HENRY IV: 1990 AP LANGUAGE EXAM

Question 1: Henry IV Part II

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Sample 9

In the following soliloquy from Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part II, King Henry laments his inability to sleep. In a well-organized essay, briefly summarize the King's thoughts and analyze how the diction, imagery, and syntax help to convey his state of mind.
 

How many thousand of my poorest subjects
Are at this hour asleep! O sleep! O gentle sleep!
Nature's soft nurse, how have I frightened thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down,
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,
And hush'd with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in perfum'd chambers of the great,
Under the canopies of costly state,
And lull'd with sound of sweetest melody?
O thou dull god, why liest thou with the vile
In loathsome beds, and leav'st the kingly couch
A watch-case or a common 'larum-bell?
Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast
Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains
In cradle of the rude imperious surge,
And in the visitation of the winds,
Who take the ruffian billows by the top,
Curling their monstrous heads and hanging them
With deaf' ning clamour in the slippery clouds,
That with the hurly death itself awakes?
Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a King? Then, happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

 

Henry IV - SCORE 3

 

In this speech from King Henry, the loss of sleep is lamented. King Henry is outraged because Sleep, which is personified, delivers sleep to his most lowly subjects but not to his deserving, regal greatness. This is conveyed mostly by diction and imagery.
King Henry questions and courts sleep when the chambers which it visits are compared to his own chambers by him. He uses, "smoky cribs," "uneasy pallets," and "buzzing night flies" to characterize the rooms of his subjects, and "perfum'd chambers of the great," "canopies of costly state," and "sweetest melody" to characterize his own, more inviting rooms. The diction used by King Henry to describe the subjects suggests filth and disorder, while his own sleepless chambers are presented as being expensive and soothing. This seeming contradiction sets up his outrage, which is displayed by his imagery.
The boy sleeping in the sea-storm is King Henry's ultimate outrage at sleep. This image suggests how completely unfair Sleep is in its distribution of sleep. This image then leads to King Henry's arrogant and childish chastisement of sleep, "Then, happy low, lie down!" This, of course, leads to King Henry's ultimate giving-up on sleep- "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."
 

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Henry IV - SCORE 5
 
King Henry is prodigiously vexed by his inability to sleep. In addressing sleep itself, with the use of an apostrophe, he hopes to persuade it to fall upon him by asking various rhetorical questions. He pleads with sleep for it to abandon its partiality, and bestow upon him some rest, as it does upon the commoners. However, at the end of the passage, his indignation turns into resignation, as he realizes that he can do little to alter his situation. The transition in King Henry's state of mind is conveyed through the soliloquy's powerful images, revealing word choice, and peculiar sentence structure.
The king feels sorry for himself. He feels that it is not fair that others, even the poor and vile, be able to sleep, and that he, the king, be deprived of rest. He asks sleep why it discriminates against him, and not the commoners, the loathsome members of society, or a ship-boy, whom sleep could lead to death. Henry IV's indignation is evident as he employs powerful images to contrast his noble situation with the deplorable state of the masses. He refers to their resting place as "smoky cribs" and "loathsome beds", while calling his own "perfum'd chambers" and "kingly couch".
 
King Henry's conscience is not free of self-doubt. He believes that he might have done something to scare sleep away, and asks it "how (has he) frighted (it)." Because he is deprived of sleep,it is of great value to the king, who refers to it as "Nature's soft nurse", and "dull god". The contrast between the tenderness conveyed in the former and the hostility conveyed in the later address, help to illustrate the transition in Henry IV's state of mind as his self-loathing is replaced by anger towards sleep.
 
Until the last sentence, no sentences in the passage are declarative. The fact that the king ends his soliloquy with the statement "Uneasy is the head that wears a crown," suggests that after much indignation he finally reaches a point of resignation. He realizes that his privileged social position does not help him curry favor from sleep. The king accepts his burden of discomfort for lack of sleep, and concludes that it is a consequence from his ruling position.

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Henry IV - SCORE 7

 
In his soliloquy, King Henry asks sleep repeatedly why it favors visiting simple, poor minds over providing an escape from mental turmoil to the powerful rich. His combination of concrete and figurative language to describe different social situations creates an atmosphere of polarity. While a repetition of rhetorical questions exemplifies the king's frustration with sleep, King Henry's use of literary techniques portray an elevated status, and his mutating tone displays a gradual rise in anger.
 
