Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 2
From King Henry the Fourth, second part. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
3. attached, laid hands upon, arrested; 'attach' and 'attack'
are doublets: blood, rank, birth.
4, 5. though it ... it, though it detracts from my greatness to
own it; a humorous way of saying 'it makes me blush.'
7, 8. Why, a prince ... composition, well, to tell the truth, a
prince's inclinations ought not to concern themselves with anything of so mean a nature as small beer; with a pun on studied,
and on composition in its sense of a literary production.
9. Belike then ... got, probably then, though I myself am of
princely origin, my appetite is derived from some less noble
12, 3. What a disgrace ... name! if it is unworthy of me to
think of such a thing as small beer, how much more unworthy of
me is it to concern myself with you in any way, even so far as to
remember your name! Cp. K. J. i. 1. 187, "if his name be
George, I'll call him Peter; For new-made honour doth forget
15. those that were ... ones, sc. but which from much wearing
and often washing have long since lost their colour. This colour
seems to have been a favourite one; cp. Jonson, E. M. I. H. H .
iv. 4, "two pair of silk sockings ... a peach colour and another."
15, 6. to bear, sc. in memory, mind: for superfluity, as a
18, 9. for it is ... there, for things must be at a very low ebb
with you in regard to changes of linen when you are not found
amusing yourself there, i.e. as long as you have a decent shirt to
wear you are sure to be wasting your time at the tennis court;
with a pun on racket in the sense of noisy amusement and that
of the bat used in playing tennis.
20, 1. the rest ... holland, i.e. because you have been obliged to use the holland of your shirts to make you breeches; with a
pun on the Low Countries, or Netherlands, and Holland, and a
further pun on shift = (1) contrivance, (2) a change of clothes, (3)
a shirt, especially the underlinen of women.
22. laboured so hard, i.e. in war.
28. shall serve, will do, will be quite good enough, for, etc.
30. I stand the push, I am ready to meet the thrust; cp. Pt. I.
iii. 2. 66, "To laugh at gibing boys and stand the push Of every
beardless vain comparative."
32. meet, fitting, proper.
33. albeit, although; properly a phrase all(though) it be.
36. Very hardly ... subject, you would find it a very hard task
to be really sad at your father's illness, i.e. you would be only too
glad if your father were sick unto death.
37, 8. as far ... persistency, as utterly without feeling, and as
thorough a villain as yourself and FalstafF.
40, 2. and keeping ... sorrow, and (yet) from associating with
such scum as you, I am naturally disinclined to make any show
of my sorrow.
48. keeps the road-way, follows the beaten track of men in
51. lewd, profane, debauched: engraffed, closely bound to;
the old word was 'graff,' our form 'graft' being really the passive participle, 'graffed' used as though it were an infinitive.
Shakespeare employs both forms. To 'graft' is to insert the
bud of one species of a plant in the stem of another in order to
improve it, the bud thus inserted being tied with string, matting,
etc., to the stem, and in time becoming one with it. Cp.
W. T. iv. 4. 92-4, "We ... make conceive a bark of baser kind
By bad of nobler race."
54. By this light. A petty form of oath, corrupted from "by
God's light," an oath which we often find in the form "'slight":
spoke, for the contracted form of past participles, see Abb. § 343.
56. a second brother, one as dear to my friends as another
56, 7. a proper ... hands, like "a tall fellow of thy hands,"
W. T. v. 2. 178, a well-built, handy, fellow: I cannot help, as
though he were confessing to some depreciatory estimation of himself.
58. the mass, the sacrament of the Eucharist, or Lord's Supper.
59, 60. a' had him ... Christian, when I gave him to Falstaff,
he was still a human being and a Christian.
60, 1. transformed him ape, turned him into an ape, by the
fantastic livery put upon him.
65, 6. a maidenly man-at-arms, more like a blushing miss than
the personal attendant on such a warrior as your master.
67, 8. A' calls me ... window, he called to me a minute ago
through the window of a tavern and I could not distinguish his
face from the red panes of glass in it: the windows of ale-houses
were furnished with lattices of various colours, but especially red,
and a "red lattice" became synonymous with a tavern; cp.
Marston, i. Antonio and Mellida, v. 1. 224, "I am not as well
known by my wit as an alehouse by a red lattice" -, so in M. W.
ii. 2. 28, "your red lattice phrases," i.e. your tavern talk.
68-70. at last ... through, at last I caught sight of his eyes
which seemed to be peeping out from two holes cut in the Hostess's
new scarlet petticoat; these petticoats of scarlet were common
formerly. For another description of Bardolph's scarlet face, see
Pt. I. iii. 3. 27-59.
71. Has not ... profited? sc. from his intercourse with Falstaff.
you ... rabbit, you young scamp, more like a rabbit on its hind
legs than anything else in the world.
