the theme of Honor'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 dishonor stain the brow/Of my young Harry.

King Henry IV, Act 1, Scene 1

This early speech by the king to his nobles establishes one of the play's major themes: King Henry is so deeply disappointed that he wishes Northumberland's son Harry Percy (Hotspur) were really his.

In Hotspur, he says, he sees what honor should look like, a young man who is growing straight and true. Hotspur is someone to be proud of, while Prince Hal is someone to be ashamed of.

This powerful statement soon becomes an example of dramatic irony, as Hotspur first refuses to surrender prisoners and then rebels against his king.


Who doth permit the base contagious clouds/To smother up his beauty from the world,/That, when he please again to be himself,/Being wanted, he may be more wondered at/By breaking through the foul and ugly mists/Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.

Prince Hal, Act 1, Scene 2

In this early brief soliloquy, which the audience hears but other characters do not, Prince Hal explains his plans for the future.

At this point, the audience does not know if Prince Hal is both self-aware and calculating or if he is trying to justify the fact that he's spending all of his time with people his father disapproves of. This question establishes curiosity and tension.

It also ties in to one of the play's repeated symbols, the sun: Prince Hal here is positioning himself as the sun.


Speak of Mortimer?/Zounds, I will speak of him, and let my soul/Want mercy if I do not join with him./Yea, on his part I'll empty all these veins/And shed my dear blood drop by drop in the dust,/But I will lift the downtrod Mortimer/As high in the air as this unthankful king,/As this ingrate and cankered Bolingbroke./

Hotspur, Act 1, Scene 3

Hotspur delivers this speech to his father and uncle, after the king has just left the stage. Hotspur was angry before about the way he was treated when a courtier demanded he surrender his prisoners, but this speech is the first time Hotspur signals his intention to rebel. He insults the king and plans to raise Mortimer as high as the king, something that neither honor nor law would allow.

This speech also shows why Hotspur is so easy to admire and so politically dangerous. He is completely committed to whatever he feels, including stating publicly that he will spend every last drop of blood in this cause. His bravery is attractive, but it leaves no room for political maneuvering.


The thieves have bound the true men. Now could thou and I rob the thieves and go merrily to London, it would be argument for a week, laughter for a month, and a good jest forever.

Prince Hal, Act 2, Scene 2

This brief speech by Prince Hal shows why he enjoys his time with Falstaff so much: it's a big game. He and Poins are about to rob Falstaff, and he knows their practical joke will create a fun memory that will last his whole life.

This speech is also a comic inversion of the proper order of things. The thieves are about to themselves be robbed.

Finally, the speech also inverts the theme of honor. Where the great warriors hope to do something in public that will be talked about forever, here Prince Hal plans to do something illegal and secret that will be talked about forever. How that is possible—when to do so would expose him—is not considered.


O my good lord, why are you thus alone?/For what offense have I this fortnight been/A banished woman from my Harry's bed?

Lady Percy, Act 2, Scene 3

This is the start of a much longer series of complaints from Lady Percy, who asks her husband why it seems like he doesn't love her anymore. She asks this because he is so transformed. He used to be loving, and he used to sleep calmly. Now, though, everything is changed. He doesn't sleep with her, and he doesn't talk to her. Instead, he wakes up in the night and cries out suddenly.

This shows how the personal and the political are intertwined in this play and how disordered the world has become. By rebelling, Hotspur experiences internal unrest.


Banish Peto, banish Bardolph, banish Poins, but for sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant being as he is old Jack Falstaff, banish not him thy Harry's company, banish not him thy Harry's company.

Falstaff, Act 2, Scene 4

During this exchange, Falstaff and Prince Hal act out the roles of the king and the prince so Hal can prepare for his interview with his father the next day.

Though they trade roles during the scene, in this section Falstaff plays the role of King Henry, who is supposedly talking about Falstaff. The talk is full of self-interest; instead of helping Prince Hal prepare, Falstaff pleads his own case.

As he does, though, he shows he knows the real situation. Prince Hal may be his friend, but he (Falstaff) knows that a real, responsible king would banish Falstaff and all thieves—and that is exactly what Hal says he plans to do.


Why, so can I, or so can any man,/But will they come when you do call for them?

