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THE transactions, contained in this historical drama, are comprised within the period of about ten months: for the action commences with the news brought of Hotspur having defeated the Scots, under Archibald Earl Douglas, at Holmedon, or Halidown Hill, which battle was fought on Holyrood-day (the 14th of September) 1402: and it closes with the defeat and death of Hotspur at Shrewsbury; which engagement happened on Saturday the 21st of July, (the eye of St. Mary Magdalen) in the year 1403.
Shakspeare has apparently designed a regular connexion of these dramatic histories from Richard the Second to Henry the Fifth. King Henry, at the end of Richard the Second, declares his purpose to visit the Holy Land, which he resumes in his speech. The complaint made by King Henry in the last act of Richard the Second, of the wildness of his son, prepares the reader for the frolicks which are here to be recounted, and the characters which are now to be exhibited. JOHNSON.
KING HENRY THE FOURth.
HENRY, Prince of Wales,
EARL OF WESTMORELAND,
SIR WALTER BLUNT,
THOMAS PERCY, Earl of Worcester.
HENRY PERCY, Earl of Northumberland:
HENRY PERCY, surnamed Hotspur, his Son.
EDMUND MORTIMER, Earl of March.
SCROOP, Archbishop of York.
ARCHIBALD, Earl of Douglas.
SIR RICHARD Vernon.
SIR JOHN FALSTAFF.
LADY PERCY, wife to Hotspur, and Sister to Mortimer. LADY MORTIMER, Daughter to Glendower, and Wife to Mortimer.
MRS. QUICKLY, Hostess of a Tavern in Eastcheap. Lords, Officers, Sheriff, Vintner, Chamberlain, Drawers, two Carriers, Travellers, and Attendants.
London. A Room in the Palace.
Enter King HENRY, WESTMORELAND, Sir WALTER BLUNT, and others.
K. Hen. So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils
To be commenc'd in stronds afar remote 1.
No more the thirsty Erinnys of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood;
No more shall trenching war channel her fields,
Nor bruise her flowrets with the armed hoofs
Of hostile paces: those opposed eyes,
Which, like the meteors of a troubled heaven,
All of one nature, of one substance bred,-
Did lately meet in the intestine shock
And furious close of civil butchery,
Shall now, in mutual, well-beseeming ranks,
March all one way; and be no more oppos'd
Against acquaintance, kindred, and allies:
The edge of war, like an ill-sheathed knife,
No more shall cut his master. Therefore, friends,
As far as to the sepulcher of Christ,
(Whose soldier now, under whose blessed cross
We are impressed and engag'd to fight,)
Forthwith a power of English shall we levy;
Whose arms were moulded in their mothers' womb
To chase these pagans, in those holy fields,
Over whose acres walk'd those blessed feet,
Which, fourteen hundred years ago, were nail'd
For our advantage, on the bitter cross.
But this our purpose is a twelve-month old,
And bootless 'tis to tell you-we will go;
Therefore we meet not now:-Then let me hear
Of you, my gentle cousin Westmoreland,
What yesternight our council did decree,
In forwarding this dear expedience3.
West. My liege, this haste was hot in question,
And many limits of the charge set down
But yesternight: when, all athwart, there came
A post from Wales, loaden with heavy news;
Whose worst was,-that the noble Mortimer,
Leading the men of Herefordshire to fight
Against the irregular and wild Glendower,
Was by the rude hands of that Welchman taken,
And a thousand of his people butchered:
Upon whose dead corps there was such misuse,
Such beastly, shameless transformation,
By those Welchwomen done+, as may not be,
Without much shame, retold or spoken of.
K. Hen. It seems then, that the tidings of this broil Brake off our business for the Holy land.
West. This, match'd with other, did, my gracious
For more uneven and unwelcome news
Came from the north, and thus it did import.
On Holy-rood day, the gallant Hotspur there,
Young Harry Percy, and brave Archibald,
That ever-valiant and approved Scot,
At Holmedon met,
Where they did spend a sad and bloody hour;
As by discharge of their artillery,
And shape of likelihood, the news was told;
For he that brought them, in the very heat
And pride of their contention, did take horse,
Uncertain of the issue any way.
K. Hen. Here is a dear and true-industrious friend,
Sir Walter Blunt, new lighted from his horse,
Stain'd with the variation of each soil
Betwixt that Holmedon and this seat of ours;
And he hath brought us smooth and welcome news.
The earl of Douglas is discomfited;
Ten thousand bold Scots, two and twenty knights,
Balk'd in their own blood, did sir Walter see
On Holmedon's plains: Of prisoners, Hotspur took
Mordake the earl of Fife, and eldest son