II : Courting Catastrophe : 1 And 2 Henry Iv

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II: Courting Catastrophe: 1 and 2 Henry IV From its first lines, 1 Henry IV makes it clear that Henry’s position as king is not an enviable one. The newly crowned sovereign himself opens the play, explaining his wish to lead a crusade “in strands afar remote” from the shores of England (1.1.4). His reasoning is twofold. Firstly, he wishes to atone for deposing and murdering Richard II. More interestingly for our purposes, we learn that only “lately” came a “furious close [to the] civil butchery” in England following Henry’s rise to power (1.1.12-13). For the moment, at least, it seems that civil strife has cooled in England, and Henry now elects “[f]orthwith” to raise an army “of English…[t]o chase these pagans in th[e] holy fields” near Jerusalem (1.1.22, 24). We have already seen how Henry used the exception to climb over Richard and ascend the English throne—the end of civil conflict therefore necessarily opens Henry to the threat of deposition, as it will rob him of an exceptional situation, and subsequently also remove his power to act as sovereign over the law that invalidates his rule. As Schmitt explains, “[w]hat characterizes an exception is principally unlimited authority, which means the suspension of the entire existing order. In such a situation it is clear that the state remains, whereas law recedes” (12). This way, if Henry can find a way to maintain a state of exception in England, he (as the embodiment of the state) can retain his position as sovereign, and

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