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"SHAKSPEARE has, apparently, designed a regular connection of these dramatic histories, from Richard the Second to Henry the Fifth. King Henry, at the end of Richard the Second, declares his purpose to visit the Holy Land, which he resumes in the first speech of this play. The complaint made by king Henry, in the last act of King Richard the Second, of the wildness of his son, prepares the reader for the frolics which are here to be recounted, and the characters to be exhibited.”—Johnson.

The historical dramas of Shakspeare have, indeed, become the popular history. Vain attempts have been made by Walpole to vindicate the character of king Richard III., and in later times, by Mr. Luders, to prove that the youthful dissipation ascribed to king Henry V. is without foundation. The arguments are probable and ingeniously urged; but we still cling to our early notions of "that mad-cap-that same sword-and-buckler prince of Wales." No plays were ever more read, nor does the inimitable, all-powerful genius of the Poet ever shine out more than in the two parts of King Henry IV. which may be considered as one long drama divided.

The transactions contained in the First Part of King Henry IV. are comprised within the period of about ten months; for the action commences with the news brought of Hotspur having defeated the Scots under Archibald, earl of Douglas, at Holmedon (or Halidown Hill), which battle was fought on Holyrood-day (the 14th of September), 1402; and it closes with the battle of Shrewsbury, on Saturday, the 21st of July, 1403.

Malone places the date of the composition of this play in 1597; Dr. Drake in 1596. It was first entered at Stationers' Hall, February 25, 1597. There are no less than five quarto editions published during the author's life, viz. in 1598, 1599, 1604, 1608, 1613. For the piece which is supposed to have been its original, the reader is referred to the "Six Old Plays on which Shakspeare founded," &c., published by Steevens and Nichols.




HENRY, Prince of Wales,

Prince JOHN of Lancaster, Sons to the King.
Earl of Westmoreland, Friends to the King.

THOMAS PERCY, Earl of Worcester.

HENRY PERCY, Earl of Northumberland.
HENRY PERCY, surnamed Hotspur, his Son.

SCROOP, Archbishop of York.

ARCHIBALD, Earl of Douglas.




LADY PERCY, Wife to Hotspur, and Sister to Mortimer. LADY MORTIMER, Daughter to Glendower, and Wife to Mortimer.

MRS. QUICKLY, Hostess of a Tavern in Eastcheap.

Lords, Officers, Sheriff, Vintner, Chamberlain, Drawers, two Carriers Travellers, and Attendants.

SCENE. England.




SCENE I. London. A Room in the Palace.


King Henry. So shaken as we are, so wan with


Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,

And breathe short-winded accents of new broils
To be commenced in stronds' afar remote.
No more the thirsty entrance of this soil

Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood;
No more shall trenching war channel her fields,
Nor bruise her flow'rets with the armed hoofs
Of hostile paces: those opposed eyes,
Which-like the meteors of a troubled heaven,
All of one nature, of one substance bred-
Did lately meet in the intestine shock

1 Strands, banks of the sea.

2 Upon this passage the reader is favored with three pages of notes in the Variorum Shakspeare. Steevens adopted Monk Mason's bold conjectural emendation, and reads:

"No more the thirsty Erinnys of this soil;"

Mr. Douce proposed to read entrails instead of entrance; and Steevens once thought that we should read entrants. The following explanation of the text is modified from that of Malone.-"No more shall this soil have the lips of her thirsty entrance (i. e. surface) daubed with the blood of her own children."

And furious close of civil butchery,

Shall now, in mutual, well-beseeming ranks,
March all one way; and be no more opposed
Against acquaintance, kindred, and allies.
The edge of war, like an ill-sheathed knife,
No more shall cut his master.

Therefore, friends,
As far as to the sepulchre of Christ,

(Whose soldier now, under whose blessed cross
We are impressed and engaged to fight,)
Forthwith a power of English shall we levy,1
Whose arms were moulded in their mother's womb,
To chase these pagans, in those holy fields,
Over whose acres walked those blessed feet,
Which, fourteen hundred years ago, were nailed,
For our advantage, on the bitter cross.
But this our purpose is a twelvemonth old,
And bootless 'tis to tell you-we will go;
Therefore we meet not now.

Then let me hear

Of you, my gentle cousin Westmoreland,
What yesternight our council did decree,
In forwarding this dear expedience.3


West. My liege, this haste was hot in question,
And many limits of the charge set down
But yesternight; when, all athwart, there came
A post from Wales, loaden with heavy news;
Whose worst was,-that the noble Mortimer,
Leading the men of Herefordshire to fight
Against the irregular and wild Glendower,
Was by the rude hands of that Welshman taken,
And a thousand of his people butchered;
Upon whose dead corpse there was such misuse,
Such beastly, shameless transformation,
By those Welshwomen 5 done, as may not be,
Without much shame, retold or spoken of.

1 To levy a power to a place has been shown by Mr. Gifford to be neither unexampled nor corrupt, but good, authorized English.

2 For that cause.

3 Expedition.

4 Limits here seem to mean appointments or determinations. 5 See Thomas of Walsingham, p. 557, or Holinshed, p. 528.

K. Hen. It seems, then, that the tidings of this broil Brake off our business for the Holy Land.

West. This, matched with other, did, my gracious


For more uneven and unwelcome news

Came from the north, and thus it did import.
On Holyrood-day,' the gallant Hotspur there,
Young Harry Percy, and brave Archibald,3
That ever-valiant and approved Scot,
At Holmedon met,

Where they did spend a sad and bloody hour;
As, by discharge of their artillery,

And shape of likelihood, the news was told;
For he that brought them, in the very heat
And pride of their contention, did take horse,
Uncertain of the issue any way.

K. Hen. Here is a dear and true-industrious friend,
Sir Walter Blunt, new lighted from his horse,
Stained with the variation of each soil

Betwixt that Holmedon and this seat of ours;
And he hath brought us smooth and welcome news.
The earl of Douglas is discomfited;

Ten thousand bold Scots, two-and-twenty knights,
Balked in their own blood, did sir Walter see
On Holmedon's plains. Of prisoners, Hotspur took
Mordake the earl of Fife, and eldest son


To beaten Douglas, and the earls of Athol,

Of Murray, Angus, and Menteith."

1 i. e. September 14th.

2 "This Harry Percy was surnamed, for his often pricking, Henry Hotspur, as one that seldom times rested, if there were anie service to be done abroad."-Holinshed's Hist. of Scotland, p. 240.

3 Archibald Douglas, earl Douglas.

4 Balked in their own blood, is heaped, or laid on heaps, in their own blood. A balk was a ridge or bank of earth standing up between two furrows; and to balk was to throw up the earth so as to form those heaps or banks.

5 Mordake, earl of Fife, who was son to the duke of Albany, regent of Scotland, is here called the son of earl Douglas, through a mistake, into which the Poet was led by the omission of a comma in the passage whence he took this account of the Scottish prisoners.

6 This is a mistake of Holinshed in his English History, for in that of Scotland, pp. 259, 262, 419, he speaks of the earl of Fife and Menteith as one and the same person.

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