Henry IV Part 1 (1917) Yale/Notes
I. i. 5. entrance of this soil. The earth is personified, and the dry surface is called her mouth.
I. i. 28. Cf. the last lines of Shakespeare's Richard II, King Henry's speech when news is brought him that, at his suggestion. King Richard, his predecessor whose throne he has usurped, has been murdered:
Lords, I protest, my soul is full of woe
That blood should sprinkle me to make me grow:
Come, mourn with me for that I do lament
And put on sullen black incontinent:
I'll make a journey to the Holy Land
To wash this blood from off my guilty hand.
During the year which has intervened, civil wars have prevented the fulfilment of this vow.
I. i. 38. Mortimer, Earl of March, rightful heir to the throne of England at the time of King Richard's death (see genealogical table in note on I. iii. 145-146), now in command of King Henry's forces on the western front.
I. i. 52. Holy-rood day. Holy Cross Day, September 14.
I. i. 53. Young Harry Percy. The youngest member of the great Percy family, now in command of the king's forces on the northern front. The Percies (see Dramatis Personæ) had been King Henry's chief supporters in his usurpation of the throne.
I. i. 71. Mordake, the Earl of Fife, was not son to beaten Douglas, but to the Duke of Albany, regent of Scotland. Shakespeare's error is due to a mistake in punctuation in Holinshed's list of Hotspur's prisoners, which reads: 'Mordacke earle of Fife, son to the governour Archembald earle Dowglas, etc.' A comma was omitted after 'governour,' and Shakespeare understood that 'Archembald' was 'governour.'
I. i. 91-95. By the law of arms, the King might claim only such prisoners as were of royal blood, and the historical Hotspur was therefore entirely within his rights in refusing to send to the king any prisoners except Mordake. But Shakespeare did not know that Mordake was of royal blood (see preceding note) and he was apparently ignorant of the law of arms which gave Hotspur the right to keep the rest of the prisoners. No attempt is made to explain why Shakespeare's Hotspur sent Mordake to the king—Shakespeare merely follows the facts as set down in Holinshed. The indignation of King Henry and Westmoreland, in this scene, at 'young Percy's pride'; Hotspur's conciliatory tone and his explanations when he appears at court (I. iii.); and the fact that neither Hotspur nor his uncle, Worcester, the experienced diplomat, ever suggests that Hotspur has a legal right to his prisoners; all these things indicate that Shakespeare's Hotspur is not within his rights in keeping the prisoners. His refusal was, at first, a thoughtless and impetuous act; and the refusal once made, the shrewd Worcester saw reasons for influencing his nephew to stand by this first hasty reply to the king's demand.
I. i. 97. Malevolent to you in all aspects. An astrological allusion, referring to the supposed good and evil influences of the planets. The king uses an astrological figure in his address to Worcester in V. i. 17-21.
I. i. 107. uttered is used here in its peculiar Elizabethan sense, namely, to put into circulation or to offer to the public. The substance of the king's speech is: 'Dismiss the lords until Wednesday next, but you yourself return to me at once, for more is to be said and done, than I can say or do in public in my present angry condition.'
I. ii. 16. seven stars. The Pleiades; also a common tavern-sign.
I. ii. 16. wandering knight. El Donzel del Febo, Knight of the Sun (or Phœbus), hero of a popular Spanish romance. This quotation is perhaps from some contemporary ballad founded on the romance.
I. ii. 19-33. Falstaff plays on the word Grace, using it first as a title, then in reference to the spiritual state of grace, and finally as 'grace before meat.' From this simple pun he proceeds to a more complicated play on words. There is the obvious play on night and knight in l. 27, followed in l. 28 by the play on the words body, beauty, and booty, in each of which the vowel sound, in Shakespeare's day, approximated the round o sound, as in note. Finally there is the play on the phrase under whose countenance.
I. ii. 49. Hal's quibble on the word durance would have greater significance if a buff jerkin were the costume of a prisoner instead of the ordinary dress of a sheriff's officer. The ideas of a sheriff and 'durance vile' are closely enough associated, however, to give some point to the jest.
