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King Henry IV, Part I

Please see the bottom of the page for extensive explanatory notes and other helpful resources.

ACT II SCENE I Rochester. An inn yard.
[Enter a Carrier with a lantern in his hand]
First CarrierHeigh-ho! an it be not four by the day, I'll be
hanged: Charles' wain is over the new chimney, and
yet our horse not packed. What, ostler!
Ostler[Within] Anon, anon.
First CarrierI prithee, Tom, beat Cut's saddle, put a few flocks5
in the point; poor jade, is wrung in the withers out
of all cess.
[Enter another Carrier]
Second CarrierPeas and beans are as dank here as a dog, and that
is the next way to give poor jades the bots: this
house is turned upside down since Robin Ostler died.10
First CarrierPoor fellow, never joyed since the price of oats
rose; it was the death of him.
Second CarrierI think this be the most villanous house in all
London road for fleas: I am stung like a tench.
First CarrierLike a tench! by the mass, there is ne'er a king15
christen could be better bit than I have been since
the first cock.
Second CarrierWhy, they will allow us ne'er a jordan, and then we
leak in your chimney; and your chamber-lie breeds
fleas like a loach.20
First CarrierWhat, ostler! come away and be hanged!
Second CarrierI have a gammon of bacon and two razors of ginger,
to be delivered as far as Charing-cross.
First CarrierGod's body! the turkeys in my pannier are quite
starved. What, ostler! A plague on thee! hast thou25
never an eye in thy head? canst not hear? An
'twere not as good deed as drink, to break the pate
on thee, I am a very villain. Come, and be hanged!
hast thou no faith in thee?
GADSHILLGood morrow, carriers. What's o'clock?30
First CarrierI think it be two o'clock.
GADSHILLI pray thee lend me thy lantern, to see my gelding
in the stable.
First CarrierNay, by God, soft; I know a trick worth two of that, i' faith.
GADSHILLI pray thee, lend me thine.35
Second CarrierAy, when? can'st tell? Lend me thy lantern, quoth
a? marry, I'll see thee hanged first.
GADSHILLSirrah carrier, what time do you mean to come to London?
Second CarrierTime enough to go to bed with a candle, I warrant
thee. Come, neighbour Mugs, we'll call up the40
gentleman: they will along with company, for they
have great charge.
[Exeunt carriers]
GADSHILLWhat, ho! chamberlain!
Chamberlain[Within] At hand, quoth pick-purse.
GADSHILLThat's even as fair as--at hand, quoth the45
chamberlain; for thou variest no more from picking
of purses than giving direction doth from labouring;
thou layest the plot how.
[Enter Chamberlain]
ChamberlainGood morrow, Master Gadshill. It holds current that

I told you yesternight: there's a franklin in the50
wild of Kent hath brought three hundred marks with
him in gold: I heard him tell it to one of his
company last night at supper; a kind of auditor; one
that hath abundance of charge too, God knows what.
They are up already, and call for eggs and butter;55
they will away presently.
GADSHILLSirrah, if they meet not with Saint Nicholas'
clerks, I'll give thee this neck.
ChamberlainNo, I'll none of it: I pray thee keep that for the
hangman; for I know thou worshippest St. Nicholas60
as truly as a man of falsehood may.
GADSHILLWhat talkest thou to me of the hangman? if I hang,
I'll make a fat pair of gallows; for if I hang, old
Sir John hangs with me, and thou knowest he is no
starveling. Tut! there are other Trojans that thou65
dreamest not of, the which for sport sake are
content to do the profession some grace; that would,
if matters should be looked into, for their own
credit sake, make all whole. I am joined with no
foot-land rakers, no long-staff sixpenny strikers,70
none of these mad mustachio purple-hued malt-worms;
but with nobility and tranquillity, burgomasters and
great oneyers, such as can hold in, such as will
strike sooner than speak, and speak sooner than
drink, and drink sooner than pray: and yet, zounds,75
I lie; for they pray continually to their saint, the
commonwealth; or rather, not pray to her, but prey
on her, for they ride up and down on her and make
her their boots.
ChamberlainWhat, the commonwealth their boots? will she hold80
out water in foul way?
GADSHILLShe will, she will; justice hath liquored her. We
steal as in a castle, cocksure; we have the receipt
of fern-seed, we walk invisible.
ChamberlainNay, by my faith, I think you are more beholding to85
the night than to fern-seed for your walking invisible.
GADSHILLGive me thy hand: thou shalt have a share in our
purchase, as I am a true man.
ChamberlainNay, rather let me have it, as you are a false thief.
GADSHILLGo to; 'homo' is a common name to all men. Bid the90
ostler bring my gelding out of the stable. Farewell,
you muddy knave.

