King Henry IV, Part II and Luke 14
I’ve been reading through King Henry IV and came across this speech that Bardolph gives that is based on a parable Jesus gave in Luke 14:28-33. I’m going to put the two texts here for reference:
The speech from Bardolph, in King Henry IV, Part II, Act I. Scene III. Lines 41-62
When we mean to build
We first survey the plot, then draw the model;
And when we see the figure of the house
Then must we rate the cost of the erection;
Which if we find outweighs ability,
What do we then but draw anew the model
In fewer offices, or at last desist
To build at all? Much more, in this great work,
Which is almost to pluck a kingdom down
And set another up, should we survey
The plot of situation and the model,
Consent upon a sure foundation,
Question surveyors, know our own estate,
How able such a work to undergo,
To weight against his opposite; or else
We fortify in paper and in figures,
Using the names of men instead of men:
Like one that draws the model of a house
Beyond his power to build it; who, half through,
Gives o’er and leaves his part-create cost
A naked subject to the weeping clouds
And waste for churlish winter’s tyranny.
And, then, here is Luke 14:28-33
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with tent thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple.
This parable of Christ’s that Shakespeare fleshes out is interesting, because the context in which it is brought up by Bardolph is the context of figuring out if they have enough men to go to battle against their enemies. So, the parable in Luke is part parable, and part reality, in Shakespeare.
I’ve actually really been enjoying all the biblical references / allusions in King Henry IV, and will probably write about it more in future posts, as I flesh out some ideas.