Shakespeare's Henry IV part 2 usually comes near bottom of theatre goers and reader's popularity polls. Its hard to see why as it features the perennial audience favourite Sir John Falstaff but compared to Henry IV part 1 it is a little subdued. Near the end the newly crowned Henry V turns to Falstaff and says "I know you not old man". Possibly the audience found this bitter rejection hard to accept so at the very end one to sweeten the sour note one of the dancers presents a very strange epilogue apologising for the "displeasing play" and promising that the story will continue with more merriment featuring "Sir John and the fair Katherine of France". Falstaff barely gets a mention in Henry Vth but we do meet the fair Katherine who would have been played by a boy on the Tudor stage. Shakespeare leaves another mystery at the end of Henry IV part 2. What happens to Edward Poins? He is only mentioned once outside of the two Henry IV plays in The Merry Wives of Windsor and that is only as a recollection of past times. Possibly Shakespeare saw no further dramatic need for the role of a tavern companion for the king so he was simply written out. In my previous blog post I mentioned that Shakespeare only uses the word retrograde twice in his entire canon. In Henry IV part 2 in Act II, Scene 4 he uses a word that only makes one appearance in his works.
Henry Vth - Saturn and Venus this year in conjunction! What says almanac to that?
Poins - And look whether the fiery Trigon, his man, be not to his master's tables, his note books, his council keeper.
A Trine is 120 degrees so a third of a circle. A Trigon or triplicate is an astrological term for the groups of zodiac signs that are connected to the elements (Earth, Water, Fire and Air). The three fire constellations are Leo, Aries and Sagittarius. If lines were drawn across the night sky to connect them they would form an equilateral triangle with angles of 120 degrees. When the three major planets appear in the three fire constellations astrologers term this a fiery Trigon. Trigons were taken very seriously in Tudor times. Many people believed the word was going to end in 1588 because of a fiery Trigon. In 1564 Cyprian Leowitz in his work De Coniuntionibus Magnis Insignioribus Superiorium Planetrum predicted sudden violent changes the appearance of new worlds and the second coming all as a consequence of the fiery Trigon. Cyprian Leowitz's work was often reprinted and embellished with new fearsome portents. However, 1588 came and went and a more measured age of reason and logic prevailed. Just like Edward Pons these almanacs of doom laden Trigons faded into the past.