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 V. Scene II.

The First Part of King Henry the Fourth

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Act V. Scene II.

Scene II.—The Rebel Camp near Shrewsbury.

Enter WORCESTER and VERNON.

Wor. O, no! my nephew must not know,
Sir Richard,
The liberal kind offer of the king.
Ver. 'Twere best he did.
Wor. Then are we all undone.
It is not possible, it cannot be,
The king should keep his word in loving us;
He will suspect us still, and find a time
To punish this offence in other faults:
Suspicion all our lives shall be stuck full of
eyes;
For treason is but trusted like the fox,
Who, ne'er so tame, so cherish'd, and lock'd up,
Will have a wild trick of his ancestors.
Look how we can, or sad or merrily,
Interpretation will misquote our looks,
And we shall feed like oxen at a stall,
The better cherish'd, still the nearer death.
My nephew's trespass may be well forgot,
It hath the excuse of youth and heat of blood;
And an adopted name of privilege,
A hare-brain'd Hotspur, govern'd by a spleen.
All his offences live upon my head
And on his father's: we did train him on;
And, his corruption being ta'en from us,
We, as the spring of all, shall pay for all.
Therefore, good cousin, let not Harry know
In any case the offer of the king.
Ver. Deliver what you will, I'll say 'tis so.
Here comes your cousin.

Enter HOTSPUR and DOUGLAS; Officers and
Soldiers behind.
Hot. My uncle is return'd: deliver up
My Lord of Westmorland. Uncle, what news?
Wor. The king will bid you battle presently.
Doug. Defy him by the Lord of Westmore-
land.
Hot. Lord Douglas, go you and tell him so.
Doug. Marry, and shall, and very willingly.
[Exit.
Wor. There is no seeming mercy in the king.
Hot. Did you beg any? God forbid!
Wor. I told him gently of our grievances,
Of his oath-breaking; which he mended thus,
By now forswearing that he is forsworn:
He calls us rebels, traitors; and will scourge
With haughty arms this hateful name in us.

Re-enter DOUGLAS.
Doug. Arm, gentlemen! to arms! for I have
thrown
A brave defiance in King Henry's teeth,
And Westmoreland, that was engaged, did bear
it;
Which cannot choose but bring him quickly on.
Wor. The Prince of Wales stepp'd forth
before the king,
And, nephew, challeng'd you to single fight.
Hot. O! would the quarrel lay upon our
heads,
And that no man might draw short breath to-
day
But I and Harry Monmouth. Tell me, tell me,
How show'd his tasking? seem'd it in contempt?
Ver. No, by my soul; I never in my life
Did hear a challenge urg'd more modestly,
Unless a brother should a brother dare
To gentle exercise and proof of arms.
He gave yon all the duties of a man,
Trimm'd up your praises with a princely tongue,
Spoke your deservings like a chronicle,
Making you ever better than his praise,
By still dispraising praise valu'd with you;
And, which became him like a prince indeed,
He made a blushing cital of himself,
And chid his truant youth with such a grace
As if he master'd there a double spirit
Of teaching and of learning instantly.
There did he pause. But let me tell the world,
If he outhve the envy of this day,
England did never owe so sweet a hope,
So much misconstru'd in his wantonness.
Hot. Cousin, I think thou art enamoured
On his follies: never did I hear
Of any prince so wild a libertine.
But be he as he will, yet once ere night
I will embrace him with a soldier's arm,
That he shall shrink under my courtesy.
Arm, arm, with speed! And, fellows, soldiers,
friends,
Better consider what you have to do,
Than I, that have not well the gift of tongue,
Can lift your blood up with persuasion.

Enter a Messenger.
Mess. My lord, here are letters for you.
Hot. I cannot read them now.
O gentlemen! the time of life is short;
To spend that shortness basely were too long,
If life did ride upon a dial's point,
Still ending at the arrival of an hour.
An if we live, we live to tread on kings;
If die, brave death, when princes die with us!
Now, for our consciences, the arms are fair,
When the intent of bearing them is just.

Enter another Messenger.
Mess. My lord, prepare; the king comes on
apace.
Hot. I thank him that he cuts me from my
tale,
For I profess not talking. Only this,—
Let each man do his best: and here draw I
A sword, whose temper I intend to stain
With the best blood that I can meet withal
In the adventure of this perilous day.
Now, Esperance! Percy! and set on.
Sound all the lofty instruments of war,
And by that music let us all embrace;
For, heaven to earth, some of us never shall
A second time do such a courtesy.
[The trumpets sound. They embrace,
and exeunt.
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