King Henry uses several literary devices to enhance his description of both sleep and setting. Apostrophe furthers emotional intensity; the king directly addresses a personified abstraction, sleep, through first his interjections "O sleep! O gentle sleep!", second his usage of "thou" (lines 4,6,12,15,&23), and third the appositive phrase "O partial sleep." Sleep takes on human attributes by way of its implied comparison with "Nature's soft nurse" and King Henry's accusation of partiality ("partial sleep"), which indicates bias or prejudice, inclinations that inhibit a person's judgment. His description of his own living quarters includes alliteration ("canopies of costly . . . sound of sweetest . . . kingly couch") and consonance ("calmest and most stillest"), repetitions of sound which soften the setting. In explaining his subjects' humble abodes, King Henry utilizes onomatopoeia ("buzzing night-flies") in order to elaborate on the shantiness of their "smoky cribs"; flies congregate around filth, for example landfills. In addition, the king employs visual imagery in the description of the "hour so rude" at sea to fully arouse a sensation of turbulence in his audience: "giddy mast, slippery clouds."
 
Passage structure coupled with the repetition of sentence structure causes King Henry's speech to be quite persuasive; sleep should grant him repose. The entire soliloquy contains eight complete sentences, five of which are questions, and the other three are exclamations. At the beginning of the king's questions, which are complex sentences, he states the main idea, or subject and verb, and then expands on that idea with a series of details ("Why rather, sleep, liest . . . sweetest melody?"). In such cumulative sentences, his rambling (expansion) conveys his distraught at sleep's partiality. Succinct, simple sentence exclamations appear at the beginning and end of the passage. At first, King Henry attempts to woo sleep, coax it into a visitation ("gentle sleep . . . Nature's soft nurse"). However, at the end of the passage, directly following the zenith of his hostility towards sleep ("Canst thou, O partial sleep, . . . Deny it to a King?"), he resigns from his efforts, ironically weary, tired ("Then, happy low, lie down! Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown!").
 
 

Henry IV - SCORE 9

In the midst of a civil war, England's monarch's agitations and worries beget a night of civil unrest and lamentations for the unfortunate ruler. Throughout the course of the evening King
Henry, dwells with longing upon the "thousand of [his] poorest subjects [which] are at this hour asleep" and left blissfully unaware of the scourges of war. As darkness descends, and
"buzzing night-flies" flit through the air, His Majesty rhetorically demands of "Nature's soft nurse" to lay some purpose upon his discomfiture. Thus personified, "Nature's soft nurse," in conjunction with expectations, remains deaf to the ill-fortuned king's cries. So ignored, England's monarch begins
a violent tirade against the seemingly illogical actions of Sleep. Infuriated, Henry's tone, at first laden with respect turns embittered as he refers to Sleep as a "dull god." The very fact that Henry, himself, understands the reasoning why he cannot rest "in gentle sleep" serves only to compound his
moodiness and irritability. A whining note creeps into King Henry's voice as he acidly bemoans the responsibilities that arise from monarchy. Obsessively, his thoughts linger on those whom he governs--a mixture of jealousy and rage filling him as he speculates how all "his...subjects" are at that very moment "lull'd with sound of sweetest melody" while he alone is forced to remain awake. His Majesty's emotions, an unenviable union of stress, fear, and anger collide and cause irrational thoughts to develop in Henry's mind. He states: "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" and deems enviable the position of even a storm tossed "ship-boy" in a "loathsome bed," when in all reality his
anguish stems from his attempts to retain his position of authority. Undeniably, had has political position been more favorable, King Henry reclining in his "kingly couch" in the "perfumed chambers of the great" would never give thought to trading places with a "wet sea-boy."
 
To convey Henry's disturbed state of mind, Shakespeare employs contrastingly intense imagery in order to allow the reader to draw comparisons between Henry and his subjects. England's
monarch is thus described as reclining in the "perfum'd chambers of the great" while his subjects repose "in smoky cribs...upon uneasy pallets." Henry's tumultuous feelings physically
manifest themselves in a depiction of a storm, in "cradle of the rude imperious sure..and in the visitation of the winds." Visually, "monstrous heads" are envisioned and a "deaf'ning
clamor" pierces through the night--allowing for "hurly death itself" to awake. Attention is drawn, as well, to Henry's desire for slumber by the use of several exclamation pointswhich serve to highlight these emotions.
 
Unsure of his victory, Henry, thus self-confines himself to a night of restlessness and unhappiness. He bemoans his station as king, yet in reality he earnestly strives to retain this
particular honor. Rhetorically, he demands of Sleep the reason behind his discomfiture, however, he realizes that the answer lies within himself and not some "dull god" and as a result, the reader is able to enter his state of mind.