Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 1
From King Henry the Fourth, second part. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
An Induction, or prologue, was not infrequently prefixed to a
play to inform the audience of such facts as they would not
gather from the play itself, as, for instance, in The Taming of the Shrew. Here it serves merely to link together the two parts
of the play.
Stage Direction.Enter Rumour, painted full of tongues.
Such a presentation of Rumour was not uncommon. Among
others, Farmer refers to Hawes's Pastime of Pleasure, where she
is spoken of as "A goodly lady, envyroned about With tongues of
fire"; to one of Sir Thomas More's Pageants, "Fame, I am
called, mervayle you nothing Thoughe with tonges I am compassed all round"; and to Chaucer's elaborate portrait of her in
The Books of Fame.
1. for which ... stop, I say open your ears, for I know that
none of you will wish to stop them.
2. vent, "an opening for air or smoke, an air-hole, flue ... - F. fente, 'a cleft, rift, chinke, slit, cranny'; Cotgrave, A participial substantive from the verb fendre, to cleave. - Lat. Findere,
to cleave" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.). To be distinguished from vent, sale, to vent, to sell, from F. venie, a sale, from Lat. vendere, to
sell; and from vent, to snuff up air, breathe, puff out, from F.
vent, wind, from Lat. ventum, accusative of ventus, wind. In regard to this last, Skeat says, "If we had a large collection of quotations illustrative of the use of vent as a verb, I suspect it
would appear that the connection with the F. vent, wind, was due
solely to a misunderstanding and misuse of the word, and that it
is etymologically due to Vent (1) [ = flue] or Vent (2) [ = sale], or
to confusion of both"...
3. the drooping west, the idea is that of flowers hanging down
their heads as the sun sets. Malone illustrates by Macbeth. iii. 2.
52. 3, "Good things of day begin to droop and drowse, Whiles
night's black agents to their preys do rouse."
4. post-horse, "post originally signified a fixed place, as a military post; then, a fixed place on a line of road where horses are kept for travelling, a stage, or station; thence it was transferred to the person who travelled in this way, using relays of
horses, and finally to any quick traveller" (Eastwood and
Wright, Bible Wordbook, quoted by Skeat, Ety. Dict.): still, continually, ever.
7. The which, see note on i. 1, 164.
10. Under ... safety, appearing all the while in such harmless
and pleasant guise.
12. Make ... defence, exhibit the alarmed mustering of troops in preparation against attack; the converse of the "covert
enmity" which is preparing to "wound the world"; musters,
from O. F. mostre, for monstre, a pattern, view, sight, display,
from Lat. monstrare, to show.
13. Whiles, the old genitive of while, time, used adverbially:
swoln ... grief, in reality pregnant with some other grievance,
cause of anxiety.
15. And no such matter, though in reality nothing of the kind,
nothing to do with war, ails the time.
17. And of ... stop, and so easy of management: the stop is the
hole in the pipe on which the finger is placed to stop or to let out the air blown into it. Cp. Haml. iii. 2, 76, "Whose blood and
judgement are so well commingled. That they are not a pipe for fortune's finger To sound what stop she please"; iii. 2. 373,
"govern these ventages with your finger and thumb, give it
breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent
music. Look you, these are the stops."
18. the blunt ... heads, the dull-witted monster with innumerable heads; "the many-headed multitude," as they are called in
Cor. ii. 3. 18.
20. what need I. It is doubtful whether this is equivalent to
'why need I,' or 'what need is there that I,' i.e. whether what
is an adverb and need a verb, or what an adjective and need a
noun; cp. M. A. i. 1. 318, "What need the bridge much broader
than the flood?", and see Abb. § 297.
22. my household, those who belong to the same family as
myself, the audience of the theatre who like him disseminate
27, 8. But what ... first? But if I acted up to my character, I
should not tell the truth at first, but should scatter abroad a
number of false reports.
33. the peasant towns, is generally taken to mean the rural
towns. Dyce, with Collier's MS. Corrector, reads "pleasant towns," and remarks "one may wonder why Rumour should mention only 'the peasant towns' (a most strange expression), as if
so busy a personage, in the long journey from Shrewsbury to
Warkworth, had failed to 'call in' at the more important
35. this worm-eaten hold ... stone, this time-decayed fortress:
in its literal sense worm-eaten is now applied to wood only;
ragged perhaps indicates not merely the rough, rugged stones of
which the castle was built, but the worn appearance given them
37. crafty-sick, pretending illness, in order to move the pity of the King: come tiring on, come on exhausted by their wearisome journeys.
