The Second Part of Henry IV

For my Shakespeare class, I have read three histories so far: Richard II1 Henry IV, and 2 Henry IV. I finished the last of these three today. I think my favorite of them is either the first or second part of Henry IV because of Falstaff. At first I didn’t like this fat comedian. However, after spending time reading the plays, I found myself laughing because of Falstaff.

I’m going to quote the opening of 2 Henry IV. This is from the Induction of the play – the speaker is Rumour, painted with tongues:

Open your ears; for which of you will stop

The vent of hearing when loud Rumour speaks?

I from the Orient to the drooping West

(Making the wind my post-horse) still unfold

The acts commencéd on this ball of earth;

Upon my tongues continual slanders ride,

The which in every language I pronounce,

Stuffing the ears of men with false reports:

I speak of peace while covert enmity,

Under the smile of safety, wounds the world;

And who but Rumour, who but only I,

Make fearful musters, and prepared defence,

Whiles the big year, swoll’n with some other grief,

Is thought with child by the stern tyrant War?

And no such matter. Rumour is a pipe

Blown by surmises, Jealousy’s conjectures,

And of so easy and so plain a stop

That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,

The still discordant wav’ring multitude,

Can play upon it. But what need I thus

My well-known body to anatomise

Among my household? Why is Rumour here?

I run before King Harry’s victory,

Who in a bloody field by Shrewsbury

Hath beaten down young Hotspur and his troops,

Quenching the flame of bold rebellion

Even with the rebels’s blood. But what mean I

To speak so true at first? My office is

To noise abroad that Harry Monmouth fell 

Under the wrath of noble Hotspur’s sword,

And that the king before the Douglas’ rage

Stooped his anointed head as low as death.

This have I rumoured through the peasant towns

Between that royal field of Shrewsbury

And this worm-eaten hold of raggéd stone,

Where Hotspur’s father, old Northumberland,

Lies crafty-sick. The posts came tiring on,

And not a man of them brings other news

Than they have learnt of me. From Rumour’s tongues

They bring smooth comforts false, worse than true wrongs.

(2 Henry IV, Induction, 1-40)

Side note: this last line and a half reminds of a passage from Proverbs:

Better is open rebuke
    than hidden love.
 Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
    profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

(Proverbs 27:5-6 ESV)

  • Induction: Rumour
  • Act I
    • Scene 1: News from Different Tongues
    • Scene 2: Falstaff and the Lord Chief Justice
    • Scene 3: The Rebels’ Hopes
  • Act II
    • Scene 1: The Hostess Charges Falstaff
    • Scene 2: The Letter
    • Scene 3: A Father that Let Down His Son
    • Scene 4: Disguises
  • Act III
    • Scene 1: The Book of Fate
    • Scene 2: Choosing Men
  • Act IV
    • Scene 1: Falsified Peace
    • Scene 2: The Death of King Henry IV
  • Act V
    • Scene 1: To Make Hal Laugh
    • Scene 2: Hal from Prison
    • Scene 3: A Meal at Shallow’s
    • Scene 4: Pregnant Doll
    • Scene 5: Hal Rejects Falstaff
  • Epilogue: An Apology

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