Henry IV, Part 2 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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

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Summary

The archbishop of York meets with Lord Bardolph, Lord Mowbray, and Lord Hastings to discuss the rebellion at the archbishop's palace in York. They have 25,000 men, but they fear it won't be enough to defeat the king without the help of Northumberland. They reveal that the king is harried on three sides: by the French (the Hundred Years' War between France and England stretched intermittent fighting over the years 1337–1453), the Welsh rebellion led by Owen Glendower, and the English rebels themselves. The archbishop says they should continue their rebellion, and the rebels set to resuming the fight.

Analysis

As with Act 1, Scene 1 the archbishop frames his argument for rebellion in terms of King Henry IV's usurpation of the throne. Specifically he mentions Henry's popularity when he first overthrew Richard II. Now his popularity has waned somewhat, and people look at the past with different eyes. Effectively they are misremembering or rewriting history, imagining that things weren't as bad as they seemed under Richard II. Just as people looked to the future under Henry to be better than under Richard, so now do they look for a new leader to make things better than things are with Henry. It's worth noting the people don't seem too terribly concerned about a king's supposedly divine right to his throne.

In addition the archbishop and Lord Bardolph make mention of the past rebellion and Hotspur's failings. Lord Hastings believes their rebellion against Henry IV can't help but succeed, especially with Northumberland on their side. The archbishop and Lord Bardolph take a more cautious view, reminding Hastings of Hotspur's overconfidence at the Battle of Shrewsbury that led to his defeat and death. They do not want to succumb to those same faults.

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