40. They bring ... wrongs, they bring reassuring news which
is false, and so more dangerous than news of evil that was true.
Act I. Scene I.
Stage Direction. Lord Bardolph. "This person was Thomas
Bardolph, fifth Baron ... [who] joining in the archbishop's insurrection against Henry IV, was defeated at Bramham Moor,
where 'he was taken but sore wounded, so that he shortly after
died of his hurts.' Holinshed" ...
2. What, more indefinite than who, as including the rank, profession, etc. , as well as the personality.
3. attend, waits for, wishes to speak with.
4. is walk'd. Here is expresses the present state, whereas has
would express the activity necessary to cause the present state.
5. Please it, if it please.
8. Should be, may be expected to be, is likely to be: stratagem,
appalling or disastrous circumstance; cp. R. J. iii. 5. 211,
"Alack, alack, that heaven should practise stratagems Upon
so soft a subject as myself!"
15. in the fortune ... son, by the good fortune which attended
upon your son.
19. Harry Monmouth's brawn, that mass of flesh that waited
on the Prince: hulk, properly a clumsy, heavy, ship.
22. to dignify the times, to give lustre to the age.
23. How is this derived? Whence did you obtain your information?
27. That freely ... true, who in all honesty assured me of this
news being trustworthy; for freely, cp. Oth. ii. 3. 335, "Iago. I protest, in the sincerity of love and honest kindness. Cas. I think it freely."
29. to listen after, to inquire for with all diligence; cp. to "hearken after," R. III. i. 1. 54, "He hearkens after prophecies
30. over-rode, caught up and passed on the way.
32. More than ... me, except perhaps such as he received from
me and may hand on to you.
34. turn'd me back, met me and sent me back to you.
37. forspent, utterly exhausted; for - is intensive as in forgo, forlorn, forswear, etc.
38. to breathe, to give breath to, to rest; so intransitively
i. H. IV. i. 3. 102, ii. 4. 275, v. 3. 46.
42. And that young ... cold, cp. below, 1. 51. The meaning of
course is that Hotspur was cold in death.
43. With that ... head, with those words he gave the rein to
his powerful horse. Though two lines lower the horse is called a
"poor jade" there is no contradiction, the meaning being that
the horse was a powerful one, but that having been ridden so
far and so fast it had become jaded, and was now panting with
44. bending forward, as a rider does when vigorously applying
46. Up to the rowel-head, so as to force the rowel right into
the sides of the animal; the 'rowel' is a little wheel armed with
sharp points at the end of the spur; through F. rouelle, from
Low Lat. rotella, a little wheel: starting so, with a sudden start,
his horse answering his application of the spur.
47. to devour the way. So Catullus, xxxv. 7, "viam vorabit."
Steevens compares Job, xxxix. 24, "He [the horse] swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage." Jonson, Sejanus, v. 10,
has, "But with that speed ... With which they greedily devour the way."
48. Staying ... question, not waiting to be questioned by me
any further on the matter: Again, repeat to me what he said.
50. Of Hotspur Coldspur? did he say that from being Hotspur
my son had become Coldspur?
52. have not the day, has not been victorious in the battle; day, for day of battle, combat, and, as here, for victory, is frequent in Shakespeare.
53. a silken point, a tag or lace for tying parts of the dress, especially the breeches, and so for something of little value.
54. my barony, the property which goes with my title: never
talk of it, do not for a moment believe that it is otherwise.
56. instances, particulars, as of Hotspur's death.
57. hilding, according to Skeat, short for hilderling, M. E.
hinderling, base, degenerate, from A.S. hinder, behind, with
59. Spoke at a venture, merely made a guess, spoke at random.
60. like to a title leaf. Steevens points out that title-pages to
elegies, as well as the intermediate leaves, were formerly totally
black, and most commentators see here an allusion to this practice. But it seems hardly necessary to suppose anything more
than a title-page announcing the nature of the volume's contents.
62. strond, an older spelling of 'strand.'