I. ii. 87. Eating the flesh of a hare was supposed to generate melancholy.
I. ii. 88. Moor-ditch was a stagnant ditch and morass outside the walls of London.
I. ii. 101. damnable iteration. A damnable trick of quoting and misapplying.
I. ii. 118. Gadshill. The name of one of the robbers and of the place of the robbery.
I. ii. 177. All-hallown summer. The warm weather which comes at about the time of All Saints Day, November first; called in America Indian Summer. The reference is to Falstaff's youthful spirit in his old age.
I. ii. 199. Sirrah. The ordinary form of address to children and servants; here, a sign of Poins's undue familiarity with the Prince.
I. ii. 206. the third, i.e., Falstaff. Shakespeare's inaccuracy in unimportant details is well illustrated here. He has just mentioned four robbers (ll. 180-181), and now implies, at least, that there are to be but three. The phrase 'those men that we have already waylaid' (ll. 181-182) is also inaccurate and misleading. Falstaff and his three followers both waylay and rob the men, after Hal and Poins have withdrawn. But Shakespeare wrote primarily for the stage, and not for the closet, and inaccuracies of this sort are not apparent on the stage.
I. iii. 36. milliner. In Shakespeare's time, milliners, i.e., dealers in women's clothes from Milan, were, for the most part, men.
I. iii. 56. God save the mark. A deprecatory expression, of obscure origin, used when reference is made to an unpleasant subject.
I. iii. 137. Bolingbroke. King Henry is referred to by many names during the course of the play. Before his accession he was commonly known as Henry of Bolingbroke, from the fact that he was born in Bolingbroke castle in Lincolnshire. He also bore the titles Earl of Derby, Duke of Hereford, and, after his father's death, Duke of Lancaster.
I. iii. 145-146. The following genealogical table will help to make clear this question of the succession to the English throne:
|Edward III (1327–1377)|
|Edward, Prince of Wales ('the Black Prince')|
|Lionel, Duke of Clarence||John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster|
|Philippa, m. Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March||Henry IV|
|Roger M., Earl of March||Edmund M.||Elizabeth M.|
m. Harry Percey
|Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, d. 1424|
Shakespeare follows the chroniclers in confusing Edmund Mortimer, the son of Philippa, with Edmund Mortimer, the son of Roger. It was Roger Mortimer who was King Richard's heir, and was so proclaimed in the October Parliament of 1385. At his death in 1398, one year before King Richard's, his seven-year-old son succeeded to his claim. But it was the elder Edmund, brother to Roger, who fought Glendower and married his daughter. Hotspur's brother-in-law, therefore, was not heir to the throne. The heir, as the table shows, was the nephew of Lady Percy, and in III. i. 195 Mortimer refers to Lady Percy as 'my aunt Percy.' Here (l. 156), and in l. 80, Mortimer is represented as Hotspur's brother-in-law.
I. iii. 245. York. Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, younger brother to John of Gaunt, uncle to King Richard and King Henry. Richard had appointed York regent of England during the king's absence in Ireland. Richard had previously exiled Henry, and the latter chose this period of the king's absence from his realm to return and claim his father's estates, which had been unjustly confiscated by Richard to pay for this same Irish expedition. Henry was met at Ravenspurgh, on the coast of Yorkshire, by Northumberland; at Doncaster, in southern Yorkshire, by Worcester; and finally at Berkeley Castle, in Gloucestershire, by Hotspur. The interview between Hotspur and Henry, from which Hotspur quotes in his next speech, is presented in Shakespeare's Richard II, II. iii.
I. iii. 271. the Lord Scroop. One of the adherents of King Richard, executed by order of Henry; see Richard II, III. ii.
II. i. 2. Charles' Wain. Probably a corruption of 'churl's wain' or 'countryman's wagon,' the name given to the constellation which is now known as the Great Bear.
II. i. 10. next, the old superlative of nigh, of which near was the comparative. Cf. III. i. 263.
II. i. 28. Charing-cross, in Shakespeare's time a village on the road from London to Westminster; now in the heart of Greater London.
II. i. 67. Saint Nicholas, a popular saint in the Roman and Russian Churches, now familiarly known as Santa Claus, was the patron saint of scholars, children, parish clerks, travellers, sailors, and pawn- brokers. His aid was invoked by travellers to protect them from perils of the road, especially from robbers.
