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MonkeyNotes-Henry IV, Part 2 by William Shakespeare
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Act I, Scene 3

Summary

The scene is a room in the Archbishop’s palace in York. The Archbishop of York, Lord Hastings , Mowbray, and Bardolph enter. York tells his companions to speak their opinions on the course of the war. York has explained the reason for the move against the King and indicates what forces are at his disposal. Mowbray questions whether their soldiers are strong enough to oppose the King. Hastings reports that already 25,000 men have been mustered and they expect reinforcements from Northumberland whose heart burns with fire. Bardolph questions whether or not the rebels can survive without reinforcements and says that they should not commit themselves until they are sure of Northumberland’s help. To this York agrees: they must not make the fatal mistake which Hotspur made at Shrewsbury. Bardolph says that Hotspur was very hopeful and flattered by the project of power and so imaginative that his power led him to death and destruction. He continues to say that they must be very careful when taking down one kingdom and set up another. But Hastings argues that the present force is large enough and he has good reasons to support his cause. King Henry is opposed by three armies: one power against the French, one against the Welsh led by Glendower, and one power against the northern forces: “so is the uniform King in three divided.” Moreover, he says that the King’s treasury is empty. York urges his followers to publish their list of grievances in which the King’s government gets ready for action. Hastings says, “We are time’s subjects and time bids be gone.”


Notes

This scene presents the council of rebel leaders who firmly decide to fight. York is introduced as a powerful leader of the northern rebels. Mowbray questions York whether their soldiers are strong enough to oppose the King’s. Bardolph says that they must be very cautious because like flower buds that appear in the spring, they will only bear fruit if the frosts of winter don’t destroy them. This comparison reveals that Bardolph is a cautious realist. He seems pessimistic in his approach to the war. He advises them to survey the plot first, then draw the model, and rate the cost of erection only when they see the figure of the house. If it exceeds their abilities, then it is better to plan a new the model or to stop building.

On the other hand Hastings is very optimistic about their power. He assures York that the present force is large enough to oppose the King. He seems to be also very observant when he says “so is the uniform King in three divided, and his coffers sound with hollow poverty and emptiness.” He points out that the King is opposed by three forces. All these factors have made him conclude that they are powerful enough to oppose the King. When York urges his followers to publish the list of grievances in which the King’s government will be indicted for misrule, he enthusiastically gets ready for action.

York’s main motive is to turn the people against the King. He traces the origin of the civil war back to Richard II’s reign. York had attained a high position at the request of Richard II. Although he was a supporter of Henry IV once, now he has raised of force against him. Richard disregarded law and order by seizing the estates that belonged to Bolingbroke and Bolingbroke in turn usurped Richard’s throne. He also refers to the fact that King Henry was responsible for the death of Richard II. But Henry, he says, is like a man who without foundation built a house upon the earth against which the flood swept violently and it fell immediately. Note the lines, “so, so, thou common dog, didst thou disgorge/ thy glutton bosom of the royal Richard.” This combines those images of excess and disgusting canine gluttony: “And now thou wouldst eat thy dead vomit up./ And howl’st to find it.” As a dog returns to its own vomit, so is the King returning to his own foolishness.

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