63. a witness'd usurpation, evidence of its inroads; "witness'd is here not a participle but an adjective formed from the noun
witness, and the phrase is equivalent to 'an usurpation of which
there is a witness.'
65. I ran, not merely 'I came,' but 'I was obliged to come
at full speed, to take to flight in consequence of our defeat.'
67. doth, probably here not a case of the third person plural
in -th, but of the inflection of the third person singular of a verb
preceding the subject in the plural, more common with the inflection in -s.
69. Is apter, shows greater readiness.
71. dead in look, looking more dead than alive: woe-begone,
the past participle of 'bego' in the sense of 'beset as by an
environment, affected by an influence, good or evil,' is now used
only in the phrase 'woe-begone,' though Murray, Engl. Dict.,
quotes 'need-begone' from Barbour, St. Alexis, also 'well,'
'evil,' 'sore,' begone, and points out that the phrase originally
was 'him was wo begone,' i.e. to him woe had closed round.
74. But Priam ... tongue, but Priam became aware of the fire
before the messenger could bring himself to deliver his message;
'to find one's tongue' is a common phrase for bringing oneself to
speak after continuing silent, as though the person suddenly
became aware that he had a tongue and some cause to use that
78. greedy ear, ear eager to drink in your news.
79. to stop ... indeed, as though to prevent my ever listening
to words again.
80. a sigh ... praise, a sigh which is sufficient to dissipate,
undo, all your commendations of their valour.
84. See what ... hath! See how quickly suspicion finds its
tongue; said in reference to his own prompt exclamation "Why,
he is dead."
85. but fears, has no other prompting than his fears.
88. Tell thou ... lies, though I am an earl, and to give the lie
to one of my rank would under other circumstances be a gross
insult, do not hesitate to say that the suspicion I have put into words is a lying utterance.
91. gainsaid, contradicted; the prefix is the A.S. gegn, against.
92. Your spirit is too true, not a lying spirit, such as was
allowed to enter into the mouths of false prophets. Cp. i. Kings,
xxii. 21, 22, "And there came forth a spirit, and stood before
the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said
unto him. Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will
be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets." That there
is this allusion, and that spirit here does not mean merely
'mind,' 'soul,' is I think shown by Northumberland's use of the
word divination, which Morton takes up.
93. for all this, in spite of all this that you say about my spirit
and my fears. Johnson would give this line to Lord Bardolph
on the ground of its being contradictory to the remainder of
Northumberland's speech, but Northumberland evidently pauses
after his words, and looks earnestly at Morton, in whose face, as
Rolfe says, he meets with no encouraging response. His worst
fears are now confirmed, and he prepares himself to listen to the
details of his loss.
94. a strange confession, the admission of Hotspur's death
betrayed by his look, but which yet his lips refused to make.
95. fear, a dangerous thing; cp. below, iv. 5. 196, "all these
bold fears Thou see'st with peril I have answered."
98. And he doth sin, Daniel would read "Only he sins," but
the negative in the previous line, "offends not," here linked by
the copula And, is equivalent to a positive 'is guiltless.'
101. a losing office, a thankless task.
102. sullen bell. The dismal monotony of the single bell tolled
when the spirit of a man is taking flight, as opposed to a peal of
bells, is here indicated. The "passing-bell," as it is called, is
still rung in some parts of England, but the origin of the custom
is disputed. Douce is inclined to think that it may have been
introduced with a view to scaring away demons watching to take
possession of the dying man's soul; by others the bell is supposed to have been tolled to solicit prayers for the passing soul,
or to admonish those living to meditate upon their own death; cp. V. A. 702, "And now his grief may be compared well To one
sore sick that hears the passing-bell." [See Macbeth for more on the bellman.]
103. knolling, the reading of the folios; the quarto gives 'tolling.' Both words were originally used in the transitive
sense of striking a bell so as to make it ring, and later of the
bell itself sounding; the Welsh word cnill means a passing-bell.
108. Rendering faint quittance, feebly endeavouring to give back blow for blow with a like strength: out-breathed, out of
breath, spent, exhausted.
112. In few, in a few words; to cut my story short: a fire, a
glow of animation.
114. bruited, noised abroad, generally made known; F. bruit,
a great noise, clamour.
115. best-temper'd, the metaphor is from the tempering of
metal, the bringing of it to a proper degree of hardness.
