King Henry IV, Part I SummaryKing Henry IV, Part I Summary
provides a quick review of the play's plot including every
important action in the play. King Henry IV, Part I Summary is
divided by the five acts of
the play and is an ideal introduction before reading the
King Henry IV opens the play by explaining that the recent civil
war in England has left its mark
on his kingdom. He hopes a much-delayed religious crusade will
unite his people together once
Unfortunately King Henry IV learns of trouble in his land. First
we learn that Mortimer, The Earl
of March was captured in a battle with the irregular
"Glendower,"which resulted in a thousanddeaths for Mortimer's
Next we learn that though Young Harry Percy (Hotspur) protected
Holmedon from the Earl of
Douglas in the north for the King, he has kept the prisoners for
himself rather than give themover to King Henry.
King Henry IV is saddened that his own son is not nearly as
capable as Hotspur and regrets that
Mortimer's capture and Hotspur's insolence will force a further
postponement of his religious
We are introduced to Prince Hal, or Prince Henry, or as King
Henry calls him, Harry, the son
King Henry IV wishes was more like the valiant Hotspur. Far from
acting as a Prince arguablyshould, Hal is keeping company with
We are also introduced to Falstaff, one such thief and Poins who
is planning a robbery atGadshill (A location). Poins explains that
he and Hal (both disguised) will steal what their
friends have already stolen from carriages running along
Gadshill and will enjoy a laugh at
Falstaff's expense afterwards.
In an important soliloquy, Hal reveals that though he has been
keeping bad company, he will
soon show his true colors at the right time...
Meanwhile King Henry punishes the Earl of Worcester, The Earl of
Northumberland andHotspur (Northumberland's son) for forgetting
their obligations to King Henry.
Hotspur and his father offer the prisoners gladly, arguing their
refusal to do so was all amisunderstanding. King Henry disagrees,
believing Hotspur wanted to use the prisoners to forceKing Henry to
pay the ransom of Lord Mortimer, his brother-in-law. King Henry
will not do this
because Lord Mortimer betrayed his forces by marrying the
daughter of Glendower, his enemy
on the battlefield! Hotspur is ordered to hand over the
prisoners but refuses.
Worcester suggests a plan to deal with King Henry, which
involves Douglas, Glendower and the
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Archbishop of York siding against King Henry. Hotspur hands over
the prisoners to buy time...
Early in the morning, a Chamberlain, informs Gadshill at an Inn
of a rich carriage heading their
way, important information for their upcoming robbery...
Hal and Poins meet for their robbery of their friend's robbery
takings. Poins explains that he hasremoved Falstaff's horse. The
thieves spilt into two groups, Poins and Hal taking the low
Falstaff, Gadshill, Bardolph and Peto successfully rob several
passing travelers and are then
robbed themselves by a disguised Poins and Hal. With their
horses taken, Poins and Hal willhave to wait for their friends to
meet them in London; they will have to walk there empty
Hotspur reads a letter confirming that a nobleman they have
approached will not join their causeagainst King Henry IV angering
Hotspur. Hotspur worries that this nobleman will betray them,
revealing their plans to King Henry. Hotspur's wife resents
being neglected by her husband...
Hal and Poins are at an inn waiting for their luckless friends
Falstaff, Gadshill, Bardolph, Peto to
arrive and looking forward to laughing at Falstaff's lies as to
how they allowed themselves to be
robbed. In the meanwhile, Poins and Hal give inn servant Francis
the run around and Hal revealshis disdain of royal title,
displaying a common touch.
Tellingly, he reveals his envy of Hotspur, suggesting he wishes
he was more like him... Falstaff
and friends arrive, Falstaff being exposed as a liar to much
amusement. Falstaff argues that he
knew Hal was robbing him and thus allowed himself to be
Hal learns that Owen Glendower, his son in law Mortimer, Old
Northumberland, his son Hotspurand Douglas have turned against King
Henry IV (The Percy revolt). Falstaff is wanted for a
robbery. Hal decides to pay back Falstaff's robbery victims and
to have Falstaff lead troopsagainst this revolt...
The rebels divide up England. Mortimer is to have the south,
Glendower the west and Hotspurwho represents the Percy family will
have the north. Glendower and Hotspur squabble over their
territories but eventually compromise. Hotspur's wife Kate is
not so blindly loving of her
husband as is Mortimer's wife, Lady Mortimer...
King Henry criticizes Prince Hal for wasting time with his life.
He warns that Hotspur may have
a greater claim to be King of England by his actions than Hal
will by right alone if Hal continues
to waste time while men like Hotspur earn the people's
admiration just as King Henry himselfdid which helped him to
replace Richard II. Hal assures his father that he will defeat
overjoying King Henry.
We learn that Douglas and the English rebels have met at
Shrewsbury representing a very
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powerful force. Hal and father set off to meet this threat.
At the Boar's Head Tavern, Falstaff is told to pay his bills by
an angry Mistress Quickly. Falstaffcomplains that he has no money,
his pocket was picked, cursing Hal in the process. Hal arrives,
explaining that he repaid those Falstaff stole from and that he
was the one who picked Falstaff's
pocket. Falstaff is placed in command of some men, reluctantly
becoming a soldier. Halorganizes preparations for the upcoming
At the rebel camp, the rebels learn that they will be fighting
weaker than expected; Hotspur'sfather, Henry Percy, The Earl of
Northhumberland cannot join them, owing to illness. Hotspur
though disheartened quickly regains his enthusiasm.
Vernon arrives, announcing that not only do King Henry's forces
number thirty thousand, butalso Glendower's forces are unlikely to
be available either since they need another two weeks
time to be gathered. Hotspur now facing certain defeat, looks
death in the eye, determined to winno matter what the odds...
Falstaff ashamedly leads his ragtag troops towards Coventry,
pretending that he is not ashamed
of them. Hal meets him, laughing at Falstaff's expense about his
troops. Falstaff, Hal andWestmoreland head off together for
Shrewsbury to meet the rebels in battle...
The rebels disagree on strategy. Douglas and Hotspur want to
attack the King Henry's troops
immediately at night, reasoning that these troops will be tired
from their travels. Vernon and
Worcester disagree, advising caution as their own troops are not
yet fully gathered and King
Henry's forces presently outnumbers them.
Sir Walter Blunt arrives, offering a compromise from King Henry
that could prevent war.
Hotspur says no but adds that in the morning Hotspur's uncle
(Worcester) shall meet King Henryto discuss matters further...
The Archbishop of York makes plans, making it quite clear that
he knows Hotspur faces KingHenry's forces without the help of
Northhumberland and Glendower. Sir Michael though, is
confident of victory even when it is learned that Mortimer's
forces will not be there either. The
rebel forces will only number those men under Hotspur's,
Douglas' Mordake's, Vernon's, andWorcester's control. The
Archbishop knows the stakes are high should their rebellion
Worcester and Vernon speak with the King on behalf of the
rebels. Worcester airs their
grievances that King Henry has forgotten that they helped him
achieve power and that KingHenry has taken more than he originally
King Henry offers a pardon to all the rebels to avoid a bloody
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Hal shows his wisdom by predicting that Douglas and Hotspur
confident of victory will not
accept the pardon. Falstaff is reluctant to die, questioning the
value of honour from battle...
