— Scene 8 —
King Henry IV talked with his Lords the Earl of Exeter and the Earl of Oxford. The King, who was in a movable chair on wheels, knew that he was dying.
“Come, my Lords,” King Henry IV said. “I see it will not help me to take any medicine, for all the physicians in the world cannot cure me — no, not one. But my good Lords, remember my last will and testament concerning my son, for truly, my Lords, I don’t think anything but that he will prove to be as valiant and victorious a King as ever reigned in England.”
The two Lords replied, “Let heaven and earth be witnesses against us, if we don’t accomplish your will to the uttermost.”
“I give you most unfeigned and sincere thanks, my good Lords,” King Henry IV said. “Draw the curtains and depart from my chamber for awhile and cause some music to play to make me fall asleep.”
The Earl of Exeter and the Earl of Oxford exited.
Music played, and King Henry IV fell asleep.
Prince Henry entered the room at a distance from his father the King and said, “Ah, Harry, thrice-unhappy Harry, who has been neglectful for so long and has not visited your sick father. I will go now and visit him.”
He hesitated and then said, “But why don’t I go to the chamber of my sick father to comfort the melancholy soul of his body?”
He hesitated again and then went over to his father’s sick-chair.
Prince Henry looked at his father and said, “‘His soul,’ did I say? Here is his body indeed, but his soul is where it needs no body. Now thrice-accursed Harry, who has offended your father so much, and could not beg pardon for all the sins he has — I have! — committed! Oh, my father, who is at the point of death, cursed be the day when I was born, and accursed be the hour when I was conceived!
“But what shall I do? If weeping tears that come too late may suffice to atone for the negligence I showed my father, I will weep day and night until the fountain is dry with weeping.”
King Henry IV was wearing his crown. Prince Henry took the crown off his father’s head and exited.
The Earl of Exeter and the Earl of Oxford returned.
“Walk softly, my Lord,” the Earl of Exeter said, “for fear of waking the King.”
King Henry IV woke up and said, “Now, my Lords.”
“How does your grace feel?” the Earl of Oxford asked.
“Somewhat better after my sleep,” King Henry IV replied. “But, my good Lords, take off my crown, move my chair back a little, and set me upright.”
“If it please your grace, the crown has been taken away,” the Earl of Exeter and the Earl of Oxford said.
“The crown has been taken away!” King Henry IV said. “My good Earl of Oxford, go and see who has done this deed.”
The Earl of Oxford exited.
King Henry IV continued, “No doubt it is some vile traitor who has done this in order to deprive my son of the crown. They who would do it now would seek to scrape and scramble for it after my death.”
The Earl of Oxford returned with Prince Henry, who was holding the crown.
“Here, if itplease your grace,” the Earl of Oxford said, “is my Lord the young Prince with the crown.”
“Why, what is this, my son?” King Henry IV asked. “I had thought the last time I had you in my schooling that I had given you a lasting lesson to be virtuous, and do you now begin to backslide? Why, tell me, my son, do you think the time passes so slowly before I die that you would take the crown before my last breath is out of my mouth?”
“Most sovereign Lord and well-beloved father,” Prince Henry replied, “I came into your chamber to comfort the melancholy soul of your body, and finding you at that time past all recovery and dead, as I thought, as God is my witness, what should I do but with weeping tears lament the death of you, my father?
“And after that, seeing the crown, I took it. And tell me, my father, who might better take it than I after your death? But, seeing you live, I most humbly render the crown into your majesty’s hands, and I am the happiest man alive because my father lives. And may you, my Lord and father, live forever.”
Prince Henry gave his father the King the crown and knelt before him.
“Stand up, my son,” King Henry IV said. “Your answer has sounded well in my ears, for I must confess that I was in a very sound sleep and altogether unaware of your coming. But come near, my son, and let me put you in possession of the crown while I live,so that none may deprive you of it after my death.”
“I may take it well from your majesty’s hands,” Prince Henry said, “but it shall never touch my head as long as my father lives.”
Prince Henry took the crown.
“May God give you joy, my son,” King Henry IV said. “May God bless you and make you His servant and send you a prosperous reign, for God knows, my son, with how much hardship I came by it and with how much hardship I have maintained it.”
King Henry IV had usurped the crown from King Richard II. His title to the crown was insecure.
“How you came to possess the crown, I don’t know,” Prince Henry said, “but I have it now from you, and in succession from you I will keep it. And he who seeks to take the crown from my head, let him take care that his armor is thicker than mine, or I will pierce him to the heart, even if it is harder than brass or bullion.”
“Nobly spoken, and spoken like a King,” King Henry IV said. “Now trust me, my Lords, I have no doubt that my son will be as warlike and victorious a Prince as ever reigned in England.”
The two Earls said, “His former life shows no less.”
“Well, my Lords,” King Henry IV said, “I don’t know whether it is for sleep or the drawing near of the drowsy summer of death, but I am very much ready to sleep. Therefore, my good Lords and my son, draw the curtains, depart from my chamber, and cause some music to make me fall asleep.”
The Earl of Exeter, the Earl of Oxford, and Prince Henry drew the curtains.
The Earl of Exeter, the Earl of Oxford, and Prince Henry exited.
The King died.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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This is an easy-to-retelling of The Famous Victories of Henry V, which is an important source for William Shakespeare’s Henry IVand Henry Vplays.
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