February 11th

(Follow this link for a scanned copy of 2 Henry IV (1600), from the collections of Yale University’s Elizabethan Club.)

Hotspur, the militant foil to Hal in 1 Henry IV, has a brief afterlife. In the beginning of 2 Henry IV, the rebellious soldier is lamented by his widowed wife as

In diet, in affections of delight,
In military rules, humours of blood,
He was the mark and glass, copy and book,
That fashion’d others.

The lines, which anticipate the lamentations of later Shakespearean lovers like Ophelia and Cleopatra, found their way into later editions of the play, but were notably excised, along with many other lines, from the 1600 quarto copy.

It has been speculated that contemporaneous political circumstances may have made the rebellion depicted in 2 Henry IV a sensitive subject for the Elizabethan censors who would have been tasked with looking over plays for potentially seditious material. The recent failed rebellion led by the Earl of Essex, which prompted Queen Elizabeth to bristle at Richard II, could have turned the machinations of Bolingbroke’s enemies, in 2 Henry IV, into a subject requiring some delicacy around 1600. Reading, though, is a messy business—-the reading of censors especially so. There was much to be sifted through, and little time to do it in. And so what might have struck a censor, shuffling through many pages a day, as politically dangerous, might have struck a playgoer or a later reader as a welcome flourish, or as the memory of a rebellion that had failed to “fashion others” in its mold.

One thought on “February 11th

  1. I am enjoying this blog every bit as much as I have enjoyed the exhibit. Rich material, beautifully presented. Bravo, Matt!

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