Worcester decides not to tell Hotspur of King Henry's generous
pardon offer, arguing that if they
accept, they will never be trusted. Vernon disagrees. Douglas
and Hotspur arrive, Worcester
lying to the two men that King Henry is merciless and also by
not telling them of King Henry'spardon offer.
Worcester tells us that Hal has challenged Hotspur to single
combat and both Vernon andWorcester sing Hal's praises showing just
how far Hal has come since his days of stealing with
Falstaff and company. Hotspur faces certain defeat but bravely
The battle rages. Douglas kills Sir Walter Blunt, believing him
to be King Henry. We learn that
the King has several such impersonators on the battlefield to
protect him. Douglas explains to
Hotspur that he has only killed Sir Walter Blunt.
Falstaff is a worried man, barely three of his one hundred and
fifty men have survived thebloodbath, Falstaff questioning again
the value of honour if dies in war. Falstaff tells Hal that hehas
killed Hotspur. Hal does not believe him. Falstaff pledges to kill
Hotspur but to save himself
King Henry IV tells his son to leave the battlefield. Hal does
not want to, arguing that a scratch
should not warrant his leaving the battle. Douglas fights King
Henry, King Henry losing. Hal
saves King Henry, Douglas running away. This redeems Hal in King
Hotspur and Hal at last fight, Hal first showing his respect for
Hotspur. Falstaff cheers Hal on
but Douglas returns, fighting Falstaff who falls to the ground,
Hal kills Hotspur and mourns Falstaff's death. Falstaff rises,
explaining that he faked his death to
avoid a real one at the hands of Douglas.
Falstaff, fearing Hotspur is faking his death, stabs him and
claims that he killed Hotspur,
expecting to be made an Earl or a Duke. He explains that though
he was on the ground likeHotspur, both rose up and Falstaff then
killed Hotspur. The battle over, a general stand down in
The rebellion defeated, King Henry reminds prisoner Worcester
that he did offer the rebels a
pardon to avoid war. Worcester and Vernon are to be killed,
while King Henry decides the fate
of the other prisoners.
King Henry allows Hal to set Douglas free. Attention now turns
to the next battle to be fought,
against Northhumberland and Archbishop Scroop, who are arming
themselves for war...
King Henry IV, Part I Commentary - Act I.
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King Henry IV, Part I Commentary provides a comprehensive
description of every act
ith explanations and translations for all important quotes.
Act I. Scene I. - London. The Palace.
King Henry IV: "So shaken as we are, so wan with care, / Find we
a time for frighted peace topant...."
A tired and drained King Henry IV explains to us that a civil
war in England has left its
mark on his kingdom. He hopes a much-delayed religious crusade
will unite his people
again under one purpose.
Unfortunately the Earl of Westmoreland informs the King Henry of
trouble in his land.
First we learn that Mortimer, The Earl of March was captured in
a battle with the
irregular "Glendower" which resulted in a thousand deaths for
Mortimer's men. Next we
learn that though Young Henry Percy (Hotspur) protected Holmedon
from the Earl of
Douglas in the north, Hotspur has kept the prisoners for himself
rather than give them toKing Henry IV, his king.
King Henry laments that his own son is not nearly as capable as
Hotspur and regrets that
these two problems (Mortimer and Hotspur) will force a further
postponement of his
already delayed religious crusade...
The play begins with England's current ruler, King Henry IV,
speaking to the Earl of
Westmoreland about the troubles of his recent rule and his plans
to start a religious crusade...
The king is weary and his opening dialogue conveys the feeling
that the civil strife England has
endured has taken its toll on both king and country.
King Henry IV describes this vividly when he says "So shaken as
we are, so wan with care, /
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant," (Line 1).
King Henry explains that his people have fought one another
(Lines 4-13) with a fury "close of
[to] civil butchery," (Line 13), but now, he believes his once
divided people will "March all one
way, and be no more oppos'd / Against acquaintance," (march
together and no longer fight thosethey know), (Line 15) because the
English people will be united together in a religious crusade
against those enemies of Christianity in Jerusalem (Lines
King Henry himself refers to this when he describes the purpose
of his crusade as being to "chasethese pagans in those holy fields"
This comment is a reference to those who now inhabit the holy
fields where King Henry
explains, Jesus Christ once walked and later was crucified or
"nail'd" (Line 26) for the advantage
or benefit of all Christians four hundred years before (the time
of this play is during rule of KingHenry IV), (Lines 24-27).
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King Henry also explains that this religious crusade is not a
new project, saying "our purpose
[the crusade] is a twelvemonth [one year] old," (Line 28).
King Henry now learns some unpleasant news from the Earl of
Westmoreland... The crusade will
again have to be postponed since news has come that "the noble
Mortimer [Earl of March],"
whilst leading the men of Herefordshire against the "irregular
and wild Glendower," wascaptured "And a thousand of his people
butchered;" (Line 42).
The Earl, adds that the ensuing mutilation or "shameless
transformation" (Line 44) performed ontheir corpses cannot be
described without much shame in the telling (Lines 44-46).
King Henry resigns himself to the inevitable conclusion that
this current crisis will delay "our
business for the Holy Land", specifically his crusade (Line
The Earl now adds that there is more bad news from the
north:."On Holy-rood day, the gallantHotspur" (Line 52) also known
as the Young Henry Percy commanded King Henry's troops
against "the brave Archibald, / That ever-valiant and approved
Scot," (The Earl of Douglas),(Line 53) in a battle at Holmedon.
Unfortunately the messenger telling the Earl of Westmoreland
this news "did take horse," or left
the scene of the battle "Uncertain of the issue any way"
(uncertain who actually won), (Line 61).
King Henry now fills the Earl in on the missing points. From Sir
Walter Blunt, who has justarrived or in King Henry's words who is
"new lighted from his horse," (just off his horse), (Line
63), King Henry IV has learned that Westmoreland's news is good
Not only was Holmedon kept in their (King Henry's) hands (Line
65) but the Earl of Douglas
was defeated with some "Ten thousand bold Scots, two and twenty
knights, / Balk'd in their ownblood" or heaped up in their own
blood dead from what Sir Walter Blunt could see (Line 68).
As for prisoners, King Henry IV continues, Hotspur (The Young
Henry Percy) took "Mordake
the Earl of Fife," the eldest son of the beaten Douglas and the
Earls of Athol, Murray, Angus and
King Henry asks the Earl of Westmoreland, "is not this an
honourable spoil? A gallant prize?" (isnot this a honorable spoil
or booty / loot, a gallant prize), (Line 75).
The Earl of Westmoreland agrees, saying, "It is a conquest for a
prince to boast of" (Line 77).
