The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0282 Wednesday, 5 April 2006
Date: Wednesday, 5 Apr 2006 00:57:38 -0500
Michael Luskin writes:
"From the very start, Hotspur is rude and aggressive toward his allies,
and says things that might well provoke a duel, or at least a crack in
Well, actually, it's only Glendower who has gotten under his skin, and
if you read the scene carefully, Hotspur in explaining himself to his
wife's brother Mortimer, tells us exactly why he is behaving this
way......that only the night before, "...He held me last night at the
least nine hours..." rambling on about things metaphysical and of his
own control over them. And that itself is a key to the character of
Hotspur; he cannot abide being challenged by older male authority
figures (or perhaps by anyone that challenges his own sense of self worth).
A more interesting question therefore to consider might be why the
powerful Glendower himself backs down in the confrontation with Hotspur
in this scene? And look to how brilliantly Shakespeare structures the
scene itself. We move from this confrontation between these two
extraordinarily strong men (and it's a mistake to play Glendower as a
blowhard or as being past his prime; the threat to Hotspur and the
alliance is meant to be there and is real), to this beautiful love scene
between Mortimer and Glendower's daughter, which Glendower himself must
translate for the non-Welsh speaking Mortimer. Clearly he loves his
daughter very much, Mortimer is integral to this alliance, and perhaps
that then explains at least in part Glendower's forbearance with Hotspur.
Two other things are worth noting. To better understand his actions
with his allies here, examine the text for clues in earlier scenes. How
is he treated by Bolingbroke, the usurping King, in I, 3 for example?
And read carefully how the scene progresses once Henry has exited. Ask
yourself what it might have been like growing up in an environment
wherein Worcester was your dominant Uncle, and Northumberland your
Father? Though in actor terms these might be "imagined circumstances",
ask yourself which character traits Worcester might have encouraged in
his young nephew as he grew into manhood?
And then, for balance, go back and look at the actual language that
Hotspur uses. Some of the most beautiful verse lines in this play
belong not to Prince Hal or his father but to Hotspur. In I, 3, look at
the imagery he makes use of in standing up for Mortimer's actions by
"...swift Severn's flood". Or in explaining himself to Worcester later
in the scene, re-read his dynamic descriptions of plucking "bright
honour from the pale faced moon" or from "the bottom of the deep".
Anyone who has played this character knows there is the heart of a poet
inside the braggart soldier. And then re-read the scene he has with his
own wife, Kate, before he must leave her.
The text and the relationships throughout the play would suggest there's
a great deal more going on here than just straightforward machismo.
Hope this is of some help!
-- Paul Hebron
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