Stone Washington
What Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1 teaches America about Obama II, Part 2
By Stone Washington
July 27, 2014

So, when this loose behaviour I throw off,
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes;
And, like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly, and attract more eyes,
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.

– Prince Hal, Henry IV Part 1


William Shakespeare (c. 1564-1616), born at Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Arrived in London about 1586. His career as a playwright, poet, actor, and theater shareholder in London lasted from the early 1590s until 1612. Shakespeare wrote all types of plays including – tragedies, comedies, romances, and historical dramas for the popular theater. The early plays especially reflect the optimism and exuberant spirit of England just coming into its own as a world power.

Act 1

Shakespeare's epic play Henry IV, is a history play from his early period thought to have been written no later than 1597. It is the second play in Shakespeare's trilogy dealing with the successive reigns of Richard II, Henry IV (two plays), and Henry V. The play begins with King Henry IV, tired from a devastating Civil war that has tore England apart (Battle of Holmedon, 1402). One year earlier Henry murdered King Richard II and seized his throne, now guilt hangs over his head like the sword of Damocles. He seeks to make amends for his deeds by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land as part of the Crusades, but his advisors report that there is a rebellion in the air due to the powerful Barons in the north who are dissatisfied with the way Henry has been running the country, some of whom even have claims to his throne. The Earl of Westmoreland, a leader in Henry's army, announces that the fighting has broken out in Wales where a thousand men have been killed.

The plans for a Crusade must be put on hold. It has been reported that Edmund Mortimer, heir to Richard II, has been captured by Owen Glendower, a Welshman who resents and is now on the rebellion against Henry for some feudal rights. The king is however happy that the young Hotspur (Harry Percy) has captured a number of prisoners in his assault on the Scots. From this glory Henry wishes Hotspur were his son instead of Henry Prince of Wales, his own debauched son (also known as prince Hal). But the king is displeased that Hotspur keeps most of his prisoners for ransom, raking in money for himself. Westmoreland believes this to be a result of the influence of his uncle, the Earl of Worcester, who hates King Henry.

Prince Hal spends most of his time drinking with his fat old friend, Sir John Falstaff, a former soldier who has turned to a life of professional thievery. His friend and fellow thief, Ned Poins convinces Hal to steal from some pilgrims that their other friend Gadshill has arranged. But secretly Ned explains how they will play a joke on Falstaff and his gang by robbing from them after they have stolen from the pilgrims. On stage Hal confesses in soliloquy that the reason he engages in such reckless and eccentric activities is not only because it's fun, but due to the fact that he wants others to underestimate his real character; to believe he has no promise. Then when the time is right he will transform and amaze people with his hidden courage.

Back at the court the angry king commands Hotspur to release Mortimer with no negotiation of ransom because he views him as a traitor. When the king leaves Hotspur, his father, Northumberland and Worchester discuss a plot to overthrow King Henry. The intricate plan he devises is thus: Hotspur will surrender his prisoners, thereby appeasing Henry, but will befriend the wild Scot Douglas, whom he has just defeated in battle, and will then rendezvous with Glendower and Mortimer in their revolt against Henry. Worcester and Northumberland will join him, and the group of them will crush Henry and seize the throne of England.

Act 2

During the robbery of the pilgrims Falstaff and his cronies are successful, yet before the know it the masked duo of Hal and Poins ambush them and scare them off causing the group to drop their money and run. Later Hal and Poins meet up at the Boar's Head tavern where Falstaff joins them and laments on the cowardice in the world while boasting about his bravery at Gadshill. After laughing at Falstaff, Hal exposes him as a liar and a coward. Falstaff quickly devises an excuse that he recognized the prince and didn't want to kill the heir to the throne. The festivities are soon cut short by an old man who brings bad news of the rebellion. Hal and the gang prepare an elaborate excuse for the King's awaited reprimands.

Act 3

The major rebels: Mortimer, Glendower, Worcester, and the hot headed Hotspur discuss their plans for dividing the realm once the king has been overthrown. But their apparent disagreement with each other may suggest that they were not unified in their attack against Henry at Shrewsbury (1403). Meanwhile King Henry scolds Prince Hal regarding his promiscuous behavior, but the prince vows that he will prove worthy a warrior in battle by overthrowing Hotspur. Hal then arrives at the Boars tavern and explains to his companions how he has returned the stolen money back to the pilgrims, and that his drinking companions must help him in the upcoming battle. Hal tells Bardolph (one of Falstaff's gang members) that he must deliver some important letters, while Falstaff must take control of a group of foot soldiers.