II. i. 81 ff. foot-land-rakers, foot-pads; long-staff sixpenny strikers, fellows who would knock a man down to get sixpence from him; mustachio-purple-hued malt worms, fellows whose moustaches are so constantly immersed in ale that they have become purple; tranquillity, people who live at ease; great oneyers, great ones (with a play on the words one and own which were pronounced alike); such as can hold in, such as can keep their own counsel (an accomplishment which Gadshill seems to find it difficult to imitate).
II. i. 94. Greasing of boots to make them waterproof was called 'liquoring' them; the play on the word here is obvious.
II. i. 96. receipt of fern-seed. According to popular superstition, fern-seed was visible only on Saint John's Eve (June 23), and those who gathered it then, according to a certain rite, were themselves rendered invisible.
II. ii. 2. frets like a gummed velvet. Velvet stiffened with gum very soon chafed.
II. iii. 1. The writer of this letter is not specified.
II. iii. 37. I could divide myself into two parts and then fight with myself.
II. iii. 50-51. Why have you allowed musing and melancholy, which have made you 'thick-eyed,' i.e., blind to all outward things, to make you forget your attention to me, which is my 'treasure'?
II. iii. 98. crowns. Used quibblingly: broken heads, or damaged coin, still in circulation, 'passing current.'
II. iv. 21. tinker. Tinkers were famous for their capacity for strong drink and for their picturesque vocabulary.
II. iv. 59. Michaelmas. The feast of St. Michael, September 29; one of the four quarter days of the English business year.
II. iv. 83 ff. Hal here talks nonsense, with the express purpose of confusing Francis still more
II. iv. 125. brawn. The fleshy part of the body, especially the calf of the leg or the buttocks. Falstaff is again referred to as a 'brawn' in Henry IV, Pt. II. I. i. 19: 'Harry Monmouth's brawn, the hulk Sir John.'
II. iv. 135. Titan. The sun. Mispunctuation has resulted in making this speech of Prince Hal's obscure in most modern editions. The phrase 'pitiful-hearted Titan' is obviously parenthetical, as Warburton first suggested, and the clause beginning 'that melted' refers to 'butter.'
II. iv. 149. weaver. Elizabethan weavers were, for the most part, 'psalm-singing Puritans,' who had fled to England from the religious persecutions in the Low Countries.
II. iv. 242. points. Falstaff refers to the points of swords. Poins, in his reply, quibblingly interprets points in another sense, namely, garters.
II. iv. 266. strappado. A military punishment which consisted of fastening a rope under the arms of the offender, drawing him up by a pulley to the top of a high beam and then suddenly letting him down with a jerk.
II. iv. 268. reasons. A play on the words reasons and raisins, which were pronounced alike.
II. iv. 325. royal. A royal was 10s.; a noble 6s. 8d.
II. iv. 355-362. Bardolph becomes angry and adopts a threatening attitude. 'My red face,' he implies, 'portends choler (anger).' Hal finds it merely a sign of a hot liver (caused by drinking) and an empty purse (also caused by drink). When Bardolph insists that it is choler, Hal quibblingly interprets choler as collar, and suggests that if his face were rightly taken, it would be taken by a halter.
II. iv. 430. King Cambyses. A ranting bombastic tragedy by Thomas Preston (1570). Line 436 shows that Falstaff knew more than the name of the play, one line of which reads: '(At this tale tolde let the Queene weep.)
Queene: These wordes to hear makes stilling teares
issue from christal eyes.'
II. iv. 443. Falstaff may be referring to the Hostess as a pint-pot always well filled with tickle-brain, or he may be using tickle-brain not in its technical sense, but merely as an appropriate word for describing the flighty character of the Hostess.
