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Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1 
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 Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1

Please use this thread for discussing Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1.



Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:00 am
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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
So shaken as we are, so wan with care . . .

The opening lines of Henry IV show the play’s grand scope. Recent cataclysmic events have deep repercussions for England’s future. The words, “So shaken as we are, so wan with care” really set the tone of angst. Previously, Henry Bolingbroke had spearheaded a revolt against Richard II, himself becoming King Henry IV. But he’s not having an easy time of it. England is being torn apart by internal strife. In line 28, the King refers to a 12-month-old pledge to go on a crusade to the Holy Land, but he’s been too busy putting out fires. And he’s about to hear of new problems that will force him to put off the crusade once again.

Elizabethans still believed in the divine right of kings, so the monarchy was a divinely ordained institution. Since Queen Elizabeth was Shakespeare's patron (and later King James), he would have had to dance around this idea of divine rights. His political plays are propaganda to some extent. The people would fear that if Henry IV was not the rightful king, the country would fall apart under turmoil and chaos. This theme is more pronounced in Macbeth, for example, where a previous king had also been murdered with the result that there is much disorder in the natural world. I think Shakespeare is more ambiguous with regards to Henry IV. Is he the rightful king?

Quote:
So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils
To be commenced in strands afar remote.
No more the thirsty entrance of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children’s blood.
Nor more shall trenching war channel her fields,
Nor bruise her flow’rets with the armed hoofs
Of hostile paces. Those opposèd eyes,
Which, like the meteors of a troubled heaven,
All of one nature, of one substance bred,
Did lately meet in the intestine shock
And furious close of civil butchery . . .


Shakespeare describes England’s internal conflicts in almost purely metaphoric terms. The reference to “thirsty entrance of this soil” alludes to Cain and Abel’s conflict in Genesis—“Thy brother’s blood the thirsty earth hath drunk”—mirroring the current political situation that pits brother against brother. “Opposed eyes” and “intestine shock” suggest internal conflict. And the “meteors of a troubled heaven” suggests disorder in the natural world which would be the result of the wrong king.

So Henry IV is basically having a crappy reign so far.


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Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:51 pm
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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
I'm going to have to read this again. As i read it the insurgents were the Scots and the Welsh, not the English


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Fri Dec 05, 2014 10:47 am
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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
heledd wrote:
I'm going to have to read this again. As i read it the insurgents were the Scots and the Welsh, not the English


I think you're right. King Henry faces constant pressure from the Scots to the north and the Welsh to the west, the usual trouble spots for an English monarch. But he's also a bit paranoid because his claim to the throne is somewhat sketchy, and as we see in the first scene, there are already factions developing against him. I think his references to "civil butchery" and other comments are related to events that transpired on his way to the throne. These events are the subject of Richard II, the first play in this tetralogy.

So my summary in the first post is a bit off. Thanks for pointing that out.

David Bevington suggests a Machiavellian side of King Henry, appealing to a common religious ideal—a crusade to the Holy Land—to unite the English against the enemies of Christ as a way to unite the country AND it would appease some of his guilt over the king's murder.


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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
Quote:
Geo wrote :
David Bevington suggests a Machiavellian side of King Henry, appealing to a common religious ideal—a crusade to the Holy Land—to unite the English against the enemies of Christ as a way to unite the country AND it would appease some of his guilt over the king's murder.


Always the sign of great leadership "Therefore, friends, As far as to the sepulcher of Christ",.
A nice little holy war to take the subjects minds off his usurpation of the throne.



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One more post ought to do it.

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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
Quote:
Heledd wrote:

I'm going to have to read this again. As i read it the insurgents were the Scots and the Welsh, not the English


A few weeks ago - we went to the Lowry Theatre in Manchester on two consecutive nights to see Henry IV Part 1 and the second night Henry IV Part 2.

'These plays are performed far less frequently than the others of Shakespeare's history plays', it announced in the programme. I am not altogether surprised as they were excruciatingly boring in large parts. OK the bawdy scenes in the tavern with Falstaff and Mistress Quickly were great. (Sir Anthony Sher played Falstaff, so it wasn't the fault of the performers that I found it difficult to stay awake.)