Act 4

At the rebel camp in Shrewsbury word spreads that Hotspur's father has fallen ill and cannot participate in the war. Also another rebel has announced that Prince John (Hal's younger brother) is marching toward them with Westmoreland and 7,000 soldiers. Hotspur is unmoved and merely laughs at the threat of Prince Hal. Suddenly word reaches him that Glendower will not arrive to assist him for two more weeks. In his impulsive, arrogant demeanor Hotspur boasts that the fewer the soldiers the more glorious his victory will be over the king.

Act 5

While the King's forces are preparing up for battle, Henry hopes that the rebels will accept his peace offering. Hotspur argues with the senior more experienced officers to attack at once. During this time one of Hal's noblemen, Sir Walter Blunt arrives with terms for peace offerings. Hotspur agrees to send a representative in the morning to discuss the offer. Taking a hardline, Worcester disagrees with all of the peace terms and launches a number of complaints. Prince Hal declares that he will fight in single combat with Hotspur to decide the outcome of war, but the King insists that Worcester negotiate with the rebels and accept his offer. On his way to Hotspur's kingdom Worcester comes to the conclusion that he will not tell Hotspur of the King's offer due to the belief that the King will excuse Hotspur because of his youth and instead blame Worcester for the rebellion. Worcester, devises a counter story and tells Hotspur that the king has arrogantly threatened them, and incites Hotspur to seek revenge against Prince Hal on the battlefield.

Next Douglas arrives seeking the king and kills Sir Walter Blunt. Hotspur commends Douglas's fighting abilities but warns him that many soldiers on the field are dressed like the king (which fits Prince Hal's ultimate intention to disguise him thereby attracting the ring leaders to himself). Falstaff enters the battle only to immediately flee with great cowardice, surprisingly running into Hal, who needs to borrow his sword. When Falstaff offers liquor instead Hal immediately activates his battle instinct; realizing his duty, he rebukes the bad impulses of his former bad character, which the alcohol would only inflame, and goes immediately into battle.

Henry's way of disguising his subjects all as the king proves to be an effective battle strategy, however, when Douglas suddenly attacks the real King, Prince Hal intercepts his attacks and saves his father's life. Douglas then fiercely attacks Falstaff who, like the trickster he is, plays dead. After Douglas leaves, a long awaited battle between Hotspur and Prince Hal begins. Prince Hal draws his sword and clashes with Hotspur's blade. In the end Prince Hal cuts down Hotspur in the fray and then kills him by his sword. Instead of bragging about his victory, Prince Hal buries his pride, covers Hotspur's wounded face and gives a gallant speech before the King's army. Prince Hal passes by Falstaff's presumably dead body and admits that he cannot mourn for his loss too long.

As Prince Hal exits Falstaff rises up and stabs Hotspur in the leg. When Hal returns with his brother Prince John, Falstaff pretends that he has killed Hotspur. Hal, amused lets him take the credit. The King's forces claim victory that day and King Henry sentences Worcester to death who he blames for the cause of all this bloodshed. Douglas is pardoned and allowed to walk free for his courage in battle. Using effective battle tactics and strategies, the King divides his forces and continually searches for any possible rebel armies and conquers them. As the play ends, the King celebrates both the return of peace to the land and the revelation of Prince Hal's noble character. Prince Hal will later ascend to the thrown as King Henry V.

Historical significance of Henry IV today

This classic play has many timeless lessons and symbols we must keep in mind in our modern time – issues of courage under fire, leadership, honor, duty and defense of country from enemies within. For example, let compare the current border crisis at America's southern border with Mexico where President Barack Obama is purposely violating federal and state immigration laws allowing hundreds of thousands of immigrants from South American countries like Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to unlawfully immigrate into the United States while Congress and the American people look on powerless to stop this treason. Now while much of the blame falls on Obama's traitorous methods of willfully shipping bus loads of illegal aliens into this country, many with communicable diseases, gang members and other criminals, yet some Americans have stood tall and said enough is enough!

A recent news story in San Diego California reported a group of patriotic, American flag-waving protesters blocking a group of illegal aliens on buses from reaching a suburban processing center. Why doesn't our government protect us from those who would violate our laws? Where is our leadership? Who is to blame? A major blame falls upon the vulnerability of America through the negligence of our government officials to better and effectively secure and control the border by building a double border fence around the southern U.S border thus blocking Illegal aliens from invading our country.

