As was shown above, Prince Hal also sets out to "redeem time". ("Redeeming time when men think least I will" (1.2. 277). Hal is Hotspur's double, the dangerous twin, as the King's fantasy of the changeling suggests.Rene Girard has pointed out that societies have always been very uneasy about doubles and twins, about gemination in general, which is perceived to be endangering the specificity and unique status of the individual. One of the twins will have to die. The mimetic rivalry between the two Harries, which is one of the major themes of the play, will have to be put an end to in an encounter where, as Hotspur puts it, " Harry to Harry shall, hot horse to hot horse,/ Meet and ne'er part till one drop down a corpse." (4.1.121-122) . The repetitions reinforce the theme of the double. Hal also points out the unacceptable nature of gemination.
Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere,
Nor can England brook a double reign
Of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales (5.4. 64-66) Killing Hotspur, Hal thinks he will be able to redeem the past and to open up the possibility for a different future. There is a messianic aura attached to this act. (Very much like Christ, Hal is ready pay not only for his debts but for other people's debts.) The past that Hal intends to redeem includes next to his own personal transgressions, his having been "truant to chivalry", his father's crimes, the latter's usurpation and murder of King Richard. Killing Hotspur amounts to redeeming history. It is central to the teleological thrust of the play, understood either as the morality-like reformation of the prince and his development into the ideal king or as the teleological development of historical events which climaxed with the English victory at Agincourt. Mention must be made that the teleological movement is continuously being delayed, stalled or even questioned. One fat delay is Falstaff.
How does Hal set out to redeem the past? He visualises the act in the promise he makes his father:
I will redeem all this on Percy's head
And in the closing of some glorious day
Be bold to tell you that I am your son,
When I will wear a garment all of blood,
And stain my favours in a bloody mask,
Which, washed away, shall scour my shame with it.(3.2.132-137)
As we have shown in the chapter on Richard II, the rival's blood discharges a purifying, redeeming function and scours and washes away all previous indignities and shames. That is the reason that Hotspur gives when he decides to take revenge against the king.
The act of killing the rival further stabilizes Hal's volatile identity. ("I shall hereafter, my thrice-gracious lord,/Be more myself", 3.2. 92-93) and restores his position as the king's son (rather than Falstaff's son). It also settles the issue about who is the king's real son, the heir apparent (that is, the heir who is not as yet here). The genealogical line and the continuity from one Henry to the other Henry is thus ensured. Defeating Hotspur thus furthers the teleogical design of the play. There is a certain ferocity about the image that Hal projects of his "truer" identity. Consider the lines "When I will wear a garnment all of blood/ And stain my favours in a bloody mask". The editors of the New Cambridge edition of the play have compared these lines with the apocalyptic vision of Pyrrhus in Hamlet, 2.2.456-8: "head to foot/ Now is he total gules, horridly trick'd/ With blood".. He is called "hellish Pyrrhus", he is "Roasted in wrath and fire,/And thus o'ersized with coagulate gore" (420-421). The associations with hell warn the audience of the dire consequences that an act of revenge must have. Pyrrhus is the embodiment of relentless revenge. His image is meant to rouse Hamlet to action. Upon closer inspection, however, he does not prove a worthy model to follow. What about Hal's Pyrrhus-like projection of himself? Is Hal's future identity appealing? There is an unredeemable excess in blood in this vision, which the chivalric code in which it is couched manages to conceal or subdue. The streak of cruelty and savagery in Hal is subdued in the play only to emerge triumphantly in Henry V.
What is more striking about Hal's pledge is the business like attitude that he adopts to the pursuit of honour. The promised victory is looked upon as a transfer of symbolic capital from Hotspur to Hal. This is indeed the essence of the substantiating function that wars and single combats perform. It is interesting that Hal should conceive of it as a kind of advantageous commercial transaction, which will enable him to acquire the monopoly of chivalric honour. Notice the words taken over from the language of business: Hotspur will "exchange/ His glorious deeds for my [Hal's] indignities/ Percy is but my factor good my lord,/ To engross up glorious deeds upon my behalf "(3.2.145-148, my emphasis). Factor means agent in a commercial transaction, and engross up means buy up, monopolise.
