Angling for Hearts: Manipulative Royal Weeping in the Henriad

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Gary Harrington


In that apparently touching rapprochement scene (3.2) between King Henry IV and Hal in 1 Henry IV, Henry cries as he levels accusations of betrayal against his estranged son. However, Shakespeare indirectly calls into question the authenticity of emotion in Henry’s weeping. For example, just previously when Falstaff plays the role of King Henry in the play within the play, he calls for wine to make his eyes red so that it will appear as though he has been crying. Moreover, shortly after the actual reconciliation scene, Hotspur remarks that upon Henry’s return from banishment, Henry ‘Crie[d] out upon abuses, seem[ed] to weep over his country’s wrongs; and by this face, this seeming brow of justice did he win/ The hearts of all that he did angle for’ (4.3.83-86). Hotspur clearly feels that Henry’s tears in this instance were a ploy to galvanize the support of others whom he hopes to control. Thus, Henry’s tears in the rapprochement scene are bracketed before and after by references to Henry’s falsifying his emotions. Likewise, there are many subtle indicators in 2 Henry IV that Hal generates crocodile tears in 4.5 in order to mollify his father, who has awoken to discover that Hal has literally taken possession of the crown. And it is significant that in both reconciliation scenes the two royals discuss means of successfully manipulating public and political opinion through appearances and subterfuge. Hal’s use of references to tears as a political ploy continues into Henry V in his confrontation of the conspirators and before Agincourt.

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How to Cite
Harrington, G. “Angling for Hearts: Manipulative Royal Weeping in the Henriad”. Linguaculture, vol. 14, no. 1, June 2023, pp. 49-68, doi:10.47743/lincu-2023-1-0330.
Author Biography

Gary Harrington, Salisbury University

Gary Harrington is a professor of English at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland. In addition to his book Faulkner’s Fables of Creativity (Macmillan and University of Georgia, 1990), he is the author of articles or chapters on the medieval drama, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, and others. In 2002, and again from 2010-2012, he held Fulbright Distinguished Chair appointments at UMCS in Lublin, Poland.


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