That last line saddens King Henry who says as much (Line
King Henry explains that Young Percy's victory saddens and marks
him in sin that he should
envy "my Lord Northumberland" (Line 79) for being so blessed as
a father to have Percy for a
son, "A son who is the theme of honour's tongue;" (Line 81)
whilst King Henry "by looking onthe praise of him [Young Percy],"
(Line 84) can only see "riot and dishonour stain the brow
[forehead] / Of my young Harry (his real name is Henry but King
Henry IV calls him this) ",
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King Henry's own son (Line 84).
King Henry wishes his son was as noble and gallant as Lord
Northumberland's son, Young Percywho defeated his enemies on the
battlefield whilst his own son did not...
King Henry IV now laments that if only "some night-tripping
fairy" (a fairy) had exchanged theirchildren in their
"cradle-clothes" (toddler clothing / when the boys were young)
(Line 88), then
he would have a son he could truly be proud of (Lines
King Henry now asks the Earl of Westmoreland what he thinks of
Hotspur or "young Percy's
pride?" that he keeps the prisoners he has taken for his "own
use" giving King Henry onlyMordake the Earl of Fife rather than
give them all up to his king? (Line 92).
Westmoreland explains that Young Percy's (Hotspur's) lack of
respect is the result of "his uncle's
teaching," (Line 96), the Earl of Worcester whom Westmoreland
describes as being"Malevolent" or opposed to King Henry IV in all
It is the Earl's influence on Young Percy (Hotspur),
Westmoreland explains, that makes YoungPercy "prune himself, and
bristle up / The crest of youth [summon up the crest of youth]
your dignity [King Henry IV]" (Line 99).
King Henry IV now explains that he has sent for Young Percy to
explain himself, saying "for
this cause a while we must neglect / Our holy purpose to
Jerusalem" (because of this problem wemust ignore our plans for a
crusade a little longer), (Line 101).
King Henry tells Westmoreland that next Wednesday they shall
hold their council in Windsor,
telling Westmoreland to inform the Lords and to return quickly
for as King Henry puts it, "more
is to be said and to be done / Than out of anger can be uttered"
Act I. Scene II. - The Same. An Apartment of the Prince's.
Prince Hal (Prince Henry): "My reformation, glittering o'er my
fault, / Shall show more goodlyand attract more eyes / Than that
which hath no foil to set it off. I'll so offend to make offence
skill; / Redeeming time when men think least I will."
We are introduced to Prince Hal, or Prince Henry, the son King
Henry IV called "Harry"
in the earlier scene and the son, King Henry IV wishes was more
like the valiant Hotspur.
Far from acting as a Prince arguably should, Hal is keeping
company with petty thieves.
We are introduced to Falstaff, one such thief and Poins who is
planning a robbery atGadshill (A location).
Poins explains that he and Hal (both disguised) will steal what
their friends have already
stolen from carriages running along Gadshill and will both enjoy
explanations of what how they were robbed afterwards. In an
important soliloquy, Hal
reveals that though he has been keeping bad company, he will
soon show his true colours at
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the right time...
Meanwhile in Prince Henry's (Hal's) apartment in London, Prince
Henry is speaking withFalstaff (Sir John Falstaff). Falstaff
introduces himself to us by asking Hal (Prince Henry) what
time it is.
Prince Henry replies that Falstaff whom he describes as
"fat-witted," or slow witted "hast [has]
forgotten to demand that truly which thou [you] wouldst [would
or should] truly know" (Line 6),
adding that unless hours were cups of sack, minutes were capons,
dials the signs of leaping-houses "and the blessed sun himself a
fair hot wench [women] in flame-colour'd taffeta," why
should he care? (Line 12).
Falstaff, who refers to Prince Henry as "Hal", explains that
thieves such as himself "that take
purses go by the moon and the seven stars," (Line 15), adding
that should Hal one day become
King of England, or "as, God save thy Grace,-majesty," (Line 19)
he believes "for grace thouwilt have none,-" (for grace you shall
have none), (Line 19).
This comment from Falstaff who clearly shows little respect or
deference for the Prince Henry'stitle and position angers Hal into
saying "What! none?" (Line 21).
Again Falstaff presses home his friendly insult, completely
unafraid of his friend Prince Hal(Line 22).
Falstaff now suggests that when Prince Henry is made "king,"
they should both be "gentlemen of
the shade, minions of the moon;" adding that men should consider
them both "men of good
government, being governed as the sea is, by our noble and
chaste mistress the moon, under
whose countenance we steal" (men of good government who like the
sea should be governed by
the moon or the darkness under which they are allowed or able to
steal), (Line 33).
Falstaff's comments that they should both steal whilst being
considered men of goodgovernment, shows us that Prince Henry is
certainly running with a less than honest crowd and
certainly not the crowd one would expect to produce a fair,
honest and conscience future King of
Thus we first see Henry as a man perhaps more willing to run
with interesting company ignoring
their moral inadequacies for the thrill, excitement and interest
of living with a more interestingcrowd than Prince Henry would
otherwise know, not unlike many privileged youth today who
choose friends with exciting but often less privileged lives to
bring excitement their own.
We also can see from this good natured exchange that though
Prince Henry would like to think
his wits are faster than Falstaff's the opposite may well be
Returning to the play, Falstaff and Hal discuss their recent
activities, in particular discussing the
merits of "the hostess of the tavern" (Line 46) and in a moment
suggesting seriousness, Falstaff
tells Prince Henry that when he is king, "Do not thou, when thou
art king, hang a thief" (do not
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when you are king, hang a thief), (Line 70).
The two now exchange further witticisms over the hanging of
thieves, Falstaff mockinglysuggesting that his relationship with
the Young Prince has corrupted him (Line 101) and that
before meeting Hal, Falstaff "knew nothing;" but now he is
damned, jokingly suggesting that his
life must be given over to redeem himself (Lines 73-115).
The Prince suggests that he sees a change in the better for
Falstaff, "from praying to purse-
taking" (Line 115).
Poins now enters, Prince Henry exchanging witticisms before
discussing an upcoming robbery(Lines 116-136).
Poins now explains the robbery, saying that "There are pilgrims
going to Canterbury with rich
offerings, and traders riding to London with fat purses:" (Line
138). Poins has made meticulousplans (Lines 137-146) adding that
"If you will go I will stuff your purses full of crowns; if you
will not, tarry at home and be hanged" (Line 147).
Falstaff suggests that if he does stay home, he will hang Poins
Falstaff now asks Hal (Prince Henry) if he will join this
Gadshill led robbery, Prince Henry
coyly saying "Who, I rob? I a thief? not I, by my faith" (Line
Falstaff now goads Hal suggesting "There's neither honesty,
manhood, nor good fellowship
[friendship] in thee [you], nor thou camest not [you did not
come] of the blood royal, if thoudarest not stand for ten
shillings" (Line 154).
Tellingly in view of the fact that Hal is a prince with
obligations of conduct, Prince Henry replies"Well, come what will,
I'll tarry at home" (Line 161), choosing not to join the robbing
Falstaff protests that "I'll be a traitor then, when thou [you]
art [are] king" (Line 164), Hal telling
him "I care not" (Line 165).
