Heavy is The Head That Wears The Crown

Origin of Heavy is The Head That Wears The Crown

The original source of this phrase is not known, but William Shakespeare used it in his play, King Henry IV, with little modification, as he wrote, “Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!/Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” In Act III, Scene I, King Henry IV says these lines to express how tough his duty of kingship is, and how difficult it is to take such a serious responsibility, which constantly worries him.

Meaning of Heavy is The Head That Wears The Crown

This phrase implies the great responsibilities borne by a king, who worries constantly. This phrase also means a person in charge, or in a leadership role, has to bear many responsibilities, and it is a very tough job. These leaders could influence people to do the right things, and they in turn could make them do wrong things. King Henry expresses that the crown is so uncomfortable and heavy that it does not let him sleep. Of course, he does not wear it in bed, but the pressure of leadership keeps him awake at night.

Usage of Heavy is The Head That Wears The Crown

We can easily find the wider use of this phrase in every field of life, including the literary world, politics, and businesses – especially being used by leaders and heads of organizations on daily basis. Since leaders are meant to serve others, they have a huge responsibility on their heads. People also use it in their everyday lives. For instance a father, playing a role of a leader in his family, might say to his children that he has huge responsibilities for their education, care, and clothing.

Literary Source of Heavy is The Head That Wears The Crown

King Henry IV speaks this phrase in lines 26 to 31 in Act-III, Scene-I of William Shakespeare’s play Henry IV. He says:

King Henry:

“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.”

(King Henry, Act-III, Scene-I, Lines 26-31)

Tired, guilty, sick and overwhelmed with rebellion, King Henry IV feels the great burden of his crown as he speaks these lines. The main idea this phrase conveys is that of the threats to his life of murder or assassination.

Literary Analysis of Heavy is The Head That Wears The Crown

This line has a poetic and dramatic impact, as it describes the responsibilities of a king, which create troubles for him. Throughout this play, we learn that Shakespeare portrayed the king as a very weak leader, who feared that history could repeat itself. He felt pressure to rule his kingdom.

Many people speculate that he felt that way because he did not have the right to the divine kingship in the times when kings believed that God conferred power on them. Henry IV, on the other hand, being usurper, did not have this belief due to the manner through which he came into power. This doubt and uncertainty of the king relate to his characteristics of being a weak leader. Therefore, such a phrase suits him to speak.

Literary Devices

  • Metaphor: The crown in this phrase is a metaphor for weighty and heavy responsibilities of king and the burden that he takes due to his power.