“King Henry IV, part 1″ by William Shakespeare


I’m watching “The Hollow Crown” series of Shakespeare’s history plays on PBS, so am reading the four plays: Richard II, King Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, Henry V.


I’d never read the Henry IV plays, so part 1 was new to me. I watched the movie first, then read the play second. I wish I’d done it in the reverse. One particular scene, in which Hotspur continually insults Glendower, was hilarious to read, but I don’t remember finding it as funny during the play.


I cannot blame him: at my nativity
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,
Of burning cressets; and at my birth
The frame and huge foundation of the earth
Shaked like a coward.


Why, so it would have done at the same season, if
your mother’s cat had but kittened, though yourself
had never been born.


I say the earth did shake when I was born.


And I say the earth was not of my mind,
If you suppose as fearing you it shook.


The heavens were all on fire, the earth did tremble.


O, then the earth shook to see the heavens on fire,
And not in fear of your nativity.
Diseased nature oftentimes breaks forth
In strange eruptions; oft the teeming earth
Is with a kind of colic pinch’d and vex’d
By the imprisoning of unruly wind
Within her womb; which, for enlargement striving,
Shakes the old beldam earth and topples down
Steeples and moss-grown towers. At your birth
Our grandam earth, having this distemperature,
In passion shook.

So, basically, Hotspur told Glendower that the earth was farting on the day he was born. Lots of bodily functions and meaty insults, of which this was my favorite, though it had good competition:


none of these mad mustachio purple-hued maltworms (II.i.73-4)

This is a manly play, full of action, which perhaps explains why I found it more enjoyable than Richard II, which is full of effete, weak Richard and lots of people who stand still and speechify.

Based on this, I will try to squeeze in a read of part 2 before tomorrow.

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