II. iv. 444 ff. Falstaff is here burlesquing the somewhat pompous and artificial style of King Henry, and Shakespeare is, at the same time, burlesquing the fashionable and artificial prose style of his own contemporaries, known as Euphuism. This style was exemplified in John Lyly's Euphues (1578-1580), and its chief characteristics are: (1) The constant use of antithesis, (2) The use of alliteration to emphasize the antithetic clauses, (3) The frequent use of a long string of similes all relating to the same subject, often taken from the fabulous qualities ascribed to plants, animals, and minerals, (4) The constant use of rhetorical questions, (5) Frequent quotation of proverbs. Falstaff's first figure is taken directly from Euphues (ed. Bond, vol. I, p. 196): 'Though the Camomill the more it is trodden and pressed downe, the more it spreadeth, yet the Violet the oftner it is handeled and touched, the sooner it withereth and decayeth.' The following passages are good examples of Euphuism (Bond, I. 222): 'Though thou haue eaten the seedes of Rockatte which breede incontinencie, yet haue I chewed the leafe Cresse which mainteineth modestie. Though thou beare in thy bosome the hearbe Araxa most noisome to virginitie, yet haue I the stone that groweth in the mounte Tmolus, the vpholder of chastitie.' 'Well doth he know that the glass once erased will with the least clappe be cracked . . . But can Euphues conuince me of fleetinge, seeing for his sake I breake my fidelitie? Can he condemne me of disloyaltie, when he is the only cause of my dislyking? May he condemn me of trecherye, who hath this testimony as tryall of my good will? Doth he not remember that . . . though the Spyder poyson the Flye, she cannot infect the Bee? That though I have bene light to Philautus, yet I may be louely to Euphues?' (Bond, I. 205-206.)
II. iv. 486-487. Falstaff is comparing himself with the thinnest things he can think of, a young sucking rabbit, or a hare hung up in a poulterer's shop.
II. iv. 495. I'll tickle ye, etc. This is obviously an aside to Hal, and not part of Falstaff's speech in his rôle of Prince. As he begins his performance, he whispers to Hal, 'My acting of the part of a young prince will tickle you, i' faith.'
II. iv. 504. Manningtree ox. Manningtree is a town in Essex, famous for its fairs at which oxen were roasted whole.
II. iv. 527. Pharaoh's lean kine. Cf. Genesis 41. 19.
II. iv. 547-549. There are two possible interpretations of this speech. The first (Malone's) is that Falstaff is referring here to the real danger which now confronts them; the second (Wright's) is that Falstaff, all absorbed in 'playing out the play' waves the Hostess aside and continues his defence of himself. If we accept the first interpretation, we may paraphrase Falstaff's speech as follows: 'Dost thou hear that, Hal? Don't yield to one of your mad impulses now, and make light of a serious matter.' Hal's reply would tend to support this interpretation.
II. iv. 557-558. Falstaff hides behind the curtain which divided the outer from the inner stage in the Elizabethan theatre; the others 'walk above,' i.e., on the balcony above the inner stage.
III. i. 148-152. The division of the kingdom was made by the conspirators, according to Holinshed, 'through a foolish credit given to a vain prophecy' that Henry was a moldwarp (a mole) whose kingdom should be divided among a wolf, a dragon, and a lion. This cryptic prophecy was attributed to Merlin, and is referred to in The Mirror for Magistrates (1559):
And for to set us hereon more agog,
A prophet came (a vengeaunce take them all)
Affirming Henry to be Gog-magog,
Whom Merlin doth a mouldwarp ever call,
Accursed of God, that must be brought in thrall
By a wulf, a dragon, and a lyon strong,
Which shuld devide his kingdome them amonge.
Hotspur evidently has not shared in the 'foolish credit' given to the 'vain prophecy' and his only memory of the discussion is that Glendower talked a lot of Celtic nonsense.
III. i. 200-203. Mortimer seems to be trying to say that though he does not understand his wife's speech, he understands her looks, and that he is 'too perfect' in the language of tears (i.e., 'the pretty Welsh' which she pours down from her swollen eyes). So near to tears is the bridegroom himself that shame alone prevents his answering his wife's tears with tears.
III. i. 256. Finsbury. Archery grounds just outside of London, a favorite resort of respectable middle-class citizens.
III. i. 260. velvet-guards. Velvet trimmings; hence women that wear such finery, notably wives of aldermen.
III. i. 263. tailor. Tailors, like weavers (cf. II. iv. 149 n.), were noted for singing at their work.
III. ii. 50. I assumed, or took upon myself, a heavenly graciousness of bearing.
III. ii. 62. carded. To card was to mix different kinds of drink; so King Richard mixed his high state and dignity with baseness.
III. ii. 99. Hal's claim to the crown is shadowy compared with Hotspur's, for Hal's claim is that of inheritance from a usurper who has been rewarded with the crown for his services to the state; whereas Hotspur's claim is that of efficient public service, performed by himself.
