William Shakespeare’s “1 Henry IV”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 5 (End)

— 5.5 —

King Henry IV, in the presence of Prince Hal, Lord John of Lancaster, and the Earl of Westmoreland, was ready to pass judgment on the captured Earl of Worcester and Sir Richard Vernon.

He said, “Rebellion always ends in shame and disgrace and defeat. Ill-spirited Worcester! Did not we send assurances of mercy, pardon, and expressions of friendship to all of you? And yet you said that I did the opposite! Hotspur trusted you, and you lied to him! Three knights who fought for me are dead today, and so are an Earl and many more people who would still be alive if you had acted like a Christian and had reported truthfully my offer of friendship and pardon.”

Worcester replied, “What I have done I did out of regard for my safety. I await my fate patiently and calmly because I have no way to avoid it.”

“Execute Worcester and Sir Richard Vernon,” King Henry IV ordered. “I will think about which punishments to give to other rebels.”

Guards took Worcester and Sir Richard Vernon away.

King Henry IV asked, “What is happening on the battlefield?”

Prince Hal said, “The noble Scot, Lord Douglas, when he saw that the rebels had lost the battle, that Hotspur had been killed, and that all his soldiers were fleeing in terror, fled with his soldiers. He fell from a crag and hit the ground so hard that he was stunned and then captured. Douglas is in my tent under guard. I ask your grace for permission to decide what to do with him.”

“I grant you that permission with all my heart,” King Henry IV said. This was a way to reward Prince Hal for saving his life and for the Prince’s courage in the battle.

Prince Hal said, “Then, brother John of Lancaster, to you I give the honor of doing this act: Go to Douglas and release him to freely go wherever he will, without having to pay a ransom. The courage he showed in battle against us today has taught us how to cherish such high deeds even though he was our enemy.” Prince Hal, like Worcester and Hotspur before him, knew that this was a way to turn an enemy into a friend. He also knew that this was a way to reward his brother John for his courage in the battle.

John of Lancaster said, “I thank your grace for this gracious assignment, and I shall inform Douglas immediately that he is free.”

King Henry IV knew that the battle was won, but that the war continued.

He said, “We have more battles to fight. We will divide our army in two. You, son John, and my kinsman Westmoreland shall take half the army and go towards York as quickly as you can to fight Northumberland and the Archbishop of York — the prelate Scroop — who, I have been informed, are busily raising an army to fight us. I and you, son Harry, will take the other half of the army and go to Wales to fight the army of Glendower and his son-in-law Mortimer, the Earl of March.”

He added, “Rebellion in this land shall lose its sway, when it meets the check of another battle on another day. Our work today has been so well done that we will not quit until this war we have won.”

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