Poins now tells Falstaff to leave him and the Prince alone, he
will convince the Prince to join
Falstaff now leaves for Eastcheap, one of the stops on the
robbing trip, and Poins begins to
convince Hal to join them saying, "I have a jest [joke] to
execute [perform] that I cannot manage
alone" (Line 179).
Poins explains that Falstaff, Bardolph, Peto and Gadshill (the
person not the location) shall rob
the men they have already described but Poins and Prince Henry
will not be there, instead they
will rob them once they have the booty. Poins is very serious
about this suggesting, "if you and I
do not rob them, cut this [my / Poin's] head from my shoulders"
The Prince however is unsure they can lose the rest of the
thieves. Poins tells him not to worry;
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they will appoint a place to meet, not turn up and Falstaff and
company will continue the robbery
without them (Lines 186-193).
The Prince is still worried they will be identified. Poins again
tells the Prince not to worry, they
will hide their horses and Poins has brought cases of "buckram"
to "inmask our noted outward
garments" or to camouflage their distinguishing clothes from
Falstaff and company (Lines 197-201).
Again Hal has his doubts, saying he doubts they will be easy to
steal from (Line 202).
Poins again has the answer. Two of them Poins is certain are
cowards and the third is unlikely tofight "longer than he sees
reason," (Line 204).
Poins now explains that the virtue or fun of this little jest or
joke will be the "incomprehensible
lies that this same fat rogue [Falstaff] will tell us when we
meet at supper: how thirty, at least, hefought with; what wards,
what blows, what extremities he endured;" (how thirty men
him with made up details) and in the reproof or retelling of
what really happened, will lie the jestor joke on Falstaff, Poins
explains (Lines 202-212).
The Prince is convinced, he will go with Poins, telling him to
meet with him tomorrow night at
Eastcheap, where he will have supper.
Now alone, Prince Henry tells us what steel his character is
truly made from...
Prince Henry explains to us that while he has indeed been idle
(Lines 217-229), he will soon castoff this lazy lifestyle (Line
He explains that he knows he has been keeping bad company,
describing his keeping badcompany as akin to the sun which allows
itself to be smothered by "the base contagious clouds"(Line 220),
(a metaphor for his bad company), but which will rid itself of
when the sun chooses again to see and show itself for what it
really is (Lines 218-225).
Prince Henry also adds that this change of character will shine
like "bright metal on a sullen
ground," (Line 234), the more so because it is unexpected and
more than if he had been truly
honorable to begin with (Line 237), adding that before he does
this, he will offend so much as tomake it seem a skill, only then
reforming when everyone least expects it.
Prince Henry ends the scene saying:
"My reformation, glittering o'er [over] my fault, / Shall show
more goodly and attract more eyes
/ Than that which hath no foil to set it off. I'll so offend to
make offence a skill; / Redeemingtime when men think least I will"
Act I. Scene III. - The Same. The Palace.
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King Henry: "I do see / Danger and disobedience in thine
King Henry punishes the Earl of Worcester, The Earl of
Northumberland and Hotspur
(Young Henry Percy, Northumberland's son) for forgetting their
obligations to the king.
Hotspur and father offer the prisoners gladly, arguing their
refusal to do so was a
King Henry IV disagrees, believing Hotspur (Young Henry) wanted
to use the prisoners to
lever King Henry IV into paying the ransom of Lord Mortimer, his
Henry IV will not, arguing that this man betrayed his forces by
marrying the daughter of
Glendower, his enemy on the battlefield!
Hotspur is ordered to hand over the prisoners but refuses.
Worcester suggests a plan to
deal with King Henry, which involves Douglas, Glendower and the
Archbishop of York
against King Henry. Hotspur will hand over the prisoners to buy
Back at the King Henry's palace, an angry King Henry IV is
verbally punishing The Earl ofWorcester (Lines 1-13), The Earl of
Northhumberland and his son Young Percy (Hotspur).
He reminds them all that they have "tread upon my patience:"
(Line 4) warning them that he will
use force to bring them into line if necessary (Lines 1-9).
This leads Worcester to remind King Henry IV that his house (The
Percy family) does notdeserve "The scourge of greatness to be used
on it;" (the king's forces to be used against it),
(Line 11) adding that the very greatness (King Henry's throne)
King Henry IV now threatens
them with would not have been possible without their help (Lines
King Henry IV now tells Worcester to "get thee gone;" or leave
since he sees "Danger anddisobedience in thine [your] eye" (Line
Turning to Northhumberland, King Henry hears Northhumberland
voice the opinion that the
prisoners his son "Harry Percy" (Hotspur, Young Henry) took,
which are now demanded by
King Henry IV are not denied more strongly to the him than they
Northhumberland goes on to suggest that envy or "misprison" is
guilty of this fault and not hisson (Lines 23-28).
Hotspur (called Harry by his father) now defends himself saying,
"I did deny [to the king] no
prisoners:" (Line 29) but also that he was greeted by a man
shortly after battle requesting theprisoners for the king.
Unfortunately this "popinjay," (Line 50) so angered him with his
noble disdain for the smells and
scenes of battle that Hotspur did answer this man representing
the king somewhat "neglectingly,
[rudely / disrespectfully]", Hotspur asking that this incident
does not come between him and hislove of his majesty, King Henry IV
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Sir Walter Blunt now speaks, suggesting to the king that
"Whatever Harry Percy then had said /
To such a person and in such a place," (Line 71) be best
forgotten (Lines 70-76).
King Henry now replies to all this, saying "yet he [Hotspur]
doth [does] deny his prisoners, / But
with proviso and exception," suggesting that it was Hotspur's
intent to use the prisoners to levy
King Henry IV into providing the ransom for his brother-in-law
Mortimer, the Earl of March andthe very man who "wilfully betray'd"
the forces he led (Line 81).
On top of all this, King Henry IV reminds all present that
Mortimer then went on to marry thedaughter of the "damn'd
Glendower," (Line 83) the man he led his forces to fight.
King Henry now asks, "Shall our coffers [funds] then / Be
emptied to redeem a traitor home?"
Hotspur now defends his brother in law vigorously, explaining
that the "noble Mortimer "(Line111) is no traitor, having taken
wounds in his battle against Glendower (Lines 93-112).
King Henry IV, though is far from convinced, explaining to Percy
(Hotspur) that Mortimer nevermet with Glendower (Line 114) and now
instructing Hotspur to send his prisoners to him as
quickly as possible, telling Hotspur "Send me your prisoners
with the speediest means, / Or you
shall hear in such a kind from me / As will displease you" (send
me your prisoners as quickly aspossible or you will hear from me in
a way I am sure you will not like), (Line 120).
King Henry IV, Sir Walter Blunt and the Henry's train or
followers now depart, leaving a furious
Hotspur who refuses to obey his king.
