Henry IV, Part 2 (Pelican Shakespeare Series)by William Shakespeare
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"I feel that I have spent half my career with one or another Pelican Shakespeare in my back pocket. Convenience, however, is the least important aspect of the new Pelican Shakespeare series. Here is an elegant and clear text for either the study or the rehearsal room, notes where you need them and the distinguished scholarship of the general editors, Stephen Orgel and A. R. Braunmuller who understand that these are plays for performance as well as great texts for contemplation." (Patrick Stewart)
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Henry IV, Part 2
By William Shakespeare
Penguin BooksCopyright © 2000 William Shakespeare
All right reserved.
Open your ears, for which of you will stop
The vent of hearing when loud Rumor speaks?
I, from the orient to the drooping west,
Making the wind my post-horse, still unfold
The acts commenced on this ball of earth.
Upon my tongues continual slanders ride,
The which in every language I pronounce,
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.
I speak of peace while covert enmity Under the smile of safety wounds the world.
And who but Rumor, who but only I,
Make fearful musters and prepared defense
Whiles the big year, swoll'n with some other grief,
Is thought with child by the stern tyrant war,
And no such matter? Rumor is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,
And of so easy and so plain a stop
That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,
The still-discordant wav'ring multitude,
Can play upon it. But what need I thus
My well-known body to anatomize
Among my household? Why is Rumor here?
I run before King Harry's victory,
Who in a bloody field by Shrewsbury
Hath beaten down young Hotspur and his troops,
Quenching the flame of bold rebellion
Even with the rebels' blood. But what mean I
To speak so true at first? My office is
To noise abroad that Harry Monmouth fell
Under the wrath of noble Hotspur's sword,
And that the King before the Douglas' rage
Stooped his anointed head as low as death.
This have I rumored through the peasant towns
Between that royal field of Shrewsbury
And this worm-eaten [hold] of ragged stone,
(Where) Hotspur's father, old Northumberland,
lies crafty-sick. The posts come tiring on,
And not a man of them brings other news
Than they have learnt of me. From Rumor's tongues
They bring smooth comforts false, worse than
Copyright © 1999 by The Folger Shakespeare Library
Excerpted from Henry IV, Part 2 by William Shakespeare Copyright © 2000 by William Shakespeare. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is an excellent play. I would recommend that you first read part one because you will thereby have the whole framework to refer back to. In fact, it's interesting to note the differences between the two (hence my title here). Although you must recognize the essential chronological continuation from part one to part two, the plays possess different dramatic essences. In part one, we want to know if Hotspur is going to defeat the usurper Bolingbroke. Prince Hal emerges victorious in respect to that plot. There is in part one much doubt as to Prince Hal's integrity, if you will. Why is he pal-ing around with the licentious Falstaff? For me, that Prince Hal kills Hotspur on the battlefield goes a long way in quelling my doubts about his intentions and behavior in the midst of the monarchy. In contrast, in part two, we descry a morally correct distancing of himself from the sack-loving chap. Prince Hal even disquises himself in one scene with Poins to see what they can stir up. As regards my take on the play, I'm fascinated by the way that Falstaff somehow immediately knows that one of the men is Harry, his disguise notwithstanding. So, I say Shakespeare beautifully amplifies Falstaff in part two (and, by'r Lady, does he have plans for Falstaff at the end). We ultimately end up with a portrait of an untrustworthy man. I don't see it all as "expectation mocked," as Normand Holland argues in the Signet edition introduction. Falstaff is who he is, a sinful man, vis-a-vis Prince Harry. Shakespeare is telling us that Falstaff just wants to lead his Joe Sixpack life, albeit somewhat dishonestly. Additionally, there is a psychomachia occurring with these two main characters, an argumment I do agree with. So, onward to part two, I interpret a felicitous counterpoise, which makes the play the dramatic whole that it is: as Falstaff enlarges in portrait before us with Justice Shallow, Bardolph, Doll, and Mistress Quickly, Prince Hal separates himself quite clearly from his dissolute company and worries more about establishing himself as a fine soldier and good statesman, in King Henry IV's eyes. The Archbishop Scroop and Mowbray are preparing themeslves to attack the King in this one, but the King is able to talk them out of it and then executes them. And that is how it ends. King Henry IV dies and Prince Hal inherits the crown. Now we can look forward to Henry V. Also, you've got to think about Holinshed as a source before deciding on issues of plot. The final expression of this estrangement I've described comes in the form of Falstaff's arrest. The real-life Jockey Oldcastle was also executed. This play has a lot to think about depending on which aspect of the play you focus on.