Henry IV Part 2

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 4 Scene 3

page Act 4 Scene 3 Page 3

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CLARENCE

He is not there today; he dines in London.

CLARENCE

He’s not there today. He’s in London.

KING

And how accompanied? Canst thou tell that?

KING

Who’s with him? Do you know?

CLARENCE

With Poins and other his continual followers.

CLARENCE

Poins, and the usual suspects.

KING

Most subject is the fattest soil to weeds,
55And he, the noble image of my youth,
Is overspread with them; therefore my grief
Stretches itself beyond the hour of death.
The blood weeps from my heart when I do shape,
In forms imaginary, th' unguided days
60And rotten times that you shall look upon
When I am sleeping with my ancestors.
For when his headstrong riot hath no curb,
When rage and hot blood are his counsellors,
When means and lavish manners meet together,
65O, with what wings shall his affections fly
Towards fronting peril and opposed decay!

KING

Weeds grow best in the richest soil, and he—like myself at that age—is overrun by them. My sadness, then, cannot end with my death. When I imagine the lawless days and rotten times that you will face when I am dead and sleeping with my ancestors, the blood weeps from my heart.
When Hal’s headstrong wildness has free rein; when aggression and passion are his advisors; when he has full opportunity to indulge in his riotous inclinations, then—Oh!—his criminal desires will fly like a bird towards danger and ruin.

WARWICK

My gracious lord, you look beyond him quite.
The Prince but studies his companions
Like a strange tongue, wherein, to gain the language,
70'Tis needful that the most immodest word
Be looked upon and learned; which, once attained,
Your Highness knows, comes to no further use
But to be known and hated. So, like gross terms,
The Prince will, in the perfectness of time,
75Cast off his followers, and their memory
Shall as a pattern or a measure live,
By which his Grace must mete the lives of others,
Turning past evils to advantages.

WARWICK

Your highness, you’ve got him all wrong. The Prince is only studying his criminal companions, the way one studies a foreign language. In order to truly learn a language, one must learn even the most immodest curse word—which, as you know, is only learned in order to be identified and, thereafter, avoided. So, like vulgar language, the Prince will get rid of his followers when the time is right. Then they’ll live on in his memory as guidelines, by which he’ll judge the conduct of others. In this sense, he’ll change his past bad deeds to good ends.

KING

'Tis seldom when the bee doth leave her comb
80In the dead carrion.

KING

It’s rare that a bee builds its nest in a dead animal’s carcass. The Prince won’t leave his current company.

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