Continue to Henry IV, Part I, Act 2, Scene 2

In an inn-yard in Rochester, two carriers prepare to load their horses with the bacon, ginger and turkeys they are taking to the market in London. They are commenting on the poor condition of the inn when Gadshill, a highwayman, arrives and asks the men when they plan to reach their destination. They are not specific, but they do mention that they will be joined by some men carrying a valuable booty. The carriers leave and Gadshill calls for the chamberlain of the inn. The chamberlain tells Gadshill more about these men, who carry hundreds of marks in gold. Gadshill promises the chamberlain a share in the profits in exchange for his information and remarks that he has a powerful accomplice that will ensure their freedom if they accidentally get caught.


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 1
From Henry IV, Part I. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark and Maynard.
(Line numbers have been altered.)

2. Charles' wain, churl's wain, or rustic's wagon. The constellation of the Great Bear was popularly so called.

5. Cut's saddle. Cut was a name for a curtal or docked horse.

5. Flocks, locks of wool or hair. Wrung in the withers, galled in the shoulders.

8. Out of all cess, to an inordinate excess.

9. The next way, the nearest way. Othello, i. 3:
"To mourn a mischief that is past and gone
Is the next way to draw new mischief on."
11. Since the price of oats rose. Knight says, "In 1596 the price of oats was exceedingly high. This play was undoubtedly written about 1596.

14. Stung like a tench. Knight says, "The particular charge against fleas of troubling fish is gravely set forth in Philemon Holland's Translation of Pliny."

22. A gammon of bacon, a smoked ham. Razes, bales.

23. Charing Cross. Charing was anciently a detached village. The cross erected there was to commemorate the last place where the body of Eleanor, Edward I's queen, rested on the way to Westminster.

26. An. And in the sense of if dropped its d in Shakespeare's time. Drink, to drink.

27. Pate, vulgar for head.

35. Quoth a, quoth he.

43. Chamberlain, the one who has charge of the bed-rooms.

48. Thou layest the plot how, thou apprisest the thief when an opportunity will occur. It was not unusual in old times for the chamberlains, hostlers, etc., of inns, to be in collusion with highwaymen.

50. A franklin, one who possesses a freehold.

57. Saint Nicholas' clerks. Saint Nicholas was a patron saint of clerks or scholars; and hence, as Nicholas, or old Nick, was a cant name for the devil, the robbers were equivocally called Saint Nicholas' clerks.

62. What. For what? Why? "What sit we then projecting peace and war?" Par. Lost, ii. 329.

65. Trojans, a cant name for boon companions.

70. Foot land-rakers, footpads. Sixpenny strikers, petty robbers who would attack even the poorest travelers.

71. Malt-worms, tipplers.

73. Great oneyers. Great ones are here humorously called great oney-ers. Hold in, be secret, stick by each other.

79. Their boots, their gain, advantage, or booty.

86. The receipt of fern-seed. An old superstition is here referred to -- that fern-seed, if gathered on Midsummer Eve, with certain formalities, and carried in the pocket, would render the possessor invisible. The fructification of ferns being on the back of the leaf, and the smallness of the seeds rendering it difficult to discern them, the vulgar came to ascribe magic virtue to a plant which seemed to be propagated by invisible seed.

88. Purchase, earning. True, honest.

How to cite the introduction:

Mabillard, Amanda. Introduction to King Henry IV, Part 1 (2.1). Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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) < >.


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