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Henry IV Part 2

William Shakespeare

  Act 4 Scene 1

page Act 4 Scene 1 Page 8

Original Text

Modern Text

That, were our royal faiths martyrs in love,
We shall be winnowed with so rough a wind
195That even our corn shall seem as light as chaff
And good from bad find no partition.
won’t count; he won’t be able to distinguish them from the bad.


No, no, my lord. Note this: the King is weary
Of dainty and such picking grievances,
For he hath found to end one doubt by death
200Revives two greater in the heirs of life;
And therefore will he wipe his tables clean
And keep no telltale to his memory
That may repeat and history his loss
To new remembrance. For full well he knows
205He cannot so precisely weed this land
As his misdoubts present occasion;
His foes are so enrooted with his friends
That, plucking to unfix an enemy,
He doth unfasten so and shake a friend;
210So that this land, like an offensive wife
That hath enraged him on to offer strokes,
As he is striking holds his infant up
And hangs resolved correction in the arm
That was upreared to execution.


No, no, sir. Listen, the king is tired of getting upset over every little thing. He’s discovered that ending one problem by killing someone only creates two bigger problems in the people left alive. So from now on, he’ll wipe his memory clean, and forget anything that might remind him of the bad things from his past. He knows that he can’t just eliminate every single opponent who crops up.
His enemies are rooted in with his friends, to the extent that, if he tries to pull up an enemy, he’ll also uproot and discard a friend. This country’s like a misbehaving wife, who, just when her husband is about to hit her, holds his baby up, and freezes the intended punishment in the very arm that was poised to apply it.


215Besides, the King hath wasted all his rods
On late offenders, that he now doth lack
The very instruments of chastisement,
So that his power, like to a fangless lion,
May offer but not hold.


Besides, the King has expended all his energy for punishment on the recent rebellion. He has nothing left to punish with. His power is like a lion with no teeth: it can threaten, but it can’t do any harm.


   'Tis very true,
220And therefore be assured, my good Lord Marshal,
If we do now make our atonement well,
Our peace will, like a broken limb united,
Grow stronger for the breaking.


That’s true. Rest assured, my good Lord Marshal, if our reconciliation is sincere, then peace will be like a broken bone, which grows stronger for having once been broken.

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