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Act III, Scene 1
The scene is a room in the Palace of Westminster. King Henry enters in a night gown with a page. The King instructs the page to call the Earls of Surrey and of Warwick quickly, so as to get the latest news of the rebellion. The sick, miserable, and tired King invokes sleep and laments the fact that its soothing effect, which is enjoyed by his lowliest person, is denied him. The King concludes that “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Warwick and Surrey enter and state that they have studied the letters and are aware of the “rank disease” that infects the realm. Warwick comforts the King by saying that giving good advise and a little medicine will cure the rank disease. Northumberland can be subdued easily. Henry exclaims if one could see into the future and see the perils to come, not even the happiest youth would want to live. He recalls the earlier events relating to Richard II. Northumberland had joined forces with Henry against Richard II, to whom he was once loyal. Richard had said that one day Northumberland would turn traitor again. Warwick denies the possibilities of such prophecies coming true. The King is troubled by the fact that the northern rebels have a force of fifty thousand men. Warwick comforts him by saying that the report may be a rumor or exaggeration and that the King’s men are powerful enough to defeat them. He also says that Glendower is dead and urges the King to sleep peacefully or else he may become more sick. Henry agrees and declares that once order is restored he and his lieutenants will leave for the Holy Land.
This scene is important because we finally see King Henry IV. We see the King ailing, exhausted, and worried. All through these abundant disturbances, the picture of the distempered kingdom full of “rank diseases” is common. The King has seen the sea beds change into dry lands and places which were bare turning into sea again. In the tops of the mountains high old anchors have been found. At the time of York’s revolt (1405), only six years had passed since Henry overthrew Richard II, and only two since Shrewsbury. The King very much regrets the fact that he was responsible for Richard II’s death. He knows that he is a sinner and he thinks that this rebellion is a God given punishment for his beastly actions. “The time will come, that foul sin, gathering head,/ shall break into corruption,” shows the extent that regret and misery are experienced by the King.
Warwick is a well-wisher of the King, a man famous as a brave and chivalrous warrior who has fought against the King’s enemies in Wales and at Shrewsbury.