home contact

King Henry IV, Part II

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

ACT I SCENE III York. The Archbishop's palace. 
ARCHBISHOP OF YORKThus have you heard our cause and known our means;
And, my most noble friends, I pray you all,
Speak plainly your opinions of our hopes:
And first, lord marshal, what say you to it?
MOWBRAYI well allow the occasion of our arms;
But gladly would be better satisfied
How in our means we should advance ourselves
To look with forehead bold and big enough
Upon the power and puissance of the king.
HASTINGSOur present musters grow upon the file10
To five and twenty thousand men of choice;
And our supplies live largely in the hope
Of great Northumberland, whose bosom burns
With an incensed fire of injuries.
LORD BARDOLPHThe question then, Lord Hastings, standeth thus;
Whether our present five and twenty thousand
May hold up head without Northumberland?
HASTINGSWith him, we may.
LORD BARDOLPHYea, marry, there's the point:
But if without him we be thought too feeble,
My judgment is, we should not step too far20
Till we had his assistance by the hand;
For in a theme so bloody-faced as this
Conjecture, expectation, and surmise
Of aids incertain should not be admitted.
ARCHBISHOP OF YORK'Tis very true, Lord Bardolph; for indeed
It was young Hotspur's case at Shrewsbury.
LORD BARDOLPHIt was, my lord; who lined himself with hope,
Eating the air on promise of supply,
Flattering himself in project of a power
Much smaller than the smallest of his thoughts:30
And so, with great imagination
Proper to madmen, led his powers to death
And winking leap'd into destruction.
HASTINGSBut, by your leave, it never yet did hurt
To lay down likelihoods and forms of hope.
LORD BARDOLPHYes, if this present quality of war,
Indeed the instant action: a cause on foot
Lives so in hope as in an early spring
We see the appearing buds; which to prove fruit,
Hope gives not so much warrant as despair40
That frosts will bite them. When we mean to build,
We first survey the plot, then draw the model;
And when we see the figure of the house,
Then must we rate the cost of the erection;
Which if we find outweighs ability,
What do we then but draw anew the model
In fewer offices, or at last desist
To build at all? Much more, in this great work,
Which is almost to pluck a kingdom down
And set another up, should we survey50
The plot of situation and the model,
Consent upon a sure foundation,
Question surveyors, know our own estate,
How able such a work to undergo,
To weigh against his opposite; or else
We fortify in paper and in figures,
Using the names of men instead of men:
Like one that draws the model of a house
Beyond his power to build it; who, half through,
Gives o'er and leaves his part-created cost60
A naked subject to the weeping clouds
And waste for churlish winter's tyranny.
HASTINGSGrant that our hopes, yet likely of fair birth,

Should be still-born, and that we now possess'd
The utmost man of expectation,
I think we are a body strong enough,
Even as we are, to equal with the king.
LORD BARDOLPHWhat, is the king but five and twenty thousand?
HASTINGSTo us no more; nay, not so much, Lord Bardolph.
For his divisions, as the times do brawl,70
Are in three heads: one power against the French,
And one against Glendower; perforce a third
Must take up us: so is the unfirm king
In three divided; and his coffers sound
With hollow poverty and emptiness.
ARCHBISHOP OF YORKThat he should draw his several strengths together
And come against us in full puissance,
Need not be dreaded.
HASTINGSIf he should do so,
He leaves his back unarm'd, the French and Welsh
Baying him at the heels: never fear that.80
LORD BARDOLPHWho is it like should lead his forces hither?
HASTINGSThe Duke of Lancaster and Westmoreland;
Against the Welsh, himself and Harry Monmouth:
But who is substituted 'gainst the French,
I have no certain notice.
And publish the occasion of our arms.
The commonwealth is sick of their own choice;
Their over-greedy love hath surfeited:
An habitation giddy and unsure
Hath he that buildeth on the vulgar heart.90
O thou fond many, with what loud applause
Didst thou beat heaven with blessing Bolingbroke,
Before he was what thou wouldst have him be!
And being now trimm'd in thine own desires,
Thou, beastly feeder, art so full of him,
That thou provokest thyself to cast him up.
So, so, thou common dog, didst thou disgorge
Thy glutton bosom of the royal Richard;
And now thou wouldst eat thy dead vomit up,
And howl'st to find it. What trust is in
these times?100
They that, when Richard lived, would have him die,
Are now become enamour'd on his grave:
Thou, that threw'st dust upon his goodly head
When through proud London he came sighing on
After the admired heels of Bolingbroke,
Criest now 'O earth, yield us that king again,
And take thou this!' O thoughts of men accursed!
Past and to come seems best; things present worst.
MOWBRAYShall we go draw our numbers and set on?
HASTINGSWe are time's subjects, and time bids be gone.110

Continue to 2 Henry IV, Act 2, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 3
From King Henry the Fourth, second part. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.