Whereas Hotspur is described as " Mars in swaddling clothes" (3.2. 112), Prince Hal, when he is all glittering in armour before the battle of Shrewsbury, is praised as "feathered Mercury". Mercury was the patron of merchants as well as of thieves. Though there is no doubt that Vernon is quite sincere in his praise of Hal, whose rise to fame he prophesises a bit later ( "if he outlive the envy of this day,/ England did never own so sweet a hope" 5.2.66-67), there is an unpremeditated touch of irony in his words which obliquely hint at the devious nature of Hal's companions (Falstaff and the rest, all thieves, or in Falstaff's words " Diana's foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon" 1.2. 21), whose patron he virtually is. Falstaff even ventures the question as to whether thieves will still be hanged when Hal is a king. Being his father's "true" son, Hal cannot be but a thief, considering that his father stole the crown he is wearing. Hoping to persuade Hal to take part in the Gads Hill robbery, Falstaff wishes "that the true prince may - for recreation's sake - prove a false thief" (1.2. 125) The word "false" somehow sticks to the description of the prince. He himself uses it in his important soliloquy in act one scene two when he predicts how he "shall falsify men's hopes" (171).
Hal's speech encourages the reading of his participation in battle, including his fight with Hotspur as part of the design of a cool, calculating character. Violence and war pay well. They yield financial profit like the one Falstaff makes when recruiting soldiers or the one he simply envisages "you may buy land now as cheap as stinking mackerel" ( 2.4. 375). It is, however, in political and symbolic terms that they are particularly profitable.
Henry IV needs war and so does his son in order to enhance the legitimacy of their positions. As Elaine Scarry has indicated, war and injuring de-realizes and eventually eliminates the beliefs, values and claims of one party only to authenticate the other party's claims and values. (Scarry, 132) The King is fully aware of the reality conferring function of war. This might have been one of the reasons why he changed his plans from going on a pilgrimage to launching a crusade. When the latter no longer turns out to be feasible ( at the start of the play the project of the intended crusade is already two years old) he can still fall back on rebellions directed against him. The Shrewsbury battle can be seen as a substitute for the crusade. Henry decides to put in practice the lesson he has learned from Machiavelli , namely that a prince should rather be feared than loved, and that violence and domination is the best way to secure lo stato.
I will from henceforth rather be myself,
Mighty, and to be feared, than my condition
Which has been as smooth as oil, soft as young down,
And therefore lost the title of respect,
Which the proud soul ne'er pays but to the proud. (1.2.5-10)
The role of a scourge (i.e. of an agent or instrument of extreme, more often than not of divine punishment) can legitimise the King's actions against his former supporters.There is good reason to believe that he banishes Worcester from court and offends Hotspur on purpose in order to bring about an armed conflict. The text provides no solid grounds on which Worcester can be found guilty of the intention to rebel, except the fact that he reminds the King of the assistance he and Northumberland gave him to get the crown. The King deliberately dishonours Hotspur by denying his word and by referring to him as "thou", "thee", "sirrah". Furthermore he has no right to claim Hotspur's prisoners and by doing so he breaks the laws of chivalry. Hotspur is the first to see through the King's scheme. He knows that his family has turned into those" superfluous branches" , which according to the Gardener in Richard II have to be cut off to maintain order in the commonwealth.
What Hotspur cannot foresee is the political capital the King can gain out of their rebellion. The latter can be described as a form of resistance, which power itself has triggered off so as to shore up its own positions. What the King is apparently employing is the very strategy of power that produces resistence only to contain it and shore up its own positions, a strategy that Stephen Greenblatt has discussed in his famous essay Invisible Bullets. The Percys' rebellion legitimates the King's recourse to law enforcing violence and thus strengthens the established power.
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