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HOME > Shakespeare Summaries > King Henry IV, Part I Commentary - Act III.

King Henry IV, Part I Commentary - Act III.

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Act III. Scene I. - Bangor. A Room in the Archdaecon's House.

The rebels divide up England. Mortimer is to have the south of England, Glendower the west and Hotspur who represents the powerful Percy family will have the north. Glendower and Hotspur squabble over their territories but eventually compromise. Hotspur's wife Kate is not so blindly loving of her husband as is Mortimer's wife, Lady Mortimer...

Act III begins with the scene of Hotspur, Worcester, Mortimer and Glendower discussing their future plans for themselves and England...

Mortimer is confident that their revolt will succeed, opening the scene with the line, "These promises are fair, the parties sure, / And our induction full of prosperous hope" (Line 1).

Hotspur now invites Lord Mortimer, "cousin Glendower," and "uncle Worcester:" to sit down to discuss their plans on a map which Hotspur now realizes he has just forgotten (Line 4).

Glendower tells "cousin Percy;" (Hotspur) that he has found the map and Glendower and Hotspur describe each other politely (Lines 3-11) before Glendower increasingly describes himself as unique whilst Hotspur mocks this claim repeatedly (Lines 6-68).

Hotspur's mockery of Glendower goes on for some time, but is clearly not serious in nature. It does however start to annoy Mortimer (Line 52) who later says, "Come, come; / No more of this unprofitable chat" (Line 64).

By this, Mortimer means for Hotspur and Glendower to stop wasting time for they have more important decisions to make, namely how England shall be divided between the three of them (The Percy family, Glendower and Mortimer).

Glendower now begins the division, saying "Come, here's the map: / Shall we divide our right / According to our threefold order ta'en?" (Line 72).

Mortimer is to have the south of England (Lines 73-76), the west to Glendower (Lines 77-79), leaving the north to Hotspur who represents the Percies (Line 80).

Mortimer now takes charge, outlining what must now be done... Mortimer, Hotspur (described as Young Percy) and Worcester will leave tomorrow to see Hotspur's father and the Scottish forces waiting for them at Shrewsbury (Lines 84-87).

Mortimer also adds that Glendower is not yet ready (Line 88) but that they should not need him in the next fortnight anyway.

Hotspur now complains about the division of England, wanting more land since the Trent river (Line 104) bordering their territories cuts Hotspur off from some land he feels he deserves (Lines 97-106). Glendower initially disagrees (Line 107), both men standing their ground but soon the two compromise.

The formerly quarreling men are now joined by Lady Percy (Mortimer's sister and Hotspur's wife) and Lady Mortimer (Glendower's daughter) whom Glendower explains is saddened that Mortimer must part with her (Line 193).

We learn that communication is a problem for this couple, since Mortimer can only speak English, whilst Lady Mortimer can only speak Welsh (Line 192).

Mortimer explains that he understands her nonetheless (Line 200-210), Glendower helpfully translating since as Lady Mortimer's father, he knows Welsh. He says she wishes to sing him a song, which Mortimer happily hears accompanied to some music provided by Glendower who simply said a few Welsh words; this prompts Hotspur to say the devil must know Welsh, since music is now heard....

Meanwhile, Hotspur tries to encourage his wife Kate to be similarly tender; Lady Percy (Kate) making it quite clear she does not blindly love Hotspur in quite the same way Lady Mortimer clearly loves her husband (Lines 232-248).

Percy even tries to convince his wife to sing for him, earning himself a very firm no for his troubles (Lines 250-265) .

Annoyed, Percy brings this scene to a close by announcing he will sign the present paperwork or "indentures" (Line 263) and be off by horse within two hours.

Glendower also alludes to Hotspur's well-known rashness (Line 268).

Act III. Scene II. - London. A Room in the Palace.

King Henry IV criticizes his son, Prince Hal for wasting time with his life. He warns him that Hotspur may have a greater claim to be king by his actions than Hal will by right alone, if Hal continues to waste time while men like Hotspur earn the people's admiration just as King Henry IV himself did, allowing him to replace Richard II.

