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" I know not whether God will have it so,
For some displeasing service I have done,
In Pt. II. üi. 1. 45-79, he bemoans the "time's condition,” and tries to make excuses for his usurpation. Shortly afterwards, iv. 4. 54-66, he anticipates the evil days which will follow when Prince Henry succeeds to the crown, his heart being still filled with the fears expressed in the passage quoted above.
These gloomy anticipations are again eloquently recited in iv. 5.
9-138; and when the Prince, defending himself against the charge of desiring his father's death in order that he may ascend the throne, speaks of the "noble change" that he has "purposed," the king, iv. 5. 184-220, reverts to the “by-paths and indirect crook'd ways" by which he “met crown," tells the Prince “how troublesome it sat upon” his "head," how that he hopes it shall descend” to him “with better quiet, Better opinion, better confirmation," and finally, still conscious of the likelihood of intestine troubles, advises him
to busy giddy minds
in In Henry V. we are shown the newly-crowned king seady to follow his father's advice by making war upon France. Just before starting on his expedition, he discovers the plot of Cambridge, Scroop, and Grey, and
persuades himself that this discovery is an indication of Heaven's satisfaction with the war he is undertaking;
“ We doubt not of a fair and lucky war,
Since God so graciously hath brought to light
To hinder our beginnings." On the eve of the battle of Agincourt the remembrance of his father's usurpation finds expression in an appeal to God not on that day to think
upon the fault My father made in compassing the crown”; he pleads,
“ I Richard's body have interred new,
And on it have bestow'd more contrite tears
Sing still for Richard's-soul”; and finally vows,
- More will I do ; Though all that I can do is nothing worth, Since that my penitence comes after all,
Imploring pardon." His rule is strong and beneficent, and so long as he lives the questionable character of his title to the crown i$ forgotten, or forgiven, not merely in consequence of the manner in which he busies men's minds, and finds occupation for their restless energies, but because of the contented pride with which a king so thoroughly English is regarded by a nation which he has raised to a pitch of greatness never hitherto attained. But he is an excep.
tional king, and it is by exceptional virtues alone that such a position as he has inherited can be maintained. The moment his strong arm is withdrawn, and the people have no one to look to but a prince like Henry the Sixth, feeble alike in mind and body, the contentious passions of the nobles burst forth again in all their violence; the right derived from Henry the Fourth goes for nothing; Edward the Fourth, the nearest lineal descendant of Edward the Third, succeeds to the throne; and Henry the Fourth's usurpation is, so to speak, avenged.
We may now examine the characters of the play.
We first meet with Henry, then only Bolingbroke, The King. Duke of Hereford, in the opening scenes of Richard the Second, where for his rivalry with the Duke of Norfolk and in it the disturbance of his country's peace,—such is Richard's pretended excuse,,he is banished from England for “twice five summers.” On the death, however, of his father Gaunt, he returns without permission to claim his heritage of the Duchy of Lancaster, when Richard's arbitrary and impolitic seizure of his "royalties and rights,” together with the known discontent of the people at his reckless exactions and feeble government, give him a pretext for making war upon the king whose crown, with the aid of other ill-affected pobles, he quickly wrests from him. Henry's character las portrayed in Richard the Second is uniform with its development in Henry the Fourth. Earthy in his aspirations, with nothing very exalted, nothing very lovable about him, he knows what he wants, is skilful in reading the minds of those about him, whether high lor low, and, unlike his vacillating opponent, goes
straight forward to his point. He can wait, he can flatter, can use dissimulation; but his waiting is not dilatoriness, in his flattery he does not descend to unworthy familiarity, tinder his dissimulation he masks his designs, yet cloaks no treachery. With instinctive insight into the situation he contrives that his deposition of Richard should appear as much forced upon him as sought by him, and every step he takes is taken with deliberate, well-planned, advance. Towards the confederate lords he is gracious without enthusiasm ; a courageous opponent, like the Bishop of Carlisle, he punishes with rigour and yet with politic generosity; for a weak and fallen foe, like Richard, he has a feeling of pity, contemptuous as that pity may be. Self-contained and self-assured, he has no need to be vindictive or petty. Of his country's wrongs and sufferings he has as clear a perception as of his own wrongs and sufferings; and if his first dictates are those of selfishness, it is an enlightened selfishness which sees that self alone cannot be safely gratified. To be really powerful himself, he knows that he must make his country powerful and prosperous, so far as good government can effect that end. To ensure permanence to his rule, it is essential that tranquillity and justice should prevail throughout the land. At the opening of the present play Henry had been seated on the throne for three years. Resting his claims on a parliamentary title, he was constrained to rule in accordance with constitutional law, and dared not, even if he wished it, attempt that independence of the crown which had been Richard's ruin. He had courted and won the support of the chief nobles; he had further purchased the
support of the Church by basely countenancing the persecution of the Reformers, and to their resentment he owed a considerable aggravation of the incessant revolts that threatened his reign. But at the time at which Shakespeare continues his career, he deludes himself with the belief that he has quelled all disorder, and may now prepare himself for a crusade against the Moslems who still heid “the sepulchre of Christ," an undertaking we may imagine dictated by the idea of busying "giddy minds," --- a policy he afterwards preaches to his son,—and intended by way of propitiation of God's displeasure, quite as much as resulting from any fervour of religious enthusiasm. His delusion, however, is short-lived, and he turns to meet the danger which he finds threatening him not more in the successful defiance of the Welsh chieftain, Glendower, than in the haughty demeanour of the Northumberland faction to whose help he owed his accession to the throne. And here his usual policy deserts him. Partly that he fancies himself stronger than he really is, partly that he cannot shut out from his view the claims to the crown of Edmund Mortimer, nephew to Lady Percy, he allows himself to be drawn into a quarrel with the Percies, who thereupon throw themselves into the arms of Glendower and raise the standard of rebellion. A slight concession might, for the time at least, have secured the continued good will of this powerful party; but Henry probably feels only too acutely the galling bands of obligation, probably has in his mind Richard's prophetic words to Northumberland,
" And he shall think that thou, which know'st the way
To plant unrightful kings, will know again,