The nobles stood four abreast across that stage announcing their battle tactics - exhausively.

The main plot of Henry IV, Part 1 is about the rebellion of the Percies, the northern baronial family who had helped Henry depose Richard II and become king. They are joined by the Scottish Earl of Douglas, Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, claimant to the throne, and Owen Glendower, a Welsh noble.

Henry is presented first as a ruler who has been beset with troubles from the start: civil unrest in England, attacks by Scottish forces moving across the northern border, and the defeat and capture of the still-loyal Mortimer by Glendower. He thus is unable to fulfill his earlier vow to lead a crusade to the Holy Land. But there is one piece of good news: English forces led by young Hotspur have defeated the Scots at Holmedon and have captured the renowned Earl of Douglas. Yet this especially gives the harassed king reason to lament the dereliction of his son and heir, Prince Henry, who persistently has avoided the court and public responsibility and spends his time in the company of the elderly, high-spirited Sir John Falstaff, as well as the lowly patrons of the Boar's-Head Tavern in Eastcheap.


Shakespeare is about the human condition and about relationships in various circumstances. It is not history. He did Richard III a great disservice it seems. Shakespeare tells the truth - about what it is like to be a human being, but it is meant to be read as history. Hamlet, for instance, is placed in Denmark - because he talks about corruption in high places and he could not describe the corruption in the English court, which it depicts. In the same way that the TV series 'Mash' was placed in the Korean war when it was really talking about the Vietnam war.......and even that wasn't about the war as history......but the war as absurdity and the effect on human beings involved in such insanity.

Quote:
geo:

a crusade to the Holy Land—to unite the English against the enemies of Christ as a way to unite the country AND it would appease some of his guilt over the king's murder.


I don't see how the English could be united, when they didn't know what the hell was going on in high places, they had no way of knowing.....they were just rabble roused to take the King's shilling......but I am convinced the majority had no idea why.

Dare I say, 'twas ever thus'?

Most of the populace of Britain were uneducated and therefore, superstitious. They couldn't read, had no radios or TVs to let them know what was happening. They did as they were told by those whom they were told were their betters.


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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
Thanks, Penelope. I saw one of the histories—can't remember which one—way back in the 1990s, but most of it went over my head and it was difficult to follow the dialogue. As Bevington says, the rebellion of the Percies is one of four threads that runs through Henry IV, part one. It's up to the director to strike a good balance between these four subplots. And I know for a fact that Part Two was never as popular as Part One for whatever reason.

One of the most interesting aspects of this play for me so far as how Shakespeare switches back and forth between the grand stage of English politics and the lowlife antics of Hal and his drinking buddies. Why does Shakespeare mix clowns and kings in this way? Part of it is comic relief to be sure. But also allows us to see how these historic events from the perspective of commoners and also to show Prince Hal's blossoming into a noble man who will some day become king. It helps to realize that the Elizabethan audience would have been familiar with these historic events much as we Americans still "remember" the American Revolutionary War.

Penelope wrote:
Shakespeare is about the human condition and about relationships in various circumstances. It is not history.


Yeah, this is an excellent point. One should not read Shakespeare as a means to study history because Shakespeare took many liberties with the historical facts to dramatize his story. It would be like watching Oliver Stone's movie, JFK, to learn about John F. Kennedy. Stone's goal wasn't to accurately portray historical events. It's to entertain and to sell movie tickets.


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One more post ought to do it.

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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
Geo: We went to see Henry VI parts 1 and 2 and Richard III. The Wars of the Roses. Lancashire v Yorkshire. They are very complicated, but they weren't boring at all. It was wonderful. One day - whereby you went one day to see a matinee, Henry VI part I, and then an afternoon Henry VI part II, and finally Richard III, in an evening performance.

There is something about Henry iV which is just not entertaining.

Quote:
geo wrote: It would be like watching Oliver Stone's movie, JFK, to learn about John F. Kennedy. Stone's goal wasn't to accurately portray historical events. It's to entertain and to sell movie tickets.


