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Koval 1

Sophia Koval
October 5, 2016
AP Literature
Starr 4
Accuse the Intangible, Confuse the Inclusion
In King Henrys soliloquy in Shakespeares Henry IV, Part II, the kings argumentative
language portrays the evolution of his state of mind from one of arrogance to one of resignation.
In the beginning of his lament, the king argues that he is more worthy of sleep than those
who currently possess it. He begins by imagining his poorest subjects, asleep while he is not.
The king emphasizes the lower socioeconomic status of his people, and the fact that they are at
the mercy of his command, yet have been graced with sleep in lieu of him. This phrase contrasts
the superiority that the king believes he has with the reality of his powerlessness in this situation.
Next, he flatters sleep, referring to it as Natures soft nurse. In this apostrophe, the king praises
gentle sleeps caring nature while simultaneously portraying himself as one who deserves to be
tended to. The king then describes the smoky cribs, uneasy pallets, and buzzing night-flies
that sleep has subjected itself to by visiting the homes of peasants. In contrast, if sleep would
visit the king, it would find perfumd chambers with canopies of costly state, which are
lulld with sound of sweetest melody. The kings parallel descriptions of the decrepit
conditions of slumbering peasants and his decadent abode of restlessness imply that he believes
that his ability to provide sleep with ideal conditions entitles him to sleeps presence. As sleep
continues to evade him, the kings frustration grows, and he resorts to insulting sleep and its
choices of hosts. He accuses sleep of lying with the vile, in loathsome beds, questioning
sleeps judgement. The king reveals personal offence when he states that sleep has left him with
the sounds of a common Olarum-bell when the reality of the kings status is exceptionally
uncommon. In itself, the kings appeal to sleep exudes an air of arrogance; he believes that he is

Koval 2

so mighty, that he may persuade an essential, universal life force. His entitled mindset is further
enforced by his criticism of sleeps choices, as sleep has graced peasants, but not the more
worthy (in his opinion) king.
The king begins to recognize that his superiority is a misperception, and ends the
soliloquy resigned to his sleepless state. This shift in mental state begins when the king describes
a hypothetical, tumultuous storm. He gets caught up in the fabricated description of a boy who is
sleeping amidst the rude imperious surge of the ocean while the waves crash in a deafning
clamour and cause the boys brains to rock. The king, in this description, means to construct a
situation where sleep should be impossible. However, his dependence on physical imagery in the
situation sparks his realization that it is not physical conditions that attract sleep. This shift is
demonstrated by his sudden reversion to the flattery characteristic of the beginning of the poem.
Immediately after his description, he pleads with sleep, asking canst thou, O partial sleep, give
thy repose, thereby conceding sleeps ultimate power over him. The king concludes his lament
with the understanding that uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. In this final line, the king
illustrates his newfound understanding of his restlessness; it is not his physical conditions, but
the mental weight of responsibility that makes him unable to sleep. In this moment, the kings
audience is no longer sleep - he is instead speaking to himself. By turning in on himself in this
manner, the king demonstrates his awareness that his burdened mind is the culprit of his
sleeplessness, not the faulty judgement of sleep. This shift in audience also marks a clear end to
the kings attempts to influence sleep, demonstrating his resignation to his responsibilities as
king and the relentless consciousness that results.

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The kings language in his appeals to sleep in the beginning of his soliloquy are marked
by his arrogance. However, when the king recognizes that he himself is responsible for his
sleeplessness, his language and his mental state droop into resignation.