III. iii. 10. brewer's horse. The point of this comparison lies probably in the fact that a brewer's horse carries good liquor on his back, instead of in his belly.
III. iii. 35. It was the fashion to wear, as a memento mori, reminder of death, a ring or pin on the stone of which was engraved a skull and crossbones.
III. iii. 36. See St. Luke's Gospel, 16. 19-31.
III. iii. 40. Cf. Psalm 104. 4: Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire.
III. iii. 60. Partlet. The name of the hen in the famous story of the Cock and the Fox; cf. Chaucer's Nonne Preestes Tale. The hen-like characteristics of the hostess are apparent in the conversation immediately following.
III. iii. 128-129. Maid Marian. The mistress of Robin Hood, often impersonated by a man in the morris-dances, in which she was traditionally a rather disreputable person. 'As regards womanliness,' says Falstaff to the hostess, 'in comparison with you, Maid Marian is as respectable a person as the wife of the deputy-alderman of this ward.'
III. iii. 181. injuries. 'As the pocketing of injuries was a common phrase, I suppose the Prince calls the contents of Falstaff's pockets injuries.' (Steevens.) Cf. 182-183.
III. iii. 205. unwashed hands. Without stopping to wash your hands, i.e., at once; or, possibly, without any over-fastidious scruples.
III. iii. 228. drum. Used here in the sense of rallying-point or recruiting station.
IV. i. 4-5. Another figurative expression referring to coinage; cf. II. iii. 97-99. 'Your fame would circulate more widely than that of any soldier of this season's coinage.'
IV. i. 53. 'Whereas now we have the pleasant prospect of future possession.'
IV. i. 56. 'The comfort of having something to fall back upon.'
IV. i. 98-99. 'All plumed like ostriches that flap their wings in the wind like eagles that have lately bathed.' The obscurity of this passage is caused by the double comparison, of men with ostriches, and ostriches with eagles. Bate means literally to beat the wings impatiently and flutter away from a perch. Three ostrich plumes have always been the cognizance of the Prince of Wales.
IV. i. 100. images. The reference is probably to the festival robes which adorn the images of the saints on holy days.
IV. i. 111-112. 'Your praise of him causes me greater pain than the ague in the Spring.'
IV. i. 114. maid. Bellona, goddess of war.
IV. ii. 3. Sutton-Co'fil'. Sutton-Coldfield, a town twenty-four miles northwest of Coventry.
IV. ii. 6. 'makes an angel, or ten shillings, that I have spent.'
IV. ii. 18-19. 'Whose banns had been twice published,' i.e., they were to be married immediately.
IV. ii. 37. St. Luke's Gospel, 15. 15-16.
V. i. 13. old limbs. The historical King Henry was thirty-seven years old at the time of the battle of Shrewsbury; the historical Hotspur was forty; and the historical Prince Hal seventeen. The King of Shakespeare's play is, however, an elderly man, and Hotspur and Hal are both young. I. i. 87-89 shows that Shakespeare regarded his two youthful heroes as of the same age; and III. ii. 112-113 would indicate that they were very young.
V. i. 60-61. The cuckoo frequently lays her eggs in the hedge-sparrow's nest; and the hedge-sparrow brings up the young cuckoos, until they have 'grown to such a bulk' that they destroy their foster-parents. Cf. Lear, I. iv. 235:
The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long
That it had it head bit off by it young.
V. i. 127-128. There is probably a pun here on the words death and debt which were pronounced alike.
V. iii. 46. Turk Gregory. Editors all agree that Falstaff here refers to Pope Gregory VII, Hildebrand, who, as a friar, was famous for military exploits. Attempts to explain the appellation Turk are not very satisfactory. Falstaff perhaps has in mind the phrase 'to fight like a Turk.'
V. iii. 58. Another pun. The -ie- of pierce was pronounced like the -e- of Percy.
V. iv. 65. A reference to Ptolemaic astronomy, according to which each planet was fixed in a crystal sphere with which it revolved.
V. iv. 81-83. 'The glory of the Prince wounds his thoughts; but thought, being dependent on life, must cease with it, and will soon be at an end. Life, on which thought depends, is itself of no great value, being the fool and sport of time; of time, which, with all its dominion over sublunary things, must itself at last be stopped.' (Johnson.)