Hotspur, Act 3, Scene 1

This reply to Glendower's claim that he can call up supernatural spirits shows the gap between the worldviews of two of the rebels. Hotspur mocks what he sees as superstition on Glendower's part.

However completely the audience might agree with Hotspur, the fact this exchange happens at all is a bad sign for the rebels. These two men must lead troops together against the king. Instead, they are sparring about philosophy. The audience could easily wince at the idea that two men who see the world this differently will attempt to lead a rebellion together.


But thou dost in thy passages of life/Make me believe that thou art only marked/For the hot vengeance and the rod of heaven/To punish my mistreadings.

King Henry IV, Act 3, Scene 2

These are the opening lines of King Henry's lecture to his son, Prince Hal, and they may be the opening to the harshest lecture from a father to a son that was ever spoken. In these lines, Henry suggests that he must have sinned terribly against God because God has made Prince Hal into a tool to punish him!

It is hard to imagine a more fractured father-son relationship.


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 favors in a bloody mask,/Which, washed away, shall scour my shame with it.

Prince Hal, Act 3, Scene 2

This speech marks the moment when Prince Hal takes off his mask. He is ready to stop carousing in taverns with thieves and liars and ready to prove he is a true son and prince by acting as a brave warrior. By covering himself in blood during the coming battle and then washing it away, he will scour away his shame, a distorted image of Christian baptism.

Prince Hal also risks his reputation here by swearing in public that he will kill Hotspur.


Tut, tut, good enough to toss; food for powder, food for powder. They'll fill a pit as well as better. Tush, man, mortal men, mortal men.

Falstaff, Act 4, Scene 2

In this brief speech, Falstaff waves away Prince Hal's concerned comments about how pathetic his recruits look. Falstaff's casual tone here can be interpreted as anything from callous to shocking. He pulls the mask of honor off war and shows its real face. To serve as "food for powder"—that is, cannon fodder—a man does not have to be a grand hero. A weak and poor man will die was well as a strong noble one. The audience has to decide how seriously to take him given his own self-interest in selecting these soldiers, rather than the ones who could afford to buy their way out of service, and given his lies throughout the rest of the play.


Welcome, Sir Walter Blunt, and would to God/You were of our determination./Some of us love you well, and even those some/Envy your great deservings and good name/Because you are not of our quality/But stand against us like an enemy.

Hotspur, Act 4, Scene 3

Hotspur's speech here shows how deluded the rebel army is in its assessment of its own strength. Hotspur and the rest of the rebels invite Blunt to join them even as they insult him and despite the fact that he is there as a messenger of the king.


Can honor set to a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honor hath no skill in surgery, then? No. What is honor? A word. What is in that word "honor"? What is that "honor"? Air. A trim reckoning. Who hath it? He that died o' Wednesday.

Falstaff, Act 5, Scene 1

In this speech Falstaff responds to Prince Hal's comment that he (Falstaff) owes God a death. Here again Falstaff discards the ideal of honor that motivates the play's heroes. Instead he argues realistically: honor will not set a broken leg or make an injury hurt less. Because the greatest honor goes to those who die heroically, pursuing honor is embracing death. While Falstaff will embrace loose women, cheap food, and all the wine he can get, he will not embrace death.


Stay and breathe awhile./Thou hast redeemed thy lost opinion/And showed thou mak'st some tender of my life/In this fair rescue thou hast brought to me.

King Henry IV, Act 5, Scene 4

The king says this to his son after Prince Hal has driven Douglas off and saved his life. It is a straightforward speech of almost mathematical precision: by saving the king's life, Prince Hal has regained the king's praise. The king's approval is the penultimate (next to last) barrier in Prince Hal's reformation. The only task left for him to perform is to defeat Hotspur.


Thus ever did rebellion find rebuke.

King Henry IV, Act 5, Scene 5

The king has the first line in the play and addresses the upset in the land. While this is not technically the final line in the play, it is the last word on the recent rebellion. Whereas the king's opening speech informed the audience how troubled his kingdom was, this line from the last scene of the play shows that order has returned to the kingdom, at least partially. (Some rebels are still at large.) The "ever" in this last line indicates that there is an eternal natural order to things: rebels always lose, and order is always restored.

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