Hotspur is adamant nothing will change his mind, adding that "if
the devil come and roar for
them [the prisoners], I will not send them: I will after
straight / And tell him so; for I will easemy heart, / Albeit I
make a hazard of my head" (if the devil himself asks for the
prisoners, I will
not give them. I will tell him this straight for I will ease my
heart even if I now place my headand my life at risk), (Line
Northhumberland, Hotspur's father tries to tell his son to calm
down but Worcester now returnsand Hotspur starts another outburst,
pledging his loyalty to Mortimer and saying "I will lift the
down-trod [downtrodden] Mortimer / As high i' [in] the air as
this unthankful king," (Line 136).
Hotspur now mentions that King Henry turned pale at the mention
of the ransom for Mortimer,
suggesting that King Henry IV was "Trembling even at the name of
Mortimer" (Line 144).
Worcester explains why, saying he is not surprised, asking "was
he not proclaim'd [proclaimed] /
By Richard [King Henry's predecessor, Richard II] that dead is
the next of blood?" (was he not
proclaimed as the successor to Richard II, the last king), (Line
Worcester explains that King Henry IV has very good reason to
fear Mortimer. King Richard II,whom King Henry IV replaced as King
of England with the help of the Percies, named Mortimer
as his successor. Thus Mortimer represents a threat to the
legitimacy of King Henry's rule over
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Northhumberland, Worcester and Hotspur now retell recent
history, explaining that Richard IImade that proclamation shortly
before his Irish expedition after which he returned to England
and was soon after deposed (removed from power) and then
murdered (Lines 147-152).
Worcester echoes how the death of Richard II scandalized the
"world's wide mouth" (Line 153)
and Hotspur asks whether King Richard II did "Proclaim my
brother Edmund Mortimer / Heir to
the crown?" (Line 156) learning that he did and that King Henry
IV has forgotten the Percyfamily who helped him become king notably
in the Bolingbroke revolt (Line 176).
Worcester now interrupts to suggest a dark and secret plan which
he describes as "a secret book,"
to be unclasped or opened of a matter both dangerous and deep
Hotspur is enthusiastic, especially since it involves honor
(Line 196) and because it involvesdanger (Line 195).
Northhumberland now remarks that the thought of some great
exploit drives Hotspur beyond thebounds of patience (Line 200),
Hotspur now confirming this (Lines 201-211).
Hotspur (Young Percy, Young Henry, Harry) now mentions that he
will keep all his Scottish
prisoners, Hotspur saying that for refusing him the Mortimer's
ransom or even to speak
Mortimer's name, Hotspur will "holla 'Mortimer!'" in King
Henry's ear when he is asleep (Lines219-226).
Hotspur pledges to defy "this Bolingbroke: / And that same
sword-and-buckler Prince of Wales,"
(Prince Henry), (Line 229) who Hotspur believes the king does
not even like and would be
happy if he were poisoned.
Northumberland now succeeds in cooling down his hot headed son,
allowing Worcester to
instruct him to return the prisoners to King Henry IV to calm
him down and throw the king off
guard whilst he also is to make peace with Douglas through his
son, to secure them Scottish
support and forces for their plan (Lines 260-263).
Worcester now tells Northhumberland to seek out the Archbishop
of York who has taken hisbrother's death hard. Hotspur is excited
that soon the power of "Scotland and of York," will soon
oin with Mortimer (Line 281).
Worcester now sets Northhumberland and son Hotspur (Young Percy)
on their separate ways,telling them to be ready to receive word,
which could be sudden, that the plan to remove King
Henry is afoot.
At this point, Worcester explains that he will go to Glendower
and Lord Mortimer where
Douglas and "our powers at once,- / As I will fashion it,-shall
happily meet," (Line 298) to fightunited against King Henry
described as "much uncertainty" (Line 300).
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King Henry IV, Part I Characters guide studies each character's
role and motivation in
King Henry IV: Rising to power by replacing King Richard II (See
Shakespeare's Richard II),
King Henry IV has seen recent civil strife or war take its toll
on his country. He is saddened that
brother had fought brother and is anxious to unite his people
under an already much delayedreligious crusade.
The threat of rebellion from the Percy family and the capture of
Mortimer force him to againdelay his plans. On a personal level,
King Henry IV is saddened that his son, Prince Henry lacks
what he feels are the qualities required of a future king. He
worries that Hal is wasting his life
and fears that those like Hotspur who earn the people's
admiration are more likely to succeedhim, not his own son.
As a leader, King Henry IV is cautious but disciplined. He does
not let Hotspur forget hisobligations to him and wisely offers the
rebels generous terms for their surrender to avoid war.
King Henry IV also appears to be cunning, placing many
look-alikes to himself on the battlefieldto confuse the
Henry, Prince of Wales: Also known as Prince Henry, Prince Hal
Hal, or as his father King
Henry IV addresses him, Harry, Hal shows the greatest character
development in this play.Originally apathetic to the affairs of
state, Hal prefers instead to pass time with thieves Gadshill,Peto,
Falstaff, Poins and Bardolph. However we quickly learn from Hal's
first soliloquy that this
is merely an act, he is acutely aware of the bad company he
keeps, but prefers to show his true
colors when necessary, wisely concluding that because
expectations of him are so low, hisaccomplishments when shown will
shine that much brighter.
Willing to laugh at his friend's expense, Hal is honest,
reimbursing those robbed by his friendsand humble, wishing to be
valued by his own actions not his royal title. Nonetheless, Hal
to enjoy the immunity his title confers, allowing him to do what
others may not (steal) without
Though confident of his abilities, Hal's envy of Hotspur
suggests he is not completely confident,
since Hal needs to compare himself to others. When called to
fight the rebellion, Hal comes ofage, shedding his apathetic ways,
even enlisting Falstaff his thieving friend to fight, symbolic
Hal finally accepting and assuming responsibility for himself
When Hal advises his father King Henry IV, that the rebellion
will not accept King Henry's
pardon offer, we see Hal's insight and later on the battlefield
his prowess and nobility (respecting
Hotspur). Indeed it may be argued that Hal comprises two
characters, one before the rebellion
and one after it...
John of Launcelot: King Henry's other son, his role in the play
is minor, limited chiefly to thatof messenger...
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Earl of Westmoreland: An ally of King Henry, his forces fight on
the side of King Henry IV.
Sir Walter Blunt: Another loyal man to King Henry IV, Sir Walter
Blunt, disguised as KingHenry IV is slain by Douglas on the
battlefield. Also responsible for communicating King
Henry's first offer of pardon to the rebels for stopping their
Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland: The senior Percy in the
rebellion against King Henry,
he like his son Hotspur, initially apologizes to King Henry for
withholding prisoners to him but
later joins the rebellion against King Henry. Unavailable to
fight King Henry IV owing to illness,his son must fight the King
Henry's forces without him...