Stage Direction, the Archbishop. "This prelate, Richard Le Scrope, was second son of Richard, Lord Scrope of Bolton, who had been chancellor in the reign of Richard II. ... Nearly all historians ... have made the mistake, fallen into by the poet, in calling the archbishop a brother of the Earl of Wiltshire, who was a Scrope of Masham" ... (French, S. G.): Hastings. "The person here intended who took part in the archbishop's rebellion was Sir Ralph Hastings, not 'Lord Hastings.'... Hume, who calls him "Sir Ralph, says that his life was spared after the dispersion of the confederates; other writers, followed by the dramatist, state that he was beheaded" ... (id.).

1. known, become acquainted with.

4. lord marshal. The title of Earl Marshal of England was and still is hereditary in the family of the Duke of Norfolk. This Lord Mowbray was the eldest son of Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, but on account of his father's attainder by Richard the Second he never enjoyed the superior title, which however was restored to his brother who succeeded him in consequence of his dying without issue.

5. the occasion ... arms, what in 1.1 is called "our cause."

6-9. But gladly ... king, but should be glad to be shown at greater length how in respect to our means we may expect so far to improve our position as to be able boldly to meet the mighty power in arms against us under the king.

10, 1. Our present ... choice, our present muster-roll of troops which we can put into the field of battle amounts to five and twenty thousand picked soldiers; file, list, line. Low Lat. fila, a string of things.

12, 3. And our ... Northumherland, and we have large expectation of reinforcements from the Earl of Northumberland.

17. May hold up head, are capable of offering a confident resistance; may originally meant 'to be able.'

20. step too far, take a step which we shall be unable to retrace.

21. had, should have: by the hand, close at hand, so near that we can grasp it.

22-4. For in a theme ... admitted, for in a business of so desperate a nature we cannot afford to trust anything to such doubtful security as that of conjecture, etc. We must have certainties not probabilities for a basis: incertain, Shakespeare uses both this form and "uncertain."

26. It was ... Shrewsbury, this trusting to probabilities was what caused Hotspur's downfall at Shrewsbury.

27. who lined ... hope, for he fed himself on, fortified his determination with, mere hopes; cp. Pt. I. ii. 3. 86, "to line his enterprise."

28. Eating ... supply, feeding upon the unsubstantial fare of mere promises of succour; cp. Haml. iii. 2. 99, "I eat the air, promise-crammed" (sc. like the chameleon which was believed to feed upon air).

29. 30. Flattering ... thoughts, vainly buoying himself up with the idea of what he would do with reinforcements which turned out to be utterly incommensurate with the lowest of his ambitious designs; for project, cp. M. A. iii. 1. 55, "she cannot love, Nor take no shape nor project of affection, She is so self-endeared."

31, 2. with great ... madmen, with the extravagant ideas peculiar to, characteristic of, madmen.

33. winking, closing his eyes to actual facts; blindly.

35. To lay down ... hope, to draw out formal estimates of what we may hope for; to make, as it were, a budget of our income in the matter of hope.

36-41. Yes, if this ... them. I have adopted Knight's punctuation of this passage, though without much feeling of certainty that it is not corrupt. With this punctuation the meaning will be, Yes, it does do harm to lay down these likelihoods if the circumstances of the war in which we are about to engage - or, rather I should say, the emergency in which we are actually placed, the matter being no longer one of consideration but one in which action has been already taken, - afford no surer prospect of ripening to success than buds which appear in an unusually early spring do of maturity; for as in the case of those buds the danger of their being nipped by frost is greater than the hope of their developing into fruit, so in our case the danger of being crushed is greater than the hope of overcoming our enemies. Most modern editors adopt Malone's conjecture in for if; for Indeed the principal conjectures are 'Impel,' 'Induc'd,' 'Indued,' . 'End in'; for instant, ' instanc'd,' and 'infant.' For which to prove fruit, see Abb. § 354.

42. the plot, sc. of ground on which the building is to be erected.

43. the figure, the architect's plan.

45. outweighs ability, is beyond our means.

47. In fewer offices, with fewer rooms for the servants, such as the kitchens, pantries, butteries, etc. Cp. R. II. i. 2. 69, "empty lodgings and unfurnish'd walls, Unpeopled offices"; for or at least, Hanmer reads 'or else,' Capell 'or, at last,' and at least is of course illogical as it would be a much greater change of plans to give up building altogether than to modify the size of the house.

49. Which is ... down, the object or plan of which is to, etc.

52. Consent ... foundation, determine upon a sure foundation after deliberate consultation.

53. know ... estate, ascertain clearly what our means are.

54, 5. How able ... opposite, how far we are in a position to undertake the work in such a way as shall be adequate to the difficulties in our path: here the figurative and the literal meanings are blended together, his opposite meaning in the former that which is opposed to our estate, in the latter 'our opponents'; from our means the pronoun 'we' is to be inferred.

