Today we’re going to take a look at one of Lady Percy’s monologues from Henry IV Part 2. This is an incredible monologue for someone wanting something high stakes, emotionally charged, and with big sweeping imagery. In this monologue we see Lady Percy mourn the loss of her dear husband Hotspur who has died in battle not long before…
In Part one of the play Lady Percy’s husband Hotspur, started a rebel alliance against King Henry the IV as he had not been very popular. And so everybody went to war, but most notably, Henry the IV’s son, Hal, and Hotspur faced one another on the battlefield and in the end Henry came out on top. This play begins not long after that fateful battle. Hotspur’s father Northumberland finds out through the grapevine that his son has been killed and decides to go to battle. As the rebels and the kingdom ready themselves for yet another war we find Lady Percy wrapped in grief trying to make Northumberland see the futility of war…
O yet, for God’s sake, go not to these wars!
The time was, father, that you broke your word,
When you were more endeared to it than now;
When your own Percy, when my heart’s dear Harry,
Threw many a northward look to see his father
Bring up his powers; but he did long in vain.
Who then persuaded you to stay at home?
There were two honours lost, yours and your son’s.
For yours, the God of heaven brighten it!
For his, it stuck upon him as the sun
In the grey vault of heaven, and by his light
Did all the chivalry of England move
To do brave acts: he was indeed the glass
Wherein the noble youth did dress themselves:
He had no legs that practised not his gait;
And speaking thick, which nature made his blemish,
Became the accents of the valiant;
For those that could speak low and tardily
Would turn their own perfection to abuse,
To seem like him: so that in speech, in gait,
In diet, in affections of delight,
In military rules, humours of blood,
He was the mark and glass, copy and book,
That fashion’d others. And him, O wondrous him!
O miracle of men! him did you leave,
Second to none, unseconded by you,
To look upon the hideous god of war
In disadvantage; to abide a field
Where nothing but the sound of Hotspur’s name
Did seem defensible: so you left him.
Never, O never, do his ghost the wrong
To hold your honour more precise and nice
With others than with him! let them alone:
The marshal and the archbishop are strong:
Had my sweet Harry had but half their numbers,
To-day might I, hanging on Hotspur’s neck,
Have talk’d of Monmouth’s grave.
Affections of Delight: Pleasures
Oh, please, for God’s sake, don’t go to these wars!
There’s been times when you’ve broken your word when you were
More bound to the cause than you are now;
When your dear son Percy, when my beloved Harry,
Looked north to see his father bring home his army; but he did that in vain.
Who persuaded you to stay home?
Two peoples honour was lost, your’s and your sons
Your’s God might be able to brighten again,
But for his, it stuck to him like the sun to the sky.
And because of that light every knight of England did brave things.
He was the role model for how the youth dressed themselves
No legs walked that didn’t emulate his noble walk.
And his accent which was his only flaw,
Became the way to speak for valiant people.
Those who spoke low and slowly made their voices sound like his.
In his speech, walk, diet, pleasure, tactics, mood, he was the standard by which everyone wanted to be.
And him, oh wondrous him! That miraculous man!
Him that you left alone on the battlefield to look upon the horrors of war.
To stand by in a field with nothing to fight with but his name.
That is how you left him.
Do not do his spirit wrong by holding your honour more important than his.
Let them go!
The marshal and archbishop have strong armies.
If my sweet Harry had half of their number I might be hanging off his neck and speaking of Monmouths grave.
Notes on Performance
There’s a huge amount of text behind this moment to support your performance so if it’s at all possible you should definitely read this play and the one that came before it Henry IV Part 1.
This speech has high high stakes so don’t hold back. It’s pretty rare that you’re being too big for Shakespeare. So go for it!
Try to affect the people that you’re talking to. The whole reason Lady Percy says what she does in this speech doesn’t exist within a vacuum; she’s desperately pleading with them not to go to war! So chase your objective.
For more Female Shakespeare Monologues