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MonkeyNotes-Henry IV, Part 1 by William Shakespeare
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Notes

This scene develops the political theme of the play. The rebels' plan to divide England is extremely foolish and wicked. They know not their potential subjects: no true Englishman would tolerate such a division of the kingdom. If the king would suppress such a revolt, he would be supported. The rebels are already on the wrong track. They further show themselves to be unworthy by the division within their own ranks. Hotspur does little to conceal his dislike for Glendower, and Mortimer seems more interested in doting on his wife than preparing for the upcoming war. Such a group can hardly work successfully together.

The picture that emerges of Hotspur's character is not a positive one. He has to be reminded where he put the map of England. This shows his carelessness and lack of responsibility. He foolishly goads and insults Glendower, his host and intended ally. He argues over a petty amount of land for no other reason, it seems, than to be ornery. When his volatile temper gets out of hand, he needs to be calmed down by Worcester and Mortimer. Worcester is particularly eloquent in outlining his faults. Hotspur's willfulness makes him brave, he says, but it also makes him appear haughty and unmannered. Such faults, he continues, are unacceptable in a ruler and can cause him to "loseth men's hearts" (193). Hotspur's response - "Well, I am schooled. Good manners be your speed! (196) - while appropriate, is hardly contrite, and it is easy to imagine a note of strained politeness or even sarcasm in his voice. Good manners, however, do bring success, and, as Worcester has indicated (and as Henry will later tell Hal), a lord must act like a lord to win the goodwill of his subjects.


Although this scene establishes Hotspur's unfitness to rule, he is not without positive traits. No one doubts his boldness and bravery, not even his enemies. Indeed, according to Mortimer, it is only because of his good character that Glendower allows him to act as he does. Any other man would have received "the taste of danger and reproof" (180). Hotspur's sense of himself is as a practical, hard-edged man. He does not recite "mincing poetry" or have time to sit and listen to singing when there is a battle at hand. Though this would not have been the best time to reveal such sentiments, they are an integral part of his character. He does not at all believe in magic or omens, and his denunciation of Glendower's claim to have magical powers is quite powerful. When Glendower announces that earthquakes and comets announced his birth, Hotspur replies that these things would have occurred just the same if his "mother's cat / Had but kittened" (19-20) then. In response to Glendower's claim that he can call spirits from the deep, Hotspur neatly replies that so can any man, but the proof lies in whether they come or not.

Is Glendower a magician, as he claims? The Welsh were considered wild and somewhat barbarous by the English of Shakespeare's day, and if any magic lingered in the world Wales would have been an appropriate place for it. Indeed, the historical Glendower, who led the last major revolt against English rule, was remembered in popular tradition as having magical powers. In the play, Henry obviously respects, if not fears, Glendower, as he has three times successfully battled against him. Glendower certainly thinks that it his magical abilities that turned Henry back. Although his claimed ability to call up demons is untested, he does mysteriously provide musical accompaniment out of nowhere for his guests. Hotspur grudgingly recognizes this trick by saying that the devil must speak Welsh. While not integral to the development of the plot, the dispute over Glendower's powers adds a touch of mystery to the play and helps to develop Hotspur's character. Shakespeare's portrayal of Glendower is an excellent example how Shakespeare made use of both historical and popular sources in creating his plays.

After the tension of the division plans, Shakespeare introduces a note of levity into the scene. Lady Mortimer and Lady Percy join their husbands for a final farewell before they leave. The serio- comic scene between Mortimer, who speaks no Welsh, and Lady Mortimer, who speaks no English, is delightful. If the two were not so obviously stricken at their impending separation, their situation would be utterly farcical. One can be certain that the Welsh "spoken" by Glendower and his daughter would have been nonsense syllables. When Lady Mortimer sings, it provides an opportunity for Hotspur and Lady Percy have another witty verbal exchange.

A contrast can be made here between the two married couples. Although Hotspur loves his wife, he is hardly sentimental with her and does not let their relationship interfere with his political goals. Mortimer, in contrast, is totally besotted with Lady Mortimer and makes not effort to conceal it. Indeed, he has to be pulled away from her by Glendower at the end of the scene.

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