57. Using ... men, trusting to a paper-army only.

59. who, half through, and then, having got half through his undertaking.

60. his part-created cost, his expensive erection only partly complete.

61. A naked ... clouds, exposed to the downpour of rain from the clouds which seem to bewail the builder's folly.

62. waste, a subject for destruction.

64. Should he still-born, should come to no happy birth, should be as futile as a child born dead.

64, 5. and that we ... expectation, and that we cannot look for a single man beyond what we have already; possess'd rather than possess as of a matter already settled and done with.

67. to equal with, to meet on equal terms.

68. What ... thousand? i.e. five and twenty thousand strong.

69. To us no more, so far as we are concerned, so far as concerns the force we have to deal with, that is the whole of his strength.

70, 1. For his divisions ... heads, for owing to the various quarrels in which he is involved, his forces are cut up into three divisions.

71. against the French, "During this rebellion of Northumberland and the Archbishop, a French army of twelve thousand men landed at Milford Haven, in Wales, for the aid of Owen Glendower" (Steevens). Henry, however, did not meet them till after the defeat of the rebels.

73. Must take up us, must deal with us, encounter us; cp. H. V. ii. 4. 72, "Take up the English short": unfirm, insecurely seated on his throne.

74, 5. his coffers ... emptiness, his coffers ring hollow from being so empty. Cp. H. V. iv. 4. 70-3, "I did never know so full a voice issue from so empty a heart; but the saying is true, 'The empty vessel makes the greater sound.'"

76. his several strengths, his divided resources; but in reality they seem never to have been divided.

78, 9. If he should ... unarm'd, Abbott, § 371, on conditional sentences, remarks, "Sometimes the consequent is put graphically, in the present merely for vividness."

80. Baying ... heels, following him closely and barking at him; to bay is a curtailed form of abay, from F. abbayer, to bark at.

81. like, likely.

82. The Duke of Lancaster. Malone points out that this is an anachronism, Prince John not having been created a duke till the second year of Henry the Fifth's reign.

84. is substituted, acts as the king's deputy; the substantive in this sense is frequent in Shakespeare.

85. notice, information.

87. their own choice, sc. Henry.

88. hath surfeited, has gratified itself to excess, and now is beginning to nauseate that in which it once so delighted.

91. thou fond many, thou foolish multitude; fond is originally formed, the passive participle of the verb fonnen, to act foolishly; many, here used as a substantive, as in Cor. iii. 1. 66, "The mutable, rank-scented many."

92. beat heaven, with the reverberations of their cries; cp. R. J. iii. 5. 21, "the lark, whose notes do beat The vaulty heaven."

94. trimm'd ... desires, decked out in the blessings which you courted, sc. the accession of Henry to the throne.

96. That thou ... up, are so eager to vomit him up, get rid of him, that you do not wait to be provoked to the action, but actually provoke yourselves to do so: an allusion to the taking of emetics in order to stir up the stomach to reject food that is obnoxious to it.

97. thou common dog, the comparison is to a low-bred hound that will greedily eat any food; with a play on the word common in reference to the common people, the commonalty.

98. glutton, gluttonous; cp. V. A. 399, "his glutton eye"; iii. H. VI. ii. 3. 138, "venom toads"; and see Abb. § 22: bosom, (1) heart in which you once cherished him, (2) stomach.

99. And now thou ... up, and now you would again feast on that which you have vomited up, your dead king; an allusion to Proverbs, xxvi. 11, "As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly."

100. And howl'st ... it, and utter cries of eager desire to find it.

102. on, of.

103. Thou, that ... head, see R. II. v. 2. 4-6, "At that sad stop, my lord. Where rude misgovern'd hands from windows' tops Threw dust and rubbish on King Richard's head."

104, 5. When through ... Bolingbroke, when at the heels of the admired Bolingbroke he rode in such sad plight through London, then rejoicing at his downfall.

109. draw our numbers, assemble our forces; cp. K. J. iii. i. 339, "Cousin, go draw our puissance together."

110. We axe ... gone, time bids us move forwards, and we must obey its commands.

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) < >.

Related Articles

 Henry IV Overview (with theme analysis)
 Introduction to Prince Hal
 Introduction to Falstaff
 Introduction to Hotspur
 Introduction to Owen Glendower

 Henry IV Play History
 Shakespeare's History Plays: The Ultimate Quiz
 Henry IV Plot Summary
 Henry IV: Q & A

 Sources for Henry IV
 Essay Topics for Henry IV
 Famous Quotations from 1 Henry IV
 Shakespeare's Falstaff and the Queen

 Characteristics of Elizabethan Drama
 Shakespeare's Reputation in Elizabethan England
 Shakespeare's Impact on Other Writers
 Shakespeare's Writing Style

 Words Shakespeare Coined
 Quotations About William Shakespeare

 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Boss: The Master of Revels