Henry Percy surnamed Hotspur, son of Henry Percy, Earl of
as valiant, courageous and brave, Hotspur is a source of pride
for his father, Henry Percy and one
of regret for King Henry IV who sees his own son Hal, as lacking
compared to Hotspur. Rash
and blind in the face of defeat, Hotspur blindly ignores bad
news when it continuously confrontshim as seen in Act V when
reports suggest he will be increasingly outnumbered on the
battlefield. Renowned on the battlefield for defeating the Scot
Douglas whom later joins him inthe rebellion against King Henry
Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester: Known in the play as Worcester,
this rebel denied Hotspur
any knowledge of King Henry's generous terms to the rebels to
avoid war. Though Sir RichardVernon disagreed, Worcester's position
prevailed and Hotspur fought King Henry, none thewiser that King
Henry IV had made an offer to avoid bloody conflict. At the end of
Worcester along with Sir Richard Vernon are put to death.
Sir Richard Vernon: Another rebel against King Henry IV, Vernon
opposed Worcester's plan
to deny Hotspur any knowledge of King Henry's generous terms for
ending the rebellion in Act
V, Scene II; a decision that leads to the defeat of Hotspur's
forces and ultimately to Worcester'sand Vernon's demise when King
Henry decides to have these rebels put to death.
Archibald, Earl of Douglas: Described as a vile Scot, he is
initially introduced to us as the man
Hotspur defeated at Holmedon when Hotspur was still fighting on
the side of King Henry IV.
Later in the play he joins the rebellion against King Henry,
fighting side by side with Hotspur,
the man who defeated his forces in Act I.
In Act V, Douglas kills Sir Walter Blunt thinking he is King
Henry and nearly kills the real King
Henry until Hal drives him off. Douglas nearly kills Hal's
friend Falstaff but Falstaff feigns deathand Douglas moves on. When
the rebels are defeated, Hal gives Douglas his freedom for his
noble manner, whilst Vernon and Worcester are put to death.
Richard Scroop: The Archbishop of York, Scroop is also involved
in the rebellion. He does not
fight but in a conversation with Sir Michael his friend, reveals
that he does not believe the
rebellion will succeed when first the Earl of Northumberland
(Henry Percy), and OwenGlendower's forces become unavailable to
fight. In Act V, Scene V, we learn that his forces are
gathering with those of Northumberland's for future war against
King Henry (See Henry IV Part
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Sir Michael: A friend to the Archbishop of York.
Owen Glendower: A key figure in the rebellion along with
Douglas, Hotspur, The Earl of
Northumberland and the Archbishop of York, Glendower initially
fought against King Henry'sforces led by Mortimer. Later it is
revealed that Mortimer, taken prisoner by Glendower, had
oined the rebellion. Glendower's forces do not make it to the
final battle since they needed two
more weeks to gather dooming Douglas and Hotspur to near certain
defeat against King Henry inAct V.
Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March: Hotspur's brother in law and a
key figure in the rebellion.
Originally fighting Glendower on King Henry's behalf, Mortimer
is captured by Glendower and
is one of the reasons King Henry IV again delays his religious
Mortimer arguably is also a contributing cause for the rebellion
as he is the reason King Henry
believes Hotspur refused to hand over prisoners to him. Along
this line of thought, King Henrybelieved Hotspur was holding the
prisoners to lever King Henry into paying Mortimer's ransom,freeing
him from Glendower.
We later learn from King Henry that far from being a prisoner,
Mortimer married Glendower'sdaughter, the daughter of his supposed
enemy. This and the fact that Mortimer led a thousand
men to their deaths to then join his "enemy" convinces King
Henry to order the prisoners off
Hotspur without paying Mortimer's ransom, angering Hotspur who
later joins the rebellionagainst King Henry.
Like the forces of Northumberland and Glendower, Mortimer's
forces are unavailable to the
rebels, sealing Douglas and Hotspur's fate of being
Sir John Falstaff: Considered one of the most complex comic (and
yet dramatic) characters ofShakespeare's plays, Falstaff has
generated an enormous amount of academic discussion for what
is admittedly a very peripheral character in this play.
A leader of the gang of thieves, Hal spends time with for fun,
Falstaff initially is introduced to us
as a petty, though witty thief with little time for the
responsibilities of the world, preferring like
Hal to enjoy life without accountability and consequence
As Hal is forced into showing his maturity by the Percy
rebellion, Falstaff too in unwittingly
enlisted by Hal to lead a ragtag group of troops into battle.
Forced into a position ofresponsibility, Falstaff shows great
character development in his caring for and support for his
men. When they quickly become decimated on the battlefield,
Falstaff famously questions the
value of honor if one dies to achieve it.
A survivor above all else, Falstaff fakes his own death to avoid
a real one at the hands of
Douglas to later claim that he killed the already dead Hotspur.
By this action we can seeFalstaff's pragmatism at work. He will not
overlook gaining honor in battle if he can do so by
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avoiding its risks.
At the end of the play, Falstaff surprises Hal by being alive
and later petitions him for a title forkilling Hotspur, one Hal who
knows the truth, gladly agrees to
A complex character, Falstaff is both comic and dramatic with a
propensity and a real gift in hisability to both avoid trouble and
negative judgment by his unending ability to redeem himself by
his words and actions. He later reappears inKing Henry IV, Part
Poins: One of Gadshill's gang of thieves, Poins, along with Hal,
mischievously plot to steal
Falstaff and company's taking from a robbery so they can both
enjoy Falstaff's lies for losing hisgroups' loot. This succeeds and
we see little more of Poins in the play.
Gadshill: Leader by name only (Falstaff is the real leader) of a
group of petty thieves, Gadshill
is also the location at which the Gadshill gang makes a robbery
only to then be robbed by adisguised Hal and Poins.
Peto: Member of Gadshill's gang.
Bardolph: Member of Gadshill's gang.
Lady Percy (Kate): The wife to Hotspur and sister to Mortimer,
she shows a fine wit and a
resistance to blindly loving her husband as does Lady
Lady Mortimer: The daughter of Glendower and wife to Mortimer,
her blind adoration of her
husband, due in part to a language barrier (Mortimer speaks
English, Lady Mortimer, Welsh),prompts Hotspur to wish his wife
Kate was similarly as adoring of him, earning Hotspur instead,
several icy comments in Act III, Scene I.
Mistress Quickly: The Hostess of the Boar's Head Tavern in
Eastcheap, she argues with Falstaff
over a bill, Falstaff says he has no money to pay. Her Tavern is
a key location for dialogue
between Poins and Hal and later Falstaff in Act II, Scene IV
before the play's action turns topreparations and battle with the
Percies in the second half of the play.
Lords, Officers, Sheriff, Vintner, Chamberlain, Drawers, two
Carriers, Travelers, and
King Henry IV, Part I Characters Analysis en
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King Henry IV, Part I Characters Analysis features noted
Shakespeare scholar William
Hazlitt's famous critical essay about the characters ofKing
Henry IV, Part I.
