King Henry IV: Part 1, (5.1.30-71) Commentary on Worcester(TM)s Speech Essay

A meeting between Worcester and the king sets the stage for one of the most compelling speeches to the king in King Henry IV: Part 1. In order to evade the king’s wrath, Worcester, uses to a point, his mastery of speech in the time when it is most necessary for his survival in the face of adversity. The clever use of the components of style such as the choice of diction, the reference to, and the use of imagery and symbolism clarifies the finer points of the discourse. Also included is a distinct structural methodology to keep the flow of the piece as well as the plot intact and coherent.

The structure of the Worcester’s speech as five sentences lends itself to the interpretation almost in the sense of a conventional five paragraph essay but merely condensed to a short persuasion of the king as to remain understandable to the hordes of uneducated members of the archaic Elizabethan audiences. The speech is divided into its four respective parts, first of which (5.1.30-33) resembles closely to an introduction to the past and to show some initial contrast of the current state of tense affairs, and the former “favour from myself and all our house [of Percy] (5.1.31)” towards Henry IV.

The second (5.1.34-37) of which shows Worcester exclaiming to Henry IV that “for you my staff of office did I break in Richard II’s time (5.1.34-35)”, allowing the reader to interpret ensuing shift power from Richard II and Henry IV as being aided by Worcester. As the transition from the friendly past, the third sentence (5.1.38-45) proves as a concerned revelation on the events before the deposition of Richard II when Henry IV vowed in agreement for aid with Worcester that, he would do “nothing purpose “‘gainst the state (5.1.43)”; in which Worcester’s summary of the events of the plot herein moves closer to the present smoothly and coherently. Thus ends, the recounting of past events that influence the present when relations between both parties were friends and no breach of the Doncaster oath had yet occurred.

Following the first half of the transition towards the deposition and present takes place in the fourth, and longest section of the speech (5.1.46-71); when the absence of Richard II caused Henry IV lead the nation that he eventually “took occasion to be quickly wooed to grip the general sway (5.1.56-57)”, gaining by persuasion the crown of the entire kingdom. The defining moment comes into play shows exactly what Worcester’s raison d’�tre is for engaging in rebellion against “our love (5.1.63)”, when he makes reference yet again to the Henry IV’s negligence and outright disregard towards “oath [to us] at Doncaster (5.1.58)”, which was the taking possession of the throne from Richard II, who even as “all in England did repute him dead (5.1.54)”, was alive, and still legitimate monarch only to be deposed by Henry IV.

Finally, the fifth and final sentence in description of the present tensions, shows that in fear of what could happen now that Henry IV rules more than his sworn “dukedom of Lancaster (5.1.45)” in breach of the oath. Now that Henry IV had illegally seized the throne, Worcester had a perfectly good explanation to why he fled “out of [your] sight and raise this present head (5.1.66)”, in conjunction with the turncoats and enemies of house of Lancaster, who back Worcester in order to keep a more egalitarian balance amongst the ruling class. The past events are held together making a case for Worcester structured as a timeline from past to present to keep his argument clear that the king is in violation of the agreement “sworn to us in [your] younger enterprise (5.1.71)”.

To set the stage, the tone of Worcester’s speech appears only to the interpreter if the proper diction is taken into account, and helps set the stage for a rhetorical victory on his part. The speech starts off with almost an accusatory string of utterances highlighted by the connotations such as asking the king to remember that they “were the first and dearest of friends (5.1.33)”, that suggest condescension and disappointment with Henry IV’s recent ventures. Worcester is fast to declare that the Henry IV violated previous agreements by using a rightfully accusatory tone to remind Henry IV of the “oath at Doncaster (5.1.42)”, which depicts the king reneging on a prior promise to allies of his while in a position of great power.

Though the lynchpin concept, follows directly afterwards and fully explains Worcester’s state of apparent contempt with the king; since Henry IV in the time before his schemes to seize power, had sworn to commit “nothing purpose ‘gainst the state; Nor claim no further than your new-fall’n right; The seat of Gaunt, dukedom of Lancaster (5.1.43-45)”.

Worcester uses the previous concept of an oath as a sacred agreement that is sworn to be kept in faith. Finally, to prove that Henry IV is out of line, and that Henry IV himself knows it as well, but had “by unkind usage, dangerous countenance and (5.1.69)” in “violation of all faith and troth (5.1.70)”, disregarded the prior agreement by deposing of Richard II during his absence “in his unlucky Irish wars (5.1.53)”. The diction contained within the phrases of Worcester above depicts a breakdown in relations, by pushing the blame on King Henry IV as to who spurred the present rebellion; unfortunately though for Worcester, blaming the king for creating a rebellion against himself whilst at his proper court surrounded by those supports of the sovereign lord tends not be be a good idea especially with such condescension and bitterness.

As a final piece of analysis, symbolism combined with imagery as a lateral source of connotations plays an integral role, hand in hand with the meaning of the Worcester’s speech. The lagest single piece of symbolism in the text is the reference to the cuckoo bird, intertwined with the imagery of flight. The first time that the symbolism appears in relation to flight, is when King Richard II purportedly has been held by “contrarious winds (5.1.52)”, otherwise known as being held prisoner in his own nation, while Henry IV had access to a “swarm of fair advantages (5.1.55)”.

Next, the bombshell use by Worcester of the “ungentle gull, the cuckoo’s bird (5.1.60)”, is to portray the actions of Henry IV as the one whom “useth the sparrow: oppress our nest (5.1.61)”, which is to say that according to traditional connotation of the cuckoo, is that it is a type of truant that is placed in another birds’ nest by its parent, where it proceeds to hatch and force the original habitants out. The aid given by Worcester to Henry IV is likened yet again to a cuckoo that “grew by [our] feeding (5.1.62)” to become massive, and overshadow former allies “to so great a bulk that even our love durst not come near your sight for fear of swallowing (5.1.62-63)”, the reference to the fact that a nobleman of the ruling class became something of a ‘problem child’ for Worcester after Henry IV ignored the oath to not seize the crown, after kicking out Richard II who was essentially the sparrow in the nest before his deposition.

Also, to prevent an even larger problem, Worcester he explains essentially that was the ‘sparrow’, and to prevent the captures of rebellion leaders such as Hotspur and Mortimer, they “with nimble wing [we] were enforced for safety sake to fly (5.1.64-65)”. The symbolism of flight from danger characterizes the basic instinct of Worcester, and the imagery of the sparrow being overrun by a cuckoo that it has raised represents the situation reflected upon his vocal grievances.

To reflect upon Worcester’s speech is to see a dynamic and fluid timeline of events arranged for ease of understanding on the most basic levels such as the tonal inferences of diction; the conflict of a man who would like to end this rebellion, but cannot since Henry broke his word by illegally seizing the throne and the events that led to it. Stylistically, it is a work of rhetoric and intended to persuade, by capitalizing on structural issues such as sentence division, while the symbolic and imagery reference covertly lend to the context as to inform meaning.

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