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MonkeyNotes-Henry IV, Part 1 by William Shakespeare
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Act IV, Scene 3

Summary

In the rebel camp, the leaders argue over when to attack the enemy. While Hotspur and Douglas want to attack that evening, before Henry can receive any more reinforcements, Worcester and Vernon recommend delaying the assault until their forces are better rested and more support comes in.

The king sends Sir Walter Blunt as an ambassador of peace to Hotspur. He assures the rebels that all their grievances can be settled by amicable discussions and that they will be given a full pardon. However, the proud young Percy refuses the offer. He raves and rants about the lies and misdeeds of the king. When Blunt asks if he should return this answer to the king, however, Hotspur says no. In the morning, he will send his uncle to parley. Blunt expresses the hope that the crisis will end well and Hotspur allows that perhaps it shall.


Notes

This scene provides a historical background to the rebels' grievances against Henry. When Blunt makes his offer, Hotspur launches into an account of the Percies history with Henry. When Henry returned from exile he was "wretched and low / A poor unminded outlaw sneaking home" (63-4). All he claimed to desire was to reclaim his proper title as the Duke of Lancaster. Northumberland took pity on him and assisted him, which inspired other nobles to do the same. But Henry had other plans in mind. He won the hearts of the people by pretending to care about political reforms, then executed Richard's supporters, usurped the throne, and executed Richard himself. Then he left Mortimer to be held captive, disgraced Hotspur, insulted his family and "committed wrong on wrong" (108). It is a lengthy list of sins, and it has some merit. Henry has indeed been calculating, and Hotspur's account of his coming to power is not that far from Henry's own account of his rise. "I stole all courtesy from heaven, / And dressed myself in such humility / That I did pluck allegiance from men's hearts" (III, ii, 52-4), he tells his son when advising him how a ruler should act. Henry has also treated the Percies somewhat haughtily, although his offer of pardon is extremely gracious. Whatever his faults are, however, he remains the king, and, in the orthodox Elizabethan view, his sins are between himself and God.

Hotspur emerges here in a much more positive light, showing good judgment in addition to his already well-established temper. Although he wishes to attack as soon as possible, for once his desire for quick action has a rational as well as emotional base. Henry's reinforcements are "certain"; his are "doubtful" (7), so it might be better to fight now before Henry's numerical superiority becomes greater. When Blunt makes his offer of peace, Hotspur launches into a long, vehement speech about Henry's misdeeds. However, it is logical and well-argued. Furthermore, he does not deliver this message to the king, but rather keeps the doors open for negotiations. His reply to Blunt's hope that he accept the king's offer also suggests a certain relaxation of pride: "And maybe so we shall, he says" (120). Despite being on the wrong side in the dispute, Hotspur maintains a fundamental goodness and honor.

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