Yes, Shakespeare was just an entertainer. If you can get hold of a copy of Sir Laurence Olivier's Henry V - which depicts 'The Globe' theatre in London and the audience - eating apples and throwing the cores at the stage. Then you can see Kenneth Branner's Henry V. Which is a different thing all together. Both are quite wonderful and I do recommend them.

But back to Henry IV - and as you say, it is on several different levels and has a sub-plot, it is basically about the English loss of France - but that is very much happening in the background.

Quite wonderful. But one needs to look carefully for any social commentary, or am I mistaken.


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Sun Dec 07, 2014 1:26 pm
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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
I want to mention Hal's soliloquy where he promises that someday he will surprise us all by acting more nobly. Robert Tulip posted this previously, but it belongs here in Act I.

Quote:
I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humour of your idleness:
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder'd at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wish'd for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So, when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I'll so offend, to make offence a skill;
Redeeming time when men think least I will.


This scene, featuring witty banter between the Prince and Falstaff, comes in stark contrast to the opening scene detailing affairs of the state. It strikes me as odd that Falstaff can speak so familiarly to the Prince, addressing him as "Hal" or "lad" or "sweet wag." Falstaff is one of the "base contagious clouds" that prevent us from seeing Hal's better side. And the Prince certainly doesn't seem to respect the man or even like him much. Shakespeare doesn't tell us how they met or what brought them together. Presumably, Falstaff comes from noble stock because he is a "Sir." But why does Hal hang out with him?


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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
I relate to Poins probably because my son's name is also Edward and "Ned" too I see him as a kind of jokester like Capt. John Mcintyre in M.A.S.H.

I thought this was a great line when Poins first suggests that he and Hal should rob Falstaff after he robs the travelers.

"Now, my good sweet honey lord, ride with us
to-morrow: I have a jest to execute that I cannot
manage alone. Falstaff, Bardolph, Peto and Gadshill
shall rob those men that we have already waylaid:
yourself and I will not be there; and when they
have the booty, if you and I do not rob them, cut
this head off from my shoulders."

:lol:


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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
Quote:
Penelope wrote:
Quite wonderful. But one needs to look carefully for any social commentary, or am I mistaken.


Not having studied the plays, I looked through Will Durant's history and found this line regarding Shakespeare, "However, he is no surface realist; things do not happen, people do not speak, in life as in his plays; but in the sum we feel that through these improbabilities and extravagances we are nearing the core of human instinct and thought."

So; No you are not likely mistaken in my opinion.
reading the plays as a script dialog with no stage direction, its is difficult for me as well to pick up on social commentary you speak of. but from what I'm gathering from various sources available to me, its not clear that was part of WS's intent.

Quote:
Geo wrote;
Presumably, Falstaff comes from noble stock because he is a "Sir." But why does Hal hang out with him?


Matthew Dimmock; in his introduction to the copy of the play I'm reading says about Hal that his" power is based upon a sophisticated ability to dissemble, a full awareness of the role he is expected to play, and an under standing of the language of his subjects-he can coerce while(and by) inspiring devotion,"

I haven't read of how or were they all met but Falstaff, Poins, Bardolph, and Peto are used by Hal for a larger purpose.



Sun Dec 07, 2014 6:41 pm
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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
I was struck, as Falstaff is later on, by the idea of 'honour'. King Henry despairs of his sons antics, and wishes that he could have had a son like Hotspur 'O that it could be proved/that some night-tripping fairy had exchanged/In cradle-clothes our children where they lay/ And called mine Percy, his Plantaganet'
Ha ha! I think many modern parents often think this, as well. Prince Hal's antics are relatively harmless, I see him as a typical rebel, whereas Hotspur is impulsive, short tempered, and willing to murderer for his cause. I'm a bit confused at the history. I think the two younger Henry's were cousins? Henry 1V was Welsh and spent his early years in exile in France i think? Will have to look it up


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Mon Dec 08, 2014 9:05 am
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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
But i did enjoy the video, even though I watched it in three parts.


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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
Got my Henry's mixed up
http://www.historytoday.com/peter-r-rob ... ess-tudors


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Post Re: Henry IV (Part 1), Act 1
heledd wrote:
But i did enjoy the video, even though I watched it in three parts.


Which video?


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Mon Dec 08, 2014 6:23 pm
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