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Soliloquy from Henry IV Part II

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Matthew Juandy

on 6 January 2014

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Transcript of Soliloquy from Henry IV Part II

The Poem
How many thousand of my poorest subjects
Are at this hour asleep! O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee
And hushed with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in the perfumed chambers of the great,
Under the canopies of costly state,
And lull’d with sound of sweetest melody?
O thou dull god, why liest thou with the vile
In loathsome beds and leavest the kingly couch
A watch-case or a common 'larum bell?
Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast
Seal up the shipboy’s eyes, and rock his brains
In cradle of the rude imperious surge
And in the visitation of the winds,
Who take the ruffian billows by the top,
Curling their monstrous heads and hanging them
With deafening clamor in the slippery clouds
That with the hurly death itself awakes?
Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a King? Then, happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
AP Prompt
In the soliloquy, King Henry laments his inability to sleep. In a well-organized essay, briefly summarize the King's thoughts and analze how the diction, imagery, and syntax help to convey his state of mind.
Essay Outline
Thesis: Shakespeare's use of juxtaposition, intense images, and shifting tone, conveys the King's fragile state of mind.

Organization: Two body paragraphs separated by the change in tone from the first half, to the second half.
First section the king is reverent towards sleep, referring to it as "Nature's soft nurse". In this section of the poem he seems agreeable, he is wistful, imagining how even those who live in places with "buzzing night flies" can enjoy sleep while he in his perrfumed chambers cannot find it himself. His state of mind appears to be intact.
Second section the king becomes embittered, like a person ranting and becoming increasingly more angry, the king begins to use imagery of increasing intensity, like the winds and waves which attack a ship, yet the shipboy in the crow's nest can still manage to dose off. The juxtaposition of the image of "sound of sweetest melody" to the "vile... loathsome beds" conveys the king's broken state of mind.
Conclusion: The irony Shakespeare employs, portraying a King who has a peaceful perfumed chamber, is still unable to sleep because of his anxiety, compared to a shipboy who is able to find sleep despite being in outdoors in a storm, displays the kings broken state of mind.
Soliloquy from Henry IV Part II
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