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The Vigorous Falcon


O, let no noble eye profane a tear

For me, if I be gored with Mowbray’s spear!

As confident as a falcon’s flight

Against a bird, do I with Mowbray fight?

(To John of Gaunt)

O thou, the earthly author of my blood,

Whose youthful spirit in me regenerate

Doth with a two-fold vigour lift me up

To reach at victory above my head,

Add proof unto mine armour with thy prayers,

And with thy blessing steel my lance’s point

That it may enter Mowbray’s waxen coat

And furbish new the name of John o’ Gaunt

Even in the lust haviour of his son! (1.3.59-62,69-77)

Bolingbrook begins his speech by speaking of the nobles and their profane tears that represent the misfortune that country will experience of he is struck by Mowbray’s spear. The use of figurative language, through the adjective profane, provides the reader an interpretation to the importance of this fight, and the meaning it contains for all of England. If he were to lose, the noble’s rights and money would be stolen in an unjust nation, with a corrupt dictatorship. If he were to win, the people’s voices would be heard and King Richard would adhere to justice for the people. Shakespeare compares Bolingbroke to a “falcon’s flight” to illustrate his own confident path and flight he has voluntarily taken upon himself to defeat Mowbray (1.3.61). He has chosen to hunt Mowbray and kill his unjust practices and beliefs like a predator by bringing him in front of King Richard. To further his beliefs and confidence, he addresses his father as his “early author of my blood”(1.3.69). His father raised him with the morals and values of the old order. His father demands respect throughout England, so Bolingbroke has had his blood and values planted into the soil of England even before his birth. Bolingbroke then attributes his own physical and mental strength to his father for being a man who has taught him how to reach for the impossible. He says, “Doth with a two fold vigour lift me up To reach at victory above my head”, to ensure the audience that his character proves to be strong and undiminished through the faith in his father (1.3.71-72). Next Bolingbroke asks for his fathers blessing, but directs these prayers towards the tip of his lance. He says, “Add proof unto mine armour with thy prayers, And with thy blessings steel my lance’s point” (1.3.73-74). His use of steel reflects a double meaning Shakespeare composes to express the determination the prayers will add to the lance, and the force and hardness associated with steel weapons. Bolingbroke distinguishes Mowbray’s armour as a “waxen coat” to signify his weak morals and dishonest character as the Duke of Norfolk (1.3.75). Bolingbroke ends his speech by defining his behavior as “lusty” as if to add further strength to his testimony (1.3.77). It becomes apparent throughout the play that Bolingbroke has an ability to be full of strength and keep alive a fire to challenge himself. Yet awhile he never loses focus on his capacity to live and act on what proves necessary to the maintenance of not only his life, but England’s as well.

When read aloud, the effects of exclamation in the beginning and end of his speech, further display his dominant portrayal of character. He begins his speech with enthusiasim to let the audience know that if indeed he does die, nobody will soon forget his ferocious need for truth and justice. He says with authority “let no noble eye profane a tear For me if I be gored with Mowbray’s spear” (1.3.59-60). He proclaims that he may be struck by Mowbray’s spear, but acknowledges through his excitement and confidence that the better man, himself, would win. In the end, his use of exclamation proclaims pride to his family and England. His voice thrusts into the air with pure adrenaline to show his father and the court the man he has become and how that’s how his father once was.

This passage is written in iambic pentameter. Lines 59-63 demostrate a rhyme scheme of a b a b. This allows Shakespeare to illustrate his metaphors by using two lines of verse. By doing so, he is able to compare himself to a falcon’s flight in one line, and his battle against another bird, Mowbray, in the second. Thus, the reader becomes even more readily equipped analyze these paired off lined and dissect how they interwhine with one another. In the second part of the passage, there is no rhyme scheme, but his address ends with the last lines containing eleven syllables. When read aloud, this last extra syllable exhibits a distinct point of finality. The last syllable, son, contains specific meaning and concludes this passage because Bolingbroke wishes to stress the point that he is John of Gaunt’s son. He, although some may find his hubris to be too abundant, solidifies his presence and respect among some of the most dominant members of royalty. The overall structure of the passage allows Bolingbrook to establish his presence by the use of rhymes and metaphors in the beginning. By the end, his sentences become statements and not comparisons.

Bolingbroke, the speaker of this passage, is addressing King Richard, Lord Marshal, Mowbray, his father John of Gaunt, Duke of Aumerle, and a Herald. He addresses them all at first, but then turns to his father as his key audience during the passage. The main point Bolingbroke reveals to his audience is his confidence and character towards something he believes in which stands strong enough to risk his own life. This passage fits ideally into the play and comes at a very logical time to reveal to the audience in the castle, as well the reader, the significance his father had in instilling values and vigorous leadership. The content does seem unusual though, because nobody but him in the entire play presents themselves in the manner he does here. This passage follows King Richard’s statement that people may lament Bolingbrokes’ death, but that he hopes his judgement will not cause Bolingbroke to seek revenge. The irony of these two dialogue’s depict the feelings Richard will have towards Bolingbroke, when he realizes his own defects and flaws of character. King Richard warns Bolingbroke about revenge, but at the end of the play Richard sacrifices his kingly dignity willingly, and he himself becomes his own target of revenge and self-pity.

This passage affirms Bolingbroke as a leader who exhibits poise and confidence in his struggle to reach beyond his grasp. This passage dives into what Bolingbroke wants people to know about himself whether he dies or lives. This passage is Bolingbroke’s last opportunity to speak to his father, and his fellow Lords before what the audience believes to be a fight to the death. But instead no one dies, except for Richard both mentally and physically towards the end of the novel. Bolingbroke took this opportunity before the fight to reveal what kind of man he had become through confidence, values, and example. I believe this passage confirms his character and ideas already acquired, but not yet convincingly expressed. Bolingbroke’s words rung a tune in Richard’s ear that I believed ironically presented what he himself in fact lacked to be, England’s perseverant, just, and people’s king.

This passage explains the determination, confidence, and origins of Bolingbroke’s character as a worthy king even before his banishment and crowning.


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