Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Henry Explications - Part E

The following is one in a series of mini-articles resulted from an exercise I had my St. Paul Academy 2011 Shakespeare students complete. The articles focus on selected speeches spanning Shakespeare’s Richard II, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, and Henry V.

Do not think so. You shall not find it so.
And God forgive them that so much have sway'd
Your majesty's good thoughts away from me.
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.
(1 Henry IV 3.2.134-139

This passage is an example of the changing relationship between Hal and his father. Hal is motivated by lies that have been told to the king in order to attempt to change his view of his son. He tries, in this passage, to adjust the king's opinion and express his anger about the lies that have been told. The language of Hal’s speech is generally forceful, the boldest parts being: “all this on Percy’s head” and “Be bold to tell you that I am your son.”

This language reveals an aspect of Hal’s character we have seen little of in the first few acts or the play (or in the latter act of Richard II). Up to this point, we've seen Hal in a bar with Falstaff slacking off and avoiding responsibilities; however here Shakespeare reveals Hal's inner strength that one would not necessarily guess was there. Hal seems on the verge of making his "I know you all" speech a reality. In addition, Hal's request that "God forgive" those who have lied about him suggests a certain piousness we haven't seen in the Boar's Head scenes, a devout aspect to his identity not unlike King Henry's.

Ben Palmer (SPA '12)

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