Throughout this masculine play, we rarely see women, but Kate and Lady Mortimer, while not main characters, add to the story and the characterization of Hotspur and Mortimer.
Hotspur, the terrible, neglectful husband runs into Kate and says “How now, Kate? I must leave you within these two hours”(2.4.31). He doesn’t give her an explanation and she prompts him complaining that he hasn’t “given my treasures and rights of thee”(2.4.40). She also discusses that she has been watching him sleep and he’s been crying out. She heard him “murmur tales of iron wars” (2.4.43) and “Cry ‘Courage! To the field’”(2.4.45). He ignores her and calls for his horse. Then when she asks again “What is it carries you away” (2.4.70)? His snarky reply is “Why, my horse, My love, my horse” (2.4.69). Hotspur and Kate obviously have some marriage issues they need to work out. Becoming so frustrated Kate insults him calling him a weasel and threatening to “break thy little finger” (2.4.79). Hotspur then tells her he doesn’t love her. Then he takes it back and tells her that because she is a woman she can’t be trusted. I think the last line Kate says, “It must, of force” (2.4.110) is important because it shows Kate giving in because being a woman, she has no choice but to trust and support her husband, even though he doesn’t trust or support her. It’s strange to me that Hotspur has a wife but he doesn’t want anything to do with her.
Lady Mortimer and Mortimer’s marriage is also strange. Lady Mortimer has no lines in the play but her presence is clearly known. Her husband, Mortimer does not speak Welsh and so the only way they can communicate is through a translator. This probably proves for a very difficult relationship, although it most likely keeps the fighting to a minimum. Mortimer seems genuinely enchanted by Lady Mortimer though which can be seen through their physical relationship. Maybe it is because a good wife at that time kept quiet? We Lady Mortimer weeps when he is going to leave. Mortimer says he understands “thy looks” (3.1.197) and “they kisses” (3.1.200). She sings him a song as well. Their relationship foils Hotspur and Kate’s and shows that because Mortimer has fallen in love, he has more “womanly” traits and is weaker than Hotspur.
Mortimer and Lady Mortimer’s marriage foils that of Hotspur and Kate’s. It also depicts Mortimer as the weaker man. Mortimer and Lady Mortimer have a better marriage than Kate and Hotspur but at what cost? Is Mortimer not fully committed to the war because he loves his wife? can see the contrast between the two when the men are about to leave. Mortimer and Lady Mortimer share a romantic moment while Kate and Hotspur get frustrated with each other. Kate threatens him again saying “Wouldst thou have thy head broken” (3.1.33). He once again disrespects her saying “’tis a woman’s fault”(3.1.236). Glyndwr asks Mortimer to hurry up saying that he is “as slow as hot Lord Percy is on fire to go” (3.1.58-59). I think Shakespeare includes these scenes of marriage for many reasons. One is that it further characterizes Hotspur’s hotheaded neglect of Kate against Mortimer’s loving, physical relationship with Lady Mortimer. Another reason could be to show how little say these women had in their husband’s or their own lives. Mortimer’s marriage also justifies the war against King Henry. We can hypothesize Shakespeare’s reasons for these two characters all day but what we do know is these marriages need some serious help.