The idea of illegal aliens penetrating our borders by the hundreds of thousands, overwhelming the resources border state like Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, by the president and the complicity of congress, represents the internal rebellion against King Henry IV. While Henry acted to save his England, Obama is the cause of the foreign invasion of illegal aliens into America. In the play Henry IV is described as a politically shrewd, practical monarch who seeks out peace negotiation before war. He embodies America's code of honor and tactical nature when the U.S involves itself with global threats. But as like every other nation he is not indestructible, such as when Henry's brilliant disguise plan backfired on him when Douglas attacked him causing Hal to save his life. Prince Hal represents America's true courage and potential which has been buried under a series of soft, RINO Republicans and liberal, progressive and socialist presidents after the Reagan administrations exhibited legendary courage and leadership during the Cold War (1945-90).

The traitor Worcester represents the motives of Progressivism through the Hegelian dialectic where a thesis (truth) is combined with its antithesis (lie) thus forming a synthesis (a new lie masquerading as a 'truth'). Worcester was ordered to deliver peace negotiations but instead sought to save himself from an inevitable and deserved punishment by igniting the flames of rebellion by deceptively lying to his nephew, Hotspur, about the King's peace intentions and twisting the King's original intent into a threat from King Henry instead (a blatant lie).

Next Falstaff represents the irredeemable curses of foolery, irresponsibility and cowardice which was especially evident in the Clinton administration (Bosnian War; Hutu/Tutsi War) and Obama administration (Lybia, Syrian, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars); also we see a pathetic lack of leadership through their consecutive cover ups and scandals in office, such as the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, the Obama/Benghazi tragic cover-up where four Americans were brutally murdered including Chris Stevens, Amb. to Libya, NSA spying on millions of Americans, Obamacare casing a collapse the medical industry as Americans are literally dying in VA hospitals and medical facilities due to the bureaucratic redtape and skyrocketing costs of Obamacare, finally Obama belittling America's global hegemony in the face of the Communist dictator Putin who has annexed Ukraine while America looks on impotent to act to save a nation we are duty bound by treaty to protect, etc...

But don't worry America Falstaff is quick witted and creative with his most powerful weapon: outrageous lies, which he utilizes to cover his tracks in his ongoing deception. As long as nobody stands for the truth the lie won't matter in comparison right? The Obama administration mimics the lies of Falstaff to cover their multitude of policy failures in virtually every policy put forth since he came to office in January 2009.

Can America stand with bravery in our current day in age? Can America protect itself from the rebellion of evil across the world? A country cannot exist without identifiable and indefensible borders. I believe America should throw this current administration out of office ASAP, elect new, competent leadership who will rise up to the frontlines of battle as Prince Hal did at the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403) and rebuke the foolish, deceitful ways of the trickster Falstaff which will only bring hatred, tyranny and dishonor upon ourselves and our country in the face of national and global dangers all around us, and will further tarnish America's reputation as the greatest nation in the world.

*N.B.: This essay is based in part on a synopsis of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1 contained in, Dr. W. John Campbell, Book of Great Books: A Guide to 100 World Classics (Fall River, 2000), pp. 353-60.

© Stone Washington


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Stone Washington

Stone Washington is a PhD student in the Trachtenberg School at George Washington University. Stone is employed as a Research Fellow for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, focusing on economic policy as part of the Center for Advancing Capitalism. Previously, he completed a traineeship with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He was also a Research Assistant at the Manhattan Institute, serving as an extension from his time in the Collegiate Associate Program. During this time, he worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in Clemson's Department of Political Science and served as a WAC Practicum Fellow for the Pearce Center for Professional Communication. Stone is also a member of the Steamboat Institute's Emerging Leaders Council.

Stone possesses a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration from Clemson University, a Juris Master from Emory University School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Clemson University. While studying at Emory Law, Stone was featured in an exclusive JM Student Spotlight, highlighting his most memorable law school experience. He has completed a journalism fellowship at The Daily Caller, is an alumnus of the Young Leader's Program at The Heritage Foundation, and served as a former student intern/Editor for Decipher Magazine. Some of Stone's articles can be found at, which often provide a critical analysis of prominent works of classical literature and its correlations to American history and politics. Stone is a member of the Project 21 Black Leadership Network, and has written a number of policy-related op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The College Fix, Real Clear Policy, and City Journal. In addition, Stone is listed in the Marquis Who's Who in America and is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. Friend him on his Facebook page, also his Twitter handle: @StoneZone47 and Instagram. Email him at


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