IF Shakespear's fondness for the ludicrous some-times led to
faults in his tragedies (which was
not often the case) he has made us amends by the character of
Falstaff. This is perhaps the most
substantial comic character that ever was invented. Sir John
carries a most portly presence in themind's eye; and in him, not to
speak it profanely, "we behold the fulness of the spirit of wit
humour bodily." We are as well acquainted with his person as his
mind, and his jokes come upon
us with double force and relish from the quantity of flesh
through which they make their way, ashe shakes his fat sides with
laughter, or "lards the lean earth as he walks along." Other
characters seem, if we approach and handle them, to resolve
themselves into air, "into thin air";
but this is embodied and palpable to the grossest apprehension:
it lies "three fingers deep upon
the ribs," it plays about the lungs and the diaphragm with all
the force of animal enjoyment. Hisbody is like a good estate to his
mind, from which he receives rents and revenues of profit and
pleasure in kind, according to its extent, and the richness of
the soil. Wit is often a meagre
substitute for pleasurable sensation; an effusion of spleen and
petty spite at the comforts of
others, from feeling none in itself. Falstaff's wit is an
emanation of a fine constitution; anexuberance of good-humour and
good-nature; an overflowing of his love of laughter and good-
fellowship; a giving vent to his heart's ease, and
over-contentment with himself and others. Hewould not be in
character, if he were not so fat as he is; for there is the
greatest keeping in theboundless luxury of his imagination and the
pampered self-indulgence of his physical appetites.
He manures and nourishes his mind with jests, as he does his
body with sack and sugar. He
carves out his jokes, as he would a capon or a haunch of
venison, where there is cut and comeagain; and pours out upon them
the oil of gladness. His tongue drops fatness, and in the
chambers of his brain "it snows of meat and drink." He keeps up
perpetual holiday and open
house, and we live with him in a round, of invitations to a rump
and dozen.Yet we are not to
suppose that he was a mere sensualist. All this is as much in
imagination as in reality. Hissensuality does not engross and
stupefy his other faculties, but "ascends me into the brain,
away all the dull, crude vapours that environ it, and makes it
full of nimble, fiery, and delectable
shapes." His imagination keeps up the ball after his senses have
done with it. He seems to have
even a greater enjoyment of the freedom from restraint, of good
cheer, of his ease, of his vanity,in the ideal exaggerated
description which he gives of them, than in fact. He never fails to
his discourse with allusions to eating and drinking, but we
never see him at table. He carries his
own larder about with him, and he is himself "a tun of man." His
pulling out the bottle in thefield of battle is a joke to shew his
contempt for glory accompanied with danger, his systematic
adherence to his Epicurean philosophy in the most trying
circumstances. Again, such is his
deliberate exaggeration of his own vices, that it does not seem
quite certain whether the account
of his hostess's bill, found in his pocket, with such an
out-of-the-way charge for capons and sackwith only one
halfpenny-worth of. bread, was not put there by himself as a trick
to humour the
est upon his favourite propensities, and as a conscious
caricature of himself. He is represented as
a liar, a braggart, a coward, a glutton, etc., and yet we are
not offended but delighted with him;for he is all these as much to
amuse others as to gratify himself. He openly assumes all these
characters to shew the humourous part of them. The unrestrained
indulgence of his own ease,
appetites, and conveni-ence, has neither malice nor hypocrisy in
it. In a word, he is an actor inhimself almost as much as upon the
stage, and we no more object to the character of Falstaff in a
moral point of view than we should think of bringing an
excellent comedian, who should
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represent him to the life, before one of the police offices. We
only consider the number of
pleasant lights in which he puts certain foibles (the more
pleasant as they are opposed to the
received rules and necessary restraints of society), and do not
trouble ourselves about theconsequences re-sulting from them, for
no mischievous consequences do result. Sir John is old as
well as fat, which gives a melancholy retrospective tinge to the
character; and by the disparity
between his inclinations and his capacity for enjoyment, makes
it still more ludicrous andfantastical.
The secret of Falstaff's wit is for the most part a masterly
presence of mind, an absolute self-possession, which nothing can
disturb. His repartees are involuntary suggestions of his
instinctive evasions of everything that threatens to interrupt
the career of his triumphant jollity
and self-complacency. His very size floats him out of all his
difficulties in a sea of rich conceits;
and he turns round on the pivot of his convenience, with every
occasion and at a moment'swarning. His natural repugnance to every
unpleasant thought or circumstance, of itself makes
light of objections, and provokes the most extravagant and
licentious answers in his own
ustification. His indifference to truth puts no check upon his
invention, and the more improbable
and unexpected his contrivances are, the more happily does he
seem to be delivered of them, theanticipation of their effect
acting as a stimulus to the gaiety of his fancy. The success of
adventurous sally gives him spirits to undertake another: he
deals always in round numbers, andhis exaggerations and excuses are
"open, palpable, monstrous as the father that begets them."
Hisdissolute carelessness of what he says discovers itself in the
first dialogue with the Prince.
"Falstaff. By the Lord, thou say'st true, lad; and is notmine
hostess of the tavern a most sweet wench?
P. Henry. As the honey of Hibia, my old lad of the
castle; and is not a buff-jerkin a most sweet robe
Falstaff. How now, how now, mad wag, what in thy
quips and thy quiddities? what a plague have I to do with
a buff-jerkin?P. Henry. Why, what a pox have I to do with
hostess of the tavern?"
In the same scene he afterwards affects melancholy, from pure
satisfaction of heart, and
professes reform, because it is the farthest thing in the world
from his thoughts. He has no
qualms of conscience, and therefore would as soon talk of them
as of anything else when thehumour takes him.
"Falstaff, But, Hal, I pr'ythee trouble me no more withvanity. I
would to God thou and I knew where a com-
modity of good names were to be bought: an old lord of
council rated me the other day in the street about you, sir;
but I mark'd him not, and yet he talked very wisely, andin the
P. Henry. Thou didst well, for wisdom cries out in the
street, and no man regards it.
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Falstaff. O, thou hast damnable iteration, and art indeed
able to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm unto
me, Hal; God forgive thee for it. Before I knew thee,Hal, I knew
nothing, and now I am, if a man should speak
truly, little better than one of the wicked. I must give
this life, and I will give it over, by the Lord; an I do not,I
am a villain. I'll be damned for never a king's son
P. Henry. Where shall we take a purse to-morrow, Jack?
Falstaff. Where thou wilt, lad, I'll make one ; an I donot, call
me villain, and baffle me.
P. Henry. I see good amendment of life in thee, from
praying to purse-taking.
Falstaff. Why, Hal, 'tis my vocation, Hal. 'Tis no sinfor a man
to labour in his vocation."
Of the other prominent passages, his account of his pretended
resistance to the robbers, "whogrew from four men in buckram into
eleven" as the imagination of his own valour increased with
his relating it, his getting off when the truth is discovered by
pretending he knew the Prince, thescene in which in the person of
the old king he lectures the Prince and gives himself a
goodcharacter, the soliloquy on honour, and description of his
new-raised recruits, his meeting with
the chief justice, his abuse of the Prince and Poins, who
overhear him, to Doll Tearsheet, his
reconciliation with Mrs. Quickly who has arrested him for an old
debt, and whom he persuadesto pawn her plate to lend him ten pounds
more, and the scenes with Shallow and Silence, are all
inimitable. Of all of them, the scene in which Falstaff plays
the part, first, of the King, and then
of Prince Henry, is the one that has been the most often quoted.
