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tell the pleasant Prince this mock of his
turned his balls to gunstones, and his soul
stand sore chargèd for the wasteful vengeance
shall fly from them—for many a thousand widows
this his mock mock out of their dear husbands,
mothers from their sons, mock castles down;
But this lies all within the will of
To whom I do appeal, and in whose name
you the Dauphin I am coming on
To venge me
as I may, and to put forth
My rightful hand
in a well-hallowed cause.
This passage is part of Henry’s response
to the messenger who delivers the crate of tennis balls that the
Dauphin offers as a mocking reminder of Henry’s irresponsible and
wayward youth. With an icy, menacing wrath, Henry turns the Dauphin’s
jest on its head, threatening the messenger with a promise to treat
the fields of France like a tennis court and play a game for the
Dauphin’s father’s crown.
In his repeated insistence that the Dauphin’s jest will
be responsible for the terrible carnage that he will bring to France
(the Dauphin will “[m]ock mothers from their sons”), Henry indulges
in an early instance of casting responsibility for his actions away
from himself and onto his enemies. By claiming to come to France
in the name of God and by telling the Dauphin that he, the Dauphin,
is responsible for the consequences, Henry presents himself as an
unappeasable, unstoppable force his enemies must submit to rather
than struggle against. Henry may seem arrogant, but he makes himself
appear humble by appealing to God rather than to his own power.
This speech thus becomes an early blueprint for almost all of Henry’s future
self-characterizations: he claims that his enemies’ wickedness is
to blame for the violence brought by his own army, then depicts himself
as an instrument of God whose desire to further God’s will leaves
him no choice as to how to behave.