116. For from ... steel'd, for those on his side derived all their
hardihood from his example; metal is here used both literally
and figuratively, both for metal and mettle, two spellings of the
117. abated, blunted; cp. R. III. v. 5. 35, "Abate the edge of
traitors, gracious Lord." Johnson denies that this is the meaning
here, and gives "reduced to a lower temper, or as workmen call
it, let down"; but he does not support his explanation by any
instance of the word in this technical sense, and steel'd seems to
indicate that Hotspur's metal, so keen itself, had given them
118. Turn'd ... lead. Here the metaphor seems to be continued
by likening the behaviour of the soldiers to the edge of a weapon
turned back in use, as that of a leaden weapon would be turned,
though of course the meaning is that Hotspur's soldiers again
became the same dull-spirited louts that they were before his
spirit animated them. The word heavy then suggests to the
speaker the simile he goes on to use.
120. Upon enforcement, when an impetus is given to it.
127. well-labouring, labouring to good purpose, effective in
128. the appearance of the king, several of the king's adherents
being dressed to counterfeit the king's person; see Pt. I. v. 4.
129. vail his stomach, lower his haughty courage; cp. Cor. iii.
1. 98, "If he have power. Then vail your ignorance."
129, 30. did grace ... backs, by imitating their example lent to
it a grace which it would not otherwise have had.
133. A speedy power, a force marching with all speed.
138. Having been ... sick, which, if I had been well, would
have made me sick; Abb. § 330, notices the "disposition to
place participles, as though used absolutely, before the words
which they qualify."
139. Being sick, now that I am sick.
141. buckle under life, are unable to support the limbs of the
living man, falter under the weight they have to bear. Cp.
Jonson, The Staple of News, ii. 1. 7, "teach this body To bend,
and these my aged knees to buckle In adoration"; and Marston,
Antonio and Mellida, Pt. I. iv 1. 76-8, "O rotten props of the crazed multitude, How still you double, falter under the lightest
chance That strains your veins." Knight points out that the
word is used precisely in the same sense nowadays when applied
to a horse.
142. his fit, the paroxysm of ague: like a fire, with a furious
bound; as incapable of being restrained as a flame of fire.
144. Weaken'd ... grief. In the former instance grief is used of
bodily agony, in the latter of mental agony; for the former, cp.
Pt. I. V. 1. 134, "Can honour ... take away the grief of a
145. nice, dainty; suitable only to those who have the leisure
to be careful about their ailments, not to one who has such
reason for active work.
147. sickly quoif, cap which is a badge of sickness; quolf,
another form of 'coif,' and a doublet of 'cup,' a close-fitting, cupshaped, cap, what we now call a 'skull-cap.'
148. wanton, delicate, effeminate; almost the same as "nice,"
149. flesh'd with conquest, by conquest made eager for further
combat; a metaphor from the practice of encouraging young
dogs to the chase by feeding them on raw flesh; cp. H. V. ii. 4.
50, "The kindred of him hath heen flesh'd upon us"; iii. 3. 11,
"And the flesh'd soldier, rough and hard of heart."
150. iron, sc. of his helmet: approach, let there approach.
151. ragged'st, roughest; Shakespeare uses "ragged" where
we should have used "rugged," both literally and figuratively;
of the former sense we have already had an example in the
Induction, 1. 35; for the latter, cp. Sonn. vi. 1, "winter's ragged
152. the enraged Northumberland, sc. who will retort the frown
with equal anger.
153. Let ... earth, let heaven and earth be mingled in hideous
154. flood, ocean; as frequently in Shakespeare; wild is
apparently proleptic, the ocean which will have become wild
from not being confined within its usual limits; cp. Oth. ii. 1. 17,
"the enchafed flood"; order, the regular working of the laws of
156. To feed ... act, to supply the spirit of enmity with food
during a long-drawn-out struggle; stage and act are of course
used in their technical senses; cp. Macb. ii. 2. 5, 6, "Thou
seest, the heavens, as troubled with man's act, Threaten his
bloody stage": and so scene, 1. 159.
157. one spirit ... Cain, no other spirit than that of Cain, the
first-born child of Adam and Eve, and the murderer of his brother,
159. rude, horrid, dreadful, violent.
