Henry IV, Part 1

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 4 Scene 3

page Act 4 Scene 3 Page 3

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40And God defend but still I should stand so,
So long as out of limit and true rule
You stand against anointed majesty.
But to my charge. The king hath sent to know
The nature of your griefs, and whereupon
45You conjure from the breast of civil peace
Such bold hostility, teaching his duteous land
Audacious cruelty. If that the king
Have any way your good deserts forgot,
Which he confesseth to be manifold,
50He bids you name your griefs, and with all speed
You shall have your desires with interest
And pardon absolute for yourself and these
Herein misled by your suggestion.


And I hope to God I always will, so long as you overstep the bounds of allegiance and duty by standing against the anointed King. But let me get to the point. The King sent me to learn your complaints, and to find out why you are stirring up warfare in a time of peace, and spreading violent dissent throughout his loyal country. If the King has somehow overlooked one of your deserving acts—which, he admits, there are many—he asks you to name your complaints. He’ll meet your demands, with interest, as quickly as possible, and grant an absolute pardon to you and everyone who has followed your mistaken lead.


The king is kind, and well we know the king
55Knows at what time to promise, when to pay.
My father and my uncle and myself
Did give him that same royalty he wears,
And when he was not six-and-twenty strong,
Sick in the world’s regard, wretched and low,
60A poor unminded outlaw sneaking home,
My father gave him welcome to the shore;
And when he heard him swear and vow to God
He came but to be Duke of Lancaster,
To sue his livery, and beg his peace,
65With tears of innocency and terms of zeal,
My father, in kind heart and pity moved,
Swore him assistance and performed it too.
Now when the lords and barons of the realm
Perceived Northumberland did lean to him,
70The more and less came in with cap and knee,
Met him in boroughs, cities, villages,
Attended him on bridges, stood in lanes,
Laid gifts before him, proffered him their oaths,
Gave him their heirs as pages, followed him
75Even at the heels in golden multitudes.
He presently, as greatness knows itself,
Steps me a little higher than his vow
Made to my father while his blood was poor
Upon the naked shore at Ravenspurgh,
80And now forsooth takes on him to reform
Some certain edicts and some strait decrees
That lie too heavy on the commonwealth,
Cries out upon abuses, seems to weep
Over his country’s wrongs, and by this face,
85This seeming brow of justice, did he win
The hearts of all that he did angle for,
Proceeded further—cut me off the heads
Of all the favourites that the absent King
In deputation left behind him here
90When he was personal in the Irish war.


That’s kind of the King. We know all too well about the promises the King makes, and the ways he keeps his word. My father, my uncle, and I put that crown on his head. And when he had barely twenty-six men supporting him, when no one cared about him, when he was wretched and low, a poor, forsaken criminal trying to sneak home, my father welcomed him. When he swore an oath to God, weeping and speaking passionately, that he had come back to England only to reclaim his father’s title and make peace with King Richard, my father took pity on him, swore to help him and did so.
When the country’s most important men saw that Northumberland was on his side, they came to see Henry, and bowed down to him. They met him in towns, cities, villages; they waited for him on bridges, stood in the streets, lay gifts before him, swore their loyalty, pledged the support of their sons, followed him like servants. Soon enough, he began to understand his power. He overstepped the promise he’d made to my father at Ravenspurgh, when his blood was still humble. And then, suddenly, he took it upon himself to reform certain laws and strict decrees that weighed too heavily on the kingdom. He made angry speeches about the abuses we were suffering, and seemed to weep over the country’s problems.
And with this face, this mask of righteousness, he won everyone’s hearts. Then he went even further, and cut off the heads of all of Richard’s deputies, who stayed behind to run the country while Richard was waging war in Ireland.