Hermann Ax says in regard to the contradictions in Holinshed's account of the events leading to the rupture between Henry and Mortimer and the alliance between Mortimer and the Percies that they "render difficult not only a comparison between dramatist and chronicler, but also a sure interpretation of each passage in the play" (The Relation ofShakespeare's Henry IV to Holinshed , quoted here from A New Variorum Edition of 1 Henry IV, ed. S. B. Hemingway [Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 19361, p. 66). If, as the OED assumes, citing Shakespeare's usage in Hotspur's protest-"He never did fall off, my sovereign liege, I But by the chance of war" (1.3.94-95)-to "fall off' means to "revolt" or "withdraw from allegiance" (91e) and not, as perhaps Shakespeare intends, merely to cease fighting as a result of his capture, there is the added difficulty of following Hotspur's logic that Mortimer's capture-a "chance of war"--can justify a dishonorable "revolt." See Hemingway, ed., p. 65.
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When Hal mimics Hotspur and "Dame Mortimer," the prince is manic in his intoxication: " 'Rivo!'says the drunkard" (1. 1 1 1). With the relatively dull Poins at his side asking "Come, what's the issue?" (1. 91), Hal foreshadows a later prince whose hysteria-after he has spoken with the Ghost, say, or after "The Mousetra~"--leaves his friends and even the audience in wonder at the lack of emoiional and narrative continuity. With both Hal and Hamlet, Shakespeare measures the mental agility and high-spirited wits of the heroes against their plodding and puzzled attendants. Any anxieties aroused by Hal's ventriloquizing of the male and female voices in Hotspur's domestic life are obscured by other intentions patently present and bril- liantly fulfilled. I suggest that the small space permitted "Dame Mortimer" in Hal's masculine history reproduces the minimal space allowed women in the history play, a space in which they disrupt masculine narrative and threaten masculine dignity even as they are safely contained. In the process of being acknowledged, the women are simultaneously censored to prevent their desecration and mutilation of masculine discourse and their transfor- mation of the pitiable male body into a sexual grotesque.
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Hal's jest with Francis prepares a parallel between the deficiencies of the humble drawer and those of the aristocratic rebel: their singleminded obsessions result in a busyness that obstructs human conversation. Shake- speare clearly intends Hal's critique to be apt: the scenes with Hotspur and his wife have calculated cross-references to Hal's parody (e.g., the parrot and the favorite roan horse). Hal's ventriloquized dialogue between Hotspur and his wife parodies-up to a point-the abrupt and disjointed dialogue heard earlier between the married couple.
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The passage does not entirely disengage Hotspur from the effeminacy that he wants his critique to isolate: on the one hand, potential quotation marks separate "untaught knaves" and "unmannerly" from Hotspur's masculine narrative voice; on the other, his foppish imitation-"To bring a slovenly unhandsome corse / Betwixt the wind and his nobility"-implicates him indirectly in the effeminate discourse. In a later scene Hotspur similarly impugns the masculinity of the letter-writer who has declined to participate in the rebellion. He accuses this "lord fool" of being "a dish of skim-milk" without the manhood to withstand an attack from his wife: " 'Zounds, and I were now by this rascal, I could brain him with his lady's fan" (2.3.22ff.). In this monologue in 2.3, Hotspur is given the text of a letter whereby he can rigidly distinguish the effeminacy of its discourse from the masculinity of his own.
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shown not only in his transsexual ineptitude as Kate but also in his misrep- resentation of Hotspur, Hal is incapable of more than a crude critique of heterosexuality; and I think it fair to say that this limitation exposes limitations of his homosocial world as well. Instead of playing both sexes, Hal will play both prince and king. Hal might be able to "drink with any tinker in his own language" (1.19), but his perception of language between men and women is restricted to farce; and Shakespeare moves him back into the safer single-sex realm of patriarchal power. It is within a carefully delimited world that Hal appears as composed "of all humors that have show'd themselves humors since the old days of goodman Adam" (1.92-94). He does not have to confront Eve.