We must quote it once more in
illustration of our remarks.
"Falstaff. Harry, I do not only marvel where thou spendest thy
time, but also how thou art
accompanied: for though the camomile, the more it is trodden on,
the faster it grows, yet youth,the more it is wasted, the sooner it
wears. That thou art my son, I have partly thy mother's word,
partly my own opinion; but chiefly, a villainous trick of thine
eye, and a foolish hanging of thy
nether lip, that doth warrant me. If then thou be son to me,
here lies the point;Why, being sonto me, art thou so pointed at?
Shall the blessed sun of heaven prove a micher, and eat
blackberries? A question not to be ask'd. Shall the son of
England prove a thief, and take purses?
a question not to be ask'd. There is a thing, Harry, which thou
hast often heard of, and it isknown to many in our land by the name
of pitch: this pitch, as ancient writers do report, doth
defile; so doth the company thou keepest: for, Harry, now I do
not speak to thee in drink, but in
tears; not in pleasure, but in passion; not in words only, but
in woes also:and yet there is a
virtuous man, whom I have often noted in thy company, but I know
not his name.P. Henry. What manner of man, an it like your
Falstaff. A goodly portly man, i'faith, and a corpulent; of a
cheerful look, a pleasing eye, and a
most noble carriage; and, as I think, his age some fifty, or,
by'r-lady, inclining to threescore; and
now I do remember me, his name is Falstaff: if that man should
be lewdly given, he deceivethme; for, Harry, I see virtue in his
looks. If then the fruit may be known by the tree, as the tree
the fruit, then peremptorily I speak it, there is virtue in that
Falstaff: him keep with, the rest
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banish. And tell me now, thou naughty varlet, tell me, where
hast thou been this month?
P. Henry. Dost thou speak like a king? Do thou stand for me, and
I'll play my father.
Falstaff. Depose me? if thou dost it half so gravely, so
majestically, both in word and matter,hang me up by the heels for a
rabbit-sucker or a poulterer's hare.
P. Henry. Well, here I am set.
Falstaff. And here I stand:judge, my masters.P. Henry. Now,
Harry, whence come you?Falstaff. My noble lord, from Eastcheap.
P. Henry. The complaints I hear of thee are grievous.
Falstaff. S'blood, my lord, they are false:nay, I'll tickle ye
for a young prince, i'faith.P. Henry. Swearest thou, ungracious
boy? henceforth ne'er look on me. Thou art violently carried
away from grace: there is a devil haunts thee, in the likeness
of a fat old man; a tun of man is thy
companion. Why dost thou converse with that trunk of humours,
that bolting-hutch of
beastliness, that swoln parcel of dropsies, that huge bom-bard
of sack, that stuft cloak-bag ofguts, that roasted Manning-tree ox
with the pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that grey
iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years? wherein is
he good, but to taste sack and drink
it? wherein neat and cleanly, but to carve a capon and eat it?
wherein cunning, but in craft?wherein crafty, but in villainy?
wherein villainous, but in all things? wherein worthy, but in
Falstaff. I would, your grace would take me with you;
whom means your grace?P. Henry. That villainous, abominable
youth, Falstaff, that old white-bearded Satan.
Falstaff. My lord, the man I know.P. Henry. I know thou
Falstaff. But to say, I know more harm in him than in myself,
were to say more than I know.
That he is old (the more the pity) his white hairs do witness
it: but that he is (saving your
reverence) a whore-master, that I utterly deny. If sack and
sugar be a fault, God help the wicked!if to be old and merry be a
sin, then many an old host that I know is damned: if to be fat be
hated, then Pharaoh's lean kine are to be loved. No, my good
lord; banish Peto, banish Bardolph,
banish Poins: but for sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff,
true Jack Falstaff, valiant JackFalstaff, and therefore more
valiant, being as he is, old Jack Falstaff, banish not him thy
company; banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.
P. Henry. I do, I will.[Knocking; and Hostess and Bardolph go
Re-enter BARDOLPH, running,
Bardolph. O, my lord, my lord; the sheriff, with a most
monstrous watch, is at the door.
Falstaff. Out, you rogue! play out the play: I have much to say
in the behalf of that Falstaff." Oneof the most characteristic
descriptions of Sir John is that which Mrs. Quickly gives of him
he asks her "What is the gross sum that I owe thee?"
"Hostess. Marry, if thou wert an honest man, thyself, and the
money too. Thou didst swear to me
upon a parcel-gilt goblet, sitting in my Dolphin-chamber, at the
round table, by a sea-coal fire on
Wednesday in Whitsunweek, when the Prince broke thy head for
likening his father to a singing
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man of Windsor; thou didst swear to me then, as I was washing
thy wound, to marry me, and
make me my lady thy wife. Canst thou deny it? Did not goodwife
Keech, the butcher's wife,
come in then, and call me gossip Quickly? coming in to borrow a
mess of vinegar, telling us, shehad a good dish of prawns; whereby
thou didst desire to eat some; whereby I told thee they were
ill of a green wound? And didst thou not, when she was gone down
stairs, desire me to be no
more so familiarity with such poor people; saying, that ere long
they should call me madam?And didst thou not kiss me, and bid me
fetch thee thirty shil-lings? I put thee now to thy book-oath; deny
it, if thou canst."
This scene is to us the most convincing proof of Falstaff's
power of gaining over the good will of
those he was familiar with, except indeed Bar-dolph's somewhat
profane exclamation on hearing
the account of his death, "Would I were with him, wheresoe'er he
is, whether in heaven or hell."
One of the topics of exulting superiority over others most
common in Sir John's mouth is his
corpulence and the exterior marks of good living which he
carries about him, thus "turning his
vices into commodity." He accounts for the friend-ship between
the Prince and Poins, from "their
legs being both of a bigness," and compares Justice Shallow to
"a man made after supper of acheese-paring." There cannot be a more
striking grada-tion of character than that between
Falstaff and Shallow, and Shallow and Silence. It seems
diffi-cult at first to fall lower than thesquire; but this fool,
great as he is, finds an admirer and humble foil in his cousin
of his acquaintance with Sir John, who makes a-butt of him, he
exclaims, "Would, cousin
Silence, that thou had'st seen that which this knight and I have
seen!"-" Aye, Master Shallow, we
have heard the chimes at midnight," says Sir John. To Falstaff's
observation, "I did not thinkMaster Silence had been a man of this
mettle," Silence answers, "Who, I? I have been merry
twice and once ere now." What an idea is here conveyed of a
prodigality of living? What good
husbandry and economical self-denial in his pleasures? What a
stock of lively recollections? It iscurious that Shakespear has
ridiculed in Justice Shallow, who was "in some authority under
king," that disposition to unmeaning tautology which is the
regal infirmity of later times, and
which, it may be supposed, he acquired from talking to his
cousin Silence, and receiving no
"Falstaff. You have here a goodly dwelling, and a rich.Shallow.
Barren, barren, barren; beggars all, beggars
all, Sir John; marry, good air