The Prince

A Machiavellian Analysis of Henry IV, Part 1

It can be difficult for the modern reader to appreciate the power struggle underlying HENRY IV, Part 1 (1H4). As causes of the War of the Roses and the struggles of the House of Lancaster recede from memory, it is useful to have a lens through which to examine the political and military machinations of Henry, Harry and Hotspur as they struggle to define both the future of England and their personal claims to leadership. The Prince provides such a lens. Written in 1513, just 83 years before the play, Machiavelli's tract on foreign policy and leadership provides a deeper understanding of the actions of these three characters.

As the play opens, Westmorland informs Henry IV that he has received a post from Wales that is

...loaden with heavy news,

Whose worst was that the noble Mortimer,

Leading the men of Herefordshire to fight

Against the irregular and wild Glendower,

Was by the rude hands of that Welshman taken,

A thousand of his people butcherÃd,

Upon whose dead corpse there was such misuse,

Such beastly shameless transformation

By those Welshwomen done, as may not be

Without much shame retold or spoken of (1H4 1.1.37-46).

This missive was followed by even "more uneven and unwelcome news" that Percy has followed...

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