Jul 21, 2006

Shrewsbury July 21st 1403

On July 21st 1403 the Battle of Shrewsbury was fought between the forces of King Henry IV and forces loyal to the Percy family of Northumbria. The Percies were marching south to rendezvous with a Welsh force under Owain Glyndwr when they were intercepted by ythe royalist army. Thus the stage was set for the conflict between Prince Hal ( the future King Henry V ) and Harry Hotspur which has been immortalized in Shakespeare's King Henry IV Part 1.

Owain Glyndwr didn't make it to Shrewsbury where the presence of his army might have made a decisive difference to the outcome of the battle. At the time he was busy rampaging through South Wales attacking towns and castles from Dyfed to Glamorgan.

The Shakespeare play is, in my opinion , the finest of his History plays. The play features the incomparable Jack Falstaff and the equally incomparable Act 1 soliloquy from The Prince of Wales:-

"I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humour of your idleness:
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Whoidoth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted , he may be more wonder'd at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapurs that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wish'd for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So when this loose behaviour I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify mens hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which have no foil to set it off.
I'll so offend, to make offense a skill;
Redeeming time when men think least I will."

I suppose we all go through a hedonistic phase in our adolescent and teenage years. The urge to
experiment is simply overwhelming. It certainly was for me. These lines served me as both a justification and a reminder that I had to wake up and snap out of it one day.

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