William Shakespeare's King Henry the Fourth is forever famous for the comic character Falstaff who infamously proclaims "discretion is the better part of valour".
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HOME > Plays > The First Part of King Henry the Fourth > Act IV. Scene I.

The First Part of King Henry the Fourth

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Act IV. Scene I.

Act IV. Scene I.—The Rebel Camp near
Shrewsbury.

Enter HOTSPUR, WORCESTER, and
DOUGLAS.

Hot. Well said, my noble Scot: if speaking
truth
In this fine age were not thought flattery,
Such attribution should the Douglas have,
As not a soldier of this season's stamp
Should go so general current through the world.
By God, I cannot flatter; do defy
The tongues of soothers; but a braver place
In my heart's love hath no man than yourself.
Nay, task me to my word; approve me, lord.
Doug. Thou art the king of honour:
No man so potent breathes upon the ground
But I will beard him.
Hot. Do so, and 'tis well.

Enter a Messenger, with letters.
What letters hast thou there? [To DOUGLAS.]
I can but thank you.
Mess. These letters come from your father.
Hot. Letters from him! why comes he not
himself?
Mess. He cannot come, my lord: he's griev-
ous sick.
Hot. 'Zounds! how has he the leisure to be
sick
In such a justling time? Who leads his power?
Under whose government come they along?
Mess. His letters bear his mind, not I, my
lord.
Wor. I prithee, tell me, doth he keep his bed?
Mess. He did, my lord, four days ere I set
forth,
And at the time of my departure thence
He was much fear'd by his physicians.
Wor. I would the state of time had first been
whole
Ere he by sickness had been visited:
His health was never better worth than now.
Hot. Sick now! droop now! this sickness doth
infect
The very life-blood of our enterprise;
'Tis catching hither, even to our camp.
He writes me here, that inward sickness——
And that his friends by deputation could not
So soon be drawn; nor did he think it meet
To lay so dangerous and dear a trust
On any soul remov'd but on his own.
Yet doth he give us bold advertisement,
That with our small conjunction we should on,
To see hew fortune is dispos'd to us;
For, as he writes, there is no quailing now,
Because the king is certainly possess'd
Of all our purposes. What say you to it?
Wor. Your father's sickness is a maim to us.
Hot. A perilous gash, a very limb lopp'd off:
And yet, in faith, 'tis not; his present want
Seems more than we shall find it. Were it good
To set the exact wealth of all our states
All at one cast? to set so rich a main
On the nice hazard of one doubtful hour?
It were not good; for therein should we read
The very bottom and the soul of hope,
The very list, the very utmost bound
Of all our fortunes.
Doug. Faith, and so we should;
Where now remains a sweet reversion:
We may boldly spend upon the hope of what
Is to come in:
A comfort of retirement lives in this.
Hot. A rendezvous, a home to fly unto,
If that the devil and mischance look big
Upon the maidenhead of our affairs.
Wor. But yet, I would your father had been
here.
The quality and hair of our attempt
Brooks no division. It will be thought
By some, that know not why he is away,
That wisdom, loyalty, and mere dislike
Of our proceedings, kept the earl from hence.
And think how such an apprehension
May turn the tide of fearful faction
And breed a kind of question in our cause;
For well you know we of the offering side
Must keep aloof from strict arbitrement,
And stop all sight-holes, every loop from whence
The eye of reason may pry in upon us:
This absence of your father's draws a curtain,
That shows the ignorant a kind of fear
Before not dreamt of.
Hot. You strain too far.
I rather of his absence make this use:
It lends a lustre and more great opinion,
A larger dare to our great enterprise,
Than if the earl were here; for men must think,
If we without his help, can make a head
To push against the kingdom, with his help
We shall o'erturn it topsy-turvy down.
Yet all goes well, yet all our joints arc whole.
Doug. As heart can think: there is not such
a word
Spoke of in Scotland as this term of fear.

Enter SIR RICHARD VERNON.
Hot. My cousin Vernon! welcome, by my soul.
Ver. Pray God my news be worth a welcome,
lord.
The Earl of Westrnoreland, seven thousand strong,
Is marching hitherwards; with him Prince John.
Hot. No harm: what more?
Ver. And further, I have learn'd,
The king himself in person is set forth,
Or hitherwards intended speedily,
With strong and mighty preparation.
Hot. He shall be welcome too. Where is his
son,
The nimble-footed madcap Prince of Wales,
And his comrades, that daff'd the world aside,
And bid it pass?
Ver. All furnish'd, all in arms,
All plum'd like estridges that wing the wind,
Baited like eagles having lately bath'd,
Glittering in golden coats, like images,
As full of spirit as the month of May,
And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer,
Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls.
I saw young Harry, with his beaver on,
His cushes on his thighs, gallantly arm'd,
Rise from the ground like feather'd Mercury,
And vaulted with such ease into his seat,
As if an angel dropp'd down from the clouds,
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus
And witch the world with noble horsemanship.
Hot. No more, no more: worse than the sun
in March
This praise doth nourish agues. Let them come;
They come like sacrifices in their trim,
And to the fire-ey'd maid of smoky war
All hot and bleeding will we offer them:
The mailed Mars shall on his altar sit
Up to the ears in blood. I am on fire
To hear this rich reprisal is so nigh
And yet not ours. Come, let me taste my horse,
Who is to bear me like a thunderbolt
Against the bosom of the Prince of Wales:
Harry to Harry shall, hot horse to horse,
Meet and ne'er part till one drop down a corse.
O! that Glendower were come.
Ver. There is more news:
I learn'd in Worcester, as I rode along,
He cannot draw his power these fourteen days.
Doug. That's the worst tidings that I hear of
yet
Wor. Ay, by my faith, that bears a frosty
sound.
Hot. What may the king's whole battle reach
unto?
Ver. To thirty thousand.
Hot. Forty let it be:
My father and Glendower being both away,
The powers of us may serve so great a day.
Come, let us take a muster speedily:
Doomsday is near; die all, die merrily.
Doug. Talk not of dying: I am out of fear
Of death or death's hand for this one half year.
[Exeunt.
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