The play opens one year after the death of Richard II, and King Henry is making plans for a crusade to the Holy Land to cleanse himself of the guilt he feels over the usurpation of Richard's crown. But the crusade must be postponed when Henry learns that Welsh rebels, led by Owen Glendower, have defeated and captured Mortimer. Although the brave Henry Percy, nicknamed Hotspur, has quashed much of the uprising, there is still much trouble in Scotland. King Henry has a deep admiration for Hotspur and he longs for his own son, Prince Hal, to display some of Hotspur's noble qualities. Hal is more comfortable in a tavern than on the battlefield, and he spends his days carousing with riff-raff in London. But King Henry also has his problems with the headstrong Hotspur, who refuses to turn over his prisoners to the state as he has been so ordered. Westmoreland tells King Henry that Hotspur has many of the traits of his uncle, Thomas Percy, the Earl of Worcester, and defying authority runs in the family.
Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 1
From Henry IV, Part I. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark and Maynard.
(Line numbers have been altered.)
3. New, other than those civil broils which had disturbed
the beginning of Henry's reign.
5. Entrance, mouth. "The earth which hath opened her
mouth to receive thy brother's blood." Gen. 4:11.
13. Close, grapple.
19. As far as, with destination as far as.
20. Now, we are now.
26. Fourteen hundred. Henry IV ascended the throne at
the close of the fourteenth century.
30. Therefore, for that purpose; viz., to tell you that we
mean to go.
31. My gentle cousin Westmoreland. Ralph Nevill, created
Earl of Westmoreland by Richard II in 1397, had joined
Bolingbroke's standard. Cousin (Lat. cum, together, and
sobrinus from soror, sister) is the name of the child of a
mother's sister. Its meaning was extended as here. Gentle
means of gentle birth and breeding.
33. Dear expedience, important expedition.
34. Hot in question, a subject of eager discussion.
35. Limits, distinct specifications. So in Macbeth, ii. 2, "It
is my limited service," my specified, appointed, or prescribed
36. Athwart, perversely.
38. Mortimer. The Sir Edmund Mortimer of this play was
brother of Henry Hotspur's wife, but not really Earl of
March as Shakespeare, following Holinshed, has supposed.
He was uncle to Edmund Mortimer fifth Earl of March, who,
at this time only ten years old, was the rightful heir to the
crown, but was in the custody of the king at Windsor.
40. Glendower. Owen Glendower, the great Welsh chieftain, had been an 'esquire of the body' to Richard II, and
was strongly attached to that monarch. The Sir Edmund
Mortimer of this play married Owen's daughter.
43. Corpse. for corpses. The same plural occurs in 2 Henry IV, i. 1.
50. Uneven, untoward.
52. Holy-rood day. Holy-rood or Holy-cross day is September 14. The battle of Holmedon (now Hambleton) Northumberland, was in 1402.
53. Young Harry Percy. So called because his father the
Earl of Northumberland was also Henry Percy. Shakespeare,
in this play, erroneously supposes that young Harry and
Prince Hal were of the same age. Hotspur was at this time
as old as the king himself, upwards of thirty-five.
59. Them, the news; here referred to by a plural pronoun,
though we have news was in the preceding line. In modern
usage the singular is preferred.
64. Stain'd with the variation of each soil, spattered with
the mud through which he had ridden in such haste.
69. Balk'd, piled together in ridges. A balk, or baulk, is a
ridge between two furrows.
71. Mordake, or Murdoch, was eldest son, not of Douglas,
but of Robert, Duke of Albany, regent of Scotland. The
poet was misled by the omission of a comma in Holinshed.
83. Minion, a favorite.
94. To his own use, to have ransom for them or to discharge
them at his own discretion. Percy had a right to act thus,
by the acknowledged law of arms. He was bound to give up
to the king the Earl of Fife, who was a prince of the royal
blood, his father being brother to King Robert III.
96. Worcester. Thomas Percy , Earl of Worcester, brother
of the Earl of Northumberland.
How to cite the introduction:
Mabillard, Amanda. Introduction to King Henry IV, Part 1 (1.1). Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/1kh4_1_1.html >.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. King Henry IV, Part 1. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark and Maynard, 1885. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/1kh4_1_1.html >.