Act Two: Our Titular King is Still Missing in Action

The second act of The Second Part of Henry the Fourth takes us back to the tavern in Eastcheap, where Mistress Quickly is demanding that Officer Fang (a great name, no?) arrest Falstaff for non-payment of his bills. What follows is a mixture of Quick-Lay’s inadvertent bawdy references (“He stabbed me in mine own house” [II.i.13-14] and “my exion is entered and my case so openly known to the world” [II.i.28-29]), and Fang’s not-so-inadvertent ones (“I care not for his thrust” [II.i.18]). When Falstaff enters, the officers (now accompanied by the Chief Justice) attempt to do their duty, and he tries to talk his way out of it, only to be confronted by this new accusation by Quickly:

Thou didst swear to me then, as I was washing thy wound, to marry me and make me my lady thy wife. Canst thou deny it?

— II.i.88-90

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Act One: Rumor, Rebels, and an Old Fat Man

As I noted yesterday, The Second Part of Henry the Fourth doesn’t begin with a scene with the current king or even the next one. Instead, we get an Induction (an introduction), spoken by “Rumor, painted full of tongues” (I.induction, opening stage direction). Bizarre as it sounds, it’s a great opening: “Open your ears, for which of you will stop // The vent of hearing when loud Rumor speaks?” (I.induction.1-2). [Man, is that insight into the human condition, or what!] Rumor goes on to discuss his worldwide state, and then presents the news from the end of The First Part of Henry the Fourth, “King Harry’s victory … (at) Shrewsbury” (I.induction.23-24). Rumor then chides himself:

                                   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.

— I.induction.28-32

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And it begins…

weirdly: The Second Part of Henry the Fourth begins not with King Henry IV, or even the man who will be Henry V (Prince Hal), but with Rumor personified.

Even when his Induction is over, we don’t get the royals, or even the tavern life, but the rebels… wth?

more soon…

Part Two

So it’s a new month, a new year, a new play: The Second Part of Henry the Fourth.

Remember just over a year ago when we had The Second Part of Henry the Sixth? Remember how good that one was?

Man, I hope that doesn’t bode ill for this month…