160. And darkness ... dead, and the whole creation be extinct
and buried in universal darkness. Vaughan thinks that the
metaphors from the stage is here continued by an allusion to the
extinguishing of the lights in the theatre at the close of the
161. This strained ... wrong, in using such violent language
you are giving way to a passion that is unworthy of your natural
firmness of character.
162. divorce ... honour, do not allow wisdom and a sense of
your dignity, which ought to be joined together, to be put
asunder; equally consult both.
163. complices, confederates, allies; generally used by Shakespeare in a bad sense.
164. the which "is generally used either where the antecedent,
or some word like the antecedent, is repeated, or else where such
a repetition could be made if desired. In almost all cases there
are two or more possible antecedents from which selection must
be made" (Abb. § 270), as here lives, complices, health.
164, 5. if you ... passion, if you give way to, abandon yourself
to, such passionate outbursts.
166. cast, the past tense, calculated.
167. the account of chance, what was the utmost possibility of
success or failure.
168. make head, raise an armed force in rebellion against the
king; cp. Pt. I. iii. 1. 64, J. C. iv. 1. 42.
169. the dole of blows, the dealing of blows, the interchange of
blows with the enemy; dole, that which is dealt out, a portion,
more frequently a portion dealt out in charitable gifts.
170, 1. You knew ... o'er, cp. Pt. I. i. .S. 193, 4, "to o'erwalk a
current roaring loud On the unsteady footing of a spear."
172. were advised, knew full well; cp. H. V. i. 2. 251, "bids
you he advised there's nought in France That can be with a
nimble galliard won": capable, susceptible; cp, K. J. iii. 1. 12,
"I am sick and capable of tears."
174. where most ... ranged, where there was the greatest commerce, intercourse, with danger; where danger stalked about in
most various shape.
175. none of this, no risks and perils.
177. The stiff-borne action, the course so obstinately pursued;
for the same idea in a literal sense, cp. Haml. i. 5. 95, "And
you, my sinews, grow not instant old, But bear me stiffly up."
179. More than ... be? beyond the actual occurrence of that
which it was so probable would occur?
180. engaged ... loss, shareholders in their unfortunate enterprise; the figure is that of a mercantile engagement. For the
construction, Malone compares Pt. 1. iii. 2. 98, "He hath more
worthy interest to the state Than thou the shadow of succession."
182. That if ... one, that the chances of success were ten to one
184. Choked ... fear'd, completely did away with all consideration of the danger that was to be feared as likely to be encountered; for this figurative sense of Choked, cp. M. M. v. 1. 427,
"else imputation ... might reproach your life And choke your
good to come"; so T. N. v. 1. 150, "it is the baseness of thy
fear That makes thee strangle thy propriety."
185. o'erset, overthrown, turned upside down: venture again,
let us make one more attempt to regain our position.
186. Come ... goods, come, we will set out once more, risking
our all, life and worldly wealth.
189. up, sc. in revolt.
191. double surety, i.e. of his spiritual and personal authority.
192. the corpse, the body without the soul, only the gross
material body unanimated by that which alone is worth anything, the spirit: only but is a redundancy.
196. queasiness, sickly feeling of aversion to the task.
197. potions, sc. medicinal.
199. froze, the inflection in -en being commonly dropped in
201. Turns ... religion, gives to that which as revolt against
constituted authority would seem sinful, the sanction of religion.
202. Supposed, he being looked upon.
204, 5. And doth ... stones, and gives to his insurrection a wider scope by hallowing it with the sacred pretext of retribution for a foul murder; Pomfret, the castle in which Richard was put to death.
206. Derives ... cause, makes heaven the source and origin of
the cause in which he fights; puts forth the will of heaven as
prompting and authorizing his revolt.
207. doth bestride ... land, stands over and protects a land
struck down by tyranny, as in battle a brave man will stand over and protect the body of a comrade lying at the mercy of the foe;
cp. Pt. I. V. 1. 122, "Hal, if thou see me down in the battle and
bestride me, so; 'tis a point of friendship"; Macb. iv. 3. 4,
"Let us rather ... like good men Bestride our down-fall'n
209. more and less, high and low; cp. Macb. v. 4. 12, "Both
more and less, have given him the revolt."
214. posts, messengers; see note on Induction, 4.
215. Never so few, never were our friends so few in number.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. King Henry IV, second part. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1911. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/2kh4_1_1.html >.