O, Let Us Yet Be Merciful

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:29 AM

And thus thy fall hath left a kind of blot,
To mark the full-fraught man and best indued
With some suspicion. I will weep for thee;
For this revolt of thine, methinks, is like
Another fall of man.

-King Henry V (Henry V, Act 2.2)

I've mulled this powerful passage from the play for a few days in preparation for class tonight. These words ring true in discussing when a trusted person betrays that trust. It is interesting in that Henry's response to Lord Scroop, the betrayer whom he most closely trusted, is threefold: first, realizing the danger of the three men's plot, all they must be stopped. Second, given that such a dear friend was actually willing to harm Harry for selfish gain, he recognizes the attempted betrayal is like “another fall of man” that will lead him to view even the “best” of people “with some suspicion.” They have robbed him of his ability to fully trust anyone going forward. Shakespeare clearly understands the pain of such a situation.

Most touchingly, even as Henry condemns the traitors, he notes to his fallen friend Lord Scroop that he will “weep for thee.” Henry shows a Biblical sense of justice in that even as he administers necessary justice, love rules it. He takes no pleasure in condemning the men he once held dear; and despite their attempts to harm him, he will mourn their loss. The crime must be dealt with, but he still wishes for them God's mercy.

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