Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 5

I think it is e’en Macedon where Alexander is porn. I tell you, captain, if you look in the maps of the world I warrant you sall find, in the comparisons between Macedon and Monmouth, that the situations, look you, is both alike. There is a river in Macedon, and there is also moreover a river at Monmouth. . . . If you mark Alexander’s life well, Harry of Monmouth’s life is come after it indifferent well. For there is figures in all things. Alexander, God knows, and you know, in his rages and his furies and his wraths and his cholers and his moods and his displeasures and his indignations, and also being a little intoxicates in his prains, did in his ales and his angers, look you, kill his best friend Cleitus —
         (IV.vii.1832)

Fluellen delivers this speech to Gower after Henry commands in the previous scene that the English soldiers kill all their French prisoners. Fluellen compares Henry to Alexander the Great, whom he initially calls “Alexander the Pig,” meaning “Alexander the Big” (IV.vii.10). Fluellen bases his comparison upon the ridiculous fact that there is a river in the town where Henry was born and a river in the town where Alexander was born.

In addition to being amusing, the speech is important because of its somewhat ominous ending. Fluellen notes that Alexander killed his best friend, a crime of which the audience might also accuse Henry, who indirectly or directly causes the deaths of Falstaff, Scrope, and Bardolph. Shakespeare thus uses Fluellen’s humor, in a moment of comic relief, to probe some of the moral anxiety lurking beneath his heroic portrait of Henry. Fluellen’s comparison of Henry to Alexander is both amusing and highly flattering to Henry. But, by unintentionally making the darker connection that both men killed friends, Fluellen emphasizes one of the play’s problem areas—namely, that running parallel to the qualities of leadership and justice in the minds of great kings is often a troubling capacity for violence and rage.