75, 6. Althaea ... fire-brand. Johnson points out that Shakespeare
has mixed up Althaea's brand, which was real, with Hecuba's
dream of a brand that was to consume Troy; but possibly, as
Clarke suggests, the mistake was intentional in order to mark the
Page's smattering of know edge picked up from the Prince, Falstaff, and the rest.
77. A crown's worth ... interpretation, your interpretation deserves a reward of a crown; which coin the Prince then gives the
80. cankers, worms that prey upon the blossoms of flowers;
the word is a doublet of "cancer," Lat. cancer, a crab, from the
disease eating into the flesh like a crab with its claws.
81, 2. An you do ... wrong, if with the teaching he gets among
you he does not come to be hanged, then all I can say is that the
gallows will have been cheated of its due — a proverbial saying of
a guilty man escaping punishment.
86. Delivered ... respect. Poins jeers at Bardolph's courtesy in
delivering the letter to the Prince.
86, 7. martlemas. A corruption of "Martinmas," the feast
of St. Martin on the 11th of November, in sarcasm of the youthful frivolity of one so far on in years; cp. Pt. I. i. 2. 177, 8,
"Farewell, thou latter spring! farewell, All-hallow summer!"
90. it dies not, it is as vigorous as ever in evil thoughts.
91. this wen, this wretched excrescence upon my greatness,
like a wen, a tumour, on a man's body.
92. holds his place, behaves as though he were a part of myself,
asserts his intimacy with me.
94, 5. every man ... himself, he is determined that every one
should know he is a knight, for he never speaks of himself without dragging in that fact.
98, 9. takes ... conceive, pretends not to understand, in order
to please the speaker by giving him the opportunity of explaining: a borrower's cap, which the borrower is always so ready to
take off to any one who he hopes will lend him money.
101, 2. Nay, they will ... Japhet, yes, assuredly they will prove their kinship to us, even if they have to go as far back as the flood
to prove it: nay is elliptical, nay, there is no mistake about that.
104. nearest his father, i.e. eldest son; an affectation of
107. Romans. Some editors follow Warburton in reading
Roman, supposing the allusion to be to Julius Caesar's brief
missive to the Senate after defeating Pharnaces, king of Pontus,
B.C. 47, Veni, vidi, vici, "I came, I saw, I overcame," as Rosalind
renders it, A. Y. L. v. 2. 35, and the sentence, "I commend ...
leave thee" gives some colour to the supposition.
109. I commend me to thee, I recommend myself to you, I
greet you with all good wishes: I commend thee, I offer you my
words of praise on your exploits.
112. at idle times, when you have nothing better to do,
113. by yea and no, i.e. yours if you use me well, not yours if
you use me badly.
117. steep, soak; Poins feeling sure that Falstaff would be
ready enough to devour it for the sake of the sack with it.
118. That's to make ... words. To make a man eat his word is
figuratively to make him recall them, abjure them, and the
Prince here says that Poins will be punishing him dreadfully by
making him eat not one but a large number of his words; twenty,
for an indefinite number. Steevens compares the old play of Sir
John Oldcastle; "The Sumner. I'll eat my word. Harpoole. I
mean you shall eat more than your own word, I'll make you eat
all the words in the process."
122. play the fools. We should now say 'play the fool,' taking
the phrase as a compound verb, 'play-the-fool.'
126, 7. doth the old ... frank. The Prince likens Falstaff to an
old boar for his voracity, and alludes to the Boar's Head tavern
in Eastcheap, Falstaff's common resort; frank, an enclosure in
which animals, generally boars, were fattened for the table;
Cotgrave gives "Engraisser, To feed, franke, fatten." Ford also,
The Broken Heart, iii. 2. 147, uses the word as a verb, "one that
franks his lust In swine-security."
130. Ephesians. A cant name for a boon-companion, toper;
apparently from the words of the old church an allusion to the
admonishment of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians against
drunkenness; so Corinthian was a term for a loose liver, probably
with allusion to the sins denounced by St. Paul in his Epistle to
the Corinthians, though the Corinthians were notorious from
early times for their debauchery: of the old church, of the old
sort, his usual companions; so Middleton, The Phoenix, i. 4. 41,
says of a set of rogues, "they belong all to one church."
134. pagan. The word originally meant nothing more than a
villager, Lat. pagus, a village, thence, like heathen, a dweller on
a heath, one unconverted, because people living in remote
districts were not converted so early as those in towns; here for
a loose woman.
135. proper, decent, respectable, honest.
142. govern it, put a curb upon it, restrain it.
144. bestow himself, show himself, behave: in his true colours,
not such as he put on when in the Prince's company: and not ...
seen, without being seen.
148. From a god ... bull, referring to Jupiter's transformation
into a bull when seeking Europa's love: descension, descent;
not otherwhere found; the folios give "declension."
150. the purpose ... folly, the object in view must be weighed
with the folly employed and be an excuse for it.
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_2_2.html >.