The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.054 Wednesday, 29 January 2014
Date: January 29, 2014 at 8:48:19 AM EST
Subject: Source in Herodotus for Passage in 2 Henry IV
In Shakespeare’s Books, Stuart Gillespie says John Dean, in a 1977 pamphlet titled Shakespeare’s Romances and Herodotus’ Histories, was unable to show that “some material” in Shakespeare directly stems from Herodotus. I can’t either. But has anyone noticed the following?
An example of Shakespeare’s possible knowledge of Greek is in 2 Henry IV. As King Henry IV is about to die, he asks the name of the place where he is. When he’s told it’s Jerusalem, England, he reacts with resignation, saying,
"Laud be to God! even there my life must end.
It hath been prophesied to me many years,
I should not die but in Jerusalem;
Which vainly I supposed the Holy Land:
But bear me to that chamber; there I'll lie;
In that Jerusalem shall Harry die."
In Book Three, Section 64 of Herodotus, the Persian King Cambyses is on the verge of death, and he too asks for the name of the place. “When in answer to his question he heard the name of the place [Ecbatana in Syria]... he now came to his senses [he had been insane], understood the [previous] oracle [he thought it meant he would die in Ecbatana of Media, having lived much longer], and said ‘This is the place where Cambyses... is destined to die.’”
Lots of similarities, no? Both kings become resigned to death once they realize they had misled themselves about the country where it was prophesied they would die.
Books One and Two were Englished in 1584. Book Three may have been available only in Greek.
Richard M. Waugaman, M.D.