Henry IV, Part 1

by: William Shakespeare

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God pardon thee. Yet let me wonder, Harry,
30At thy affections, which do hold a wing
Quite from the flight of all thy ancestors.
Thy place in council thou hast rudely lost,
Which by thy younger brother is supplied,
And art almost an alien to the hearts
35Of all the court and princes of my blood.
The hope and expectation of thy time
Is ruined, and the soul of every man
Prophetically doth forethink thy fall.
Had I so lavish of my presence been,
40So common-hackneyed in the eyes of men,
So stale and cheap to vulgar company,
Opinion, that did help me to the crown,
Had still kept loyal to possession
And left me in reputeless banishment,
45A fellow of no mark nor likelihood.
By being seldom seen, I could not stir
But like a comet I was wondered at;
That men would tell their children “This is he.”
Others would say “Where? Which is Bolingbroke?”
50And then I stole all courtesy from heaven,
And dressed myself in such humility
That I did pluck allegiance from men’s hearts,
Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths,
Even in the presence of the crownèd King.
55Thus did I keep my person fresh and new,
My presence, like a robe pontifical,
Ne'er seen but wondered at, and so my state,
Seldom but sumptuous, showed like a feast
And won by rareness such solemnity.
60The skipping King, he ambled up and down
With shallow jesters and rash bavin wits,
Soon kindled and soon burnt; carded his state,
Mingled his royalty with cap'ring fools,


Let God forgive you! But I’m amazed, Harry, at your inclinations, which run completely contrary to those of your ancestors. Your vulgar behavior has cost you your place on my council, a position now held by your younger brother. You have almost completely alienated yourself from the good graces of the courtiers and the other members of the royal family. The hopes of your youth are now ruined; every man, in his heart, thinks he can see your downfall. If I had been so publicly visible, so overly familiar to people, so freely accessible, so cheap and available to the common hordes, then public opinion (which helped me get the crown) would have stayed loyal to King Richard. I would have stayed a banished man, with no reputation and no promise of success. But because I was so rarely seen in public, people were amazed by me when I did appear; they acted as if I were a comet. Men would tell their children, “That’s him!” Others would ask, “Where? Which one’s Bolingbroke?” I was more gracious than heaven; I acted so modestly that I won the allegiance of their hearts, and the shouts and salutes of their mouths. They even did so when the King himself was present.
This is how I kept myself fresh and new. I was like a priest’s ceremonial vestments: rarely seen, but admired. I appeared seldomly, but marvelously, like a feast made all the more impressive by its rarity. Now, ridiculous King Richard pranced about with vapid clowns and superficial wits, quickly lit and just as quickly burnt out. He degraded himself, mingling his royal self with those skipping fools.