Hal assures King Henry IV that he will defeat Hotspur, overjoying his father. We learn that Douglas and the English rebels have met at Shrewsbury representing a very powerful force. Hal is to set off on Wednesday, his father on Thursday to meet this threat. King Henry will set off for Bridgenorth whilst Harry will march through Gloucestershire with all their forces ultimately meeting at Bridgenorth.

Meanwhile at King Henry's palace, Prince Henry is catching up with his father... Asking his Lords to leave, King Henry IV explains his dissatisfaction with his wayward son. King Henry IV begins by saying "I know not whether God will have it so, / For some displeasing service I have done, / That, in his secret doom, out of my blood / He'll breed revengement and a scourge for me;" (Line 4), implying that perhaps Prince Henry was made wayward by God as a punishment for the King Henry's past deeds (refer to Richard II).

King Henry IV now describes Prince Henry's behavior in fairly detailed terms, describing Hal as having "lewd," behavior, having friends described as "rude society," and indulging in "barren pleasures," (Lines 11-17).

King Henry asks Hal how his actions can be explained by anything but God punishing him for his past actions.

Prince Henry defends himself, claiming that while he is not totally innocent of what his father has described, the stories have certainly been exaggerated somewhat (Lines 18-28).

King Henry IV is not convinced, reminding his son that his wayward behavior have led to his losing a place in council, leading to his brother replacing him (Line 32-33), adding that Hal's absence have made him a stranger to "the hearts / Of all the court and princes of my [King Henry's] blood" (Line 35).

King Henry IV now explains that if he had wasted his time with such "vulgar company," as that which Prince Henry keeps (Line 41), he might never have earned the respect of the English people that helped him replace King Richard II. King Henry IV now describes Hal's behavior as being very similar to King Richard II's that led to King Richard II ultimately losing his kingdom.

Deepening his observation, King Henry now tells Hal that as much as he represents King Richard II, he himself was very much like Hotspur at the same age (Line 96), who leads "ancient lords and reverend bishops on / To bloody battles and to bruising arms" and who has earned "never-dying honour" against the "renowned [well-known] Douglas!" (Line 107).

King Henry IV warns Hal that Hotspur by his actions "hath [has] more worthy interest to the state / Than thou [you] the shadow of succession;" (Line 99). Just as Hal may have a right to the throne, Hotspur like the young King Henry IV may have a greater claim by the actions and respect he has earned but not inherited by title.

Hal has certainly been affected by this bleak description of his character and tells King Henry that " I will redeem all this on Percy's head, / And in the closing of some glorious day / Be bold to tell you that I am your son;" (I'll redeem all of my past actions by killing Hotspur and at the close of this glorious day, I will be so bold as to tell you I am indeed your son), (Line 132).

Hal even goes as far as to describe his defeat of Hotspur as "this northern youth exchange" (Line 144) adding that he will "tear the reckoning from his [Hotspur's] heart" (Line 152).

Delighted that from his point of view, his son is finally starting to act like one, King Henry IV says that if a hundred thousand rebels die in this, "Thou [you] shalt [shall] have charge and sovereign trust herein [from this point]" (Line 160).

Sir Walter Blunt arrives, informing all that Douglas and the English rebels have met at Shrewsbury representing a very powerful force.

King Henry now announces that the Earl of Westmoreland and Lord John of Lancaster have already been dispatched, telling Hal to set off next Wednesday, whilst the King himself will leave on Thursday.

King Henry IV also announces that he will set off for Bridgenorth whilst Harry will march through Gloucestershire with all their forces ultimately meeting at Bridgenorth (Lines 170-180).

Act III. Scene III. - Eastcheap. A Room in the Boar's Head Tavern.

Prince Hal: "The land is burning; Percy stands on high; / And either we or they must lower lie."

At the Boar's Head Tavern, Falstaff is told to pay his bills by an angry Mistress Quickly. Falstaff complains that he has no money, his pocket was picked, cursing Hal in the process. Hal arrives, explaining that he repaid those Falstaff stole from and that he was the one who picked Falstaff's pocket. Falstaff is placed in command of some men, reluctantly becoming a soldier. Hal organizes preparations for the upcoming battle...

