Act I Scene 3
At the Archbishop of Yorks palace, the rebels discuss their hopes and plans. They have an army of 25,000 men, and are waiting to be strengthened by the addition of Northumberlands forces. Bardolph advises them to wait until those forces arrive before venturing into a battle. Not waiting for reinforcements was the mistake Hotspur had made at Shrewsbury. Bardolph advises a careful, sober calculation of the situation. He does not want to take unnecessary risks by imagining that their forces are stronger than they really are. Hastings replies that he thinks they are strong enough as they are, even if no extra forces come, to equal the King. He argues that the Kings forces are divided. One army is engaged against the French, another against the Welsh rebel, Glendower. The Archbishop supports Hastings and advises the rebels to move forward. He and Hastings carry the day, and the rebels begin their preparations.
This is almost a repeat of the situation the rebels were in before the battle of Shrewsbury. They would have been better advised to wait until reinforcements arrived before engaging the King. On that occasion, it was Worcester who argued for caution, only to be overruled by Hotspur. In this scene, it is Lord Bardolph (not to be confused with Falstaffs companion of the same name) who advocates caution, but he is overruled by the Archbishop and Hastings.
It should be noted that the rebels do not discuss their reasons for going to war. In fact, their grievances and their motivations are never described in detail at any point in the play. This is a contrast to Richard II, the first play in the cycle of plays that includes the two Henry IV plays and ends with Henry V. In Richard II, Richards misdeeds are plain for all to see, but in neither of the Henry plays is Henry IV presented as an incompetent or unjust king. Perhaps the key to the rebels motivations lies in personal reasons. Although he does not mention it in this scene, Mowbray has a private reason for disliking Henry IV. Mowbrays father was banished by Richard II following a quarrel with Henry IV (then known as Bolingbroke) who had accused him of treason.
Whatever the reasons for the rebellion, the Archbishop in this scene paints a grim picture of the state of England. After railing against the fickleness of the common people, who wanted Richard II deposed but now call for the ouster of the present King, he says, “Past and to come seems best; things present, worst.”
Act I Scene 3