King Henry IV, Part 1 By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act V: Scene 5

Summary

The insurrection having been repressed, King Henry orders the execution of Worcester and Vernon. The fate of the other rebels will be decided later. Prince Hal intercedes on behalf of the Earl of Douglas, and his life is spared. Prince John of Lancaster is given the honor of setting the Scotsman free. The king then announces that he will divide his forces. One army, led by Prince John and the Earl of Westmoreland, will move against the forces assembled by Northumberland and Archbishop Scroop in northern England. Accompanied by Prince Hal, Henry himself will march to Wales to fight Glendower and Mortimer.

Analysis

"Thus ever did rebellion find rebuke." This opening line, spoken by the titular hero, summarizes the major theme of the play. Another line spoken by the king at the end of this scene points to the theme of 2 Henry IV: "Rebellion in this land shall lose its sway" (41).

Henry's strong words indicting the Earl of Worcester serve a two-fold purpose. First and most important, these leave the impression at the end of the play that Henry IV is a strong, yet fair minded ruler, one who gave the rebels every chance to embrace law and order before he moved against them. Second, if a villain is to be found in the main plot, he must be Worcester, who was largely responsible for schooling young Percy and who, as Henry reminds him, had not borne "true intelligence" from the king to the other rebel leaders at Shrewsbury.

Hal now is the Ideal Prince. Properly, it is he who saves the life of the "noble Scot, Lord Douglas," and who delegates to John of Lancaster the "high honour" of freeing Douglas without ransom. Since Vernon has been depicted as no less noble and admirable, one may question why the prince's generosity did not extend to him. It is to be remembered, however, that Douglas, a valiant foe, is not an Englishman, not a rebel against a king to whom he had sworn allegiance.

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