The scene opens to Falstaff questioning Bardolph on whether he has physically declined since their last action (the robbery).

Falstaff: "Bardolph, am I not fallen away vilely [badly] since this last action [the robbery]? do I not bate? do I not dwindle?" (Line 1).

This questioning continues (Lines 1-23), Bardolph telling Falstaff that he is fat (Line 24). Falstaff responds by telling his friend Bardolph that as their admiral so to speak, he bears a lanthorn or lamp, adding that unlike an Admiral it is located on his nose! (Lines 27-31).

Falstaff now describes Bardolph as "the Knight of the Burning Lamp" (Line 31). Bardolph answers that his face does Falstaff no harm or insult (Line 32). Falstaff now continues his joke agreeing with Bardolph.

His nose does indeed do no harm but helps him to see in the dark like an angel of mercy. Falstaff also explains how he used Bardolph's nose to identify him during the robbery (Line 38), calling him "an everlasting bonfire-light" (Line 39).

Bardolph is not amused saying he wished his face were in Falstaff's belly (Line 56).

Falstaff however has the last laugh, saying "God-a-mercy! so should I be sure to be heart-burned" (Line 60).

Mistress Quickly now enters, ending this friendly jibbing (non-serious insulting). Falstaff immediately questions Mistress Quickly on who could have picked his pockets, implying it was her.

Mistress Quickly, quickly (no pun intended) explains that she does not keep thieves in her house (The Boar's Head Tavern). She explains that not only did she search the house for any thief but so too had her husband and several servants (Lines 62-67).

Falstaff does not believe her (Line 68) and Mistress Quickly now asks Falstaff to pay his bills which include clothing, food and drink to her. She also tells Falstaff that she suspects he invented the theft to avoid paying (Line 74).

Falstaff refuses to pay, claiming his pocket has been picked and when he mentions a seal ring of his father's he has lost, (worth forty mark) Mistress Quickly replies that yes, Prince Henry has mentioned it in the past (Lines 79-97).

Falstaff, hearing Prince Henry's name is angered, calling him "a Jack," and "a sneak-cup;" (Line 98), adding that he would "cudgel him like a dog," if he had the chance (Line 100).

Prince Henry now arrives, marching with Poins, Falstaff joining them whilst playing his truncheon like a fife.

Falstaff now tells Hal how he had his pocket picked at the Boar's Head Tavern which he says has turned into a "bawdy-house;" where "they pick pockets" (Line 113).

Mistress Quickly now tells Hal that Falstaff "speaks most vilely [badly] of you," (Line 122), Falstaff implying Mistress Quickly's words as those of a liar (Line 126).

Mistress Quickly is not pleased, telling Falstaff that "thy [your] knighthood aside, thou [you] art [are] a knave [fool] to call me so" (Line 137).

This goes on for some time (Lines 137-170) until Hal explains that he was responsible for Falstaff's pocket being picked (Lines 171-183 and Line 190).

Falstaff graciously forgives Mistress Quickly when he really should be apologizing, telling her to leave (Line 191).

With Mistress Quickly departed, Hal explains to Falstaff that all the money from the robbery has been repaid to those they stole it from.

Falstaff does not like the idea of stealing money and then returning it, calling it "a double labour" (a double work), (Line 201).

Hal answers that as the son of his father (King Henry IV), he "may do anything" (Line 202). Hal now tells Falstaff that he has been placed in charge and in command of "a charge of foot" (Line 208) or a group of foot soldiers. Falstaff is hardly impressed, wishing instead that he had been given charge of a horse (Line 209)

Hal now directs orders first to Bardolph to deliver a letter to Lord John of Lancaster and another to the Lord of Westmoreland (Lines 215-218).

Next Hal orders Poins to set off on horse with him at once; they have thirty miles to ride before "dinner-time" (Lines 219-220).

Finally Hal orders Falstaff whom he calls "Jack," to meet him tomorrow at Temple-hall at two o'clock in the afternoon where he will meet his troops and receive money and orders to furnish (equip) them (Lines 221-224).

Hal ends his orders by saying:

"The land is burning; Percy stands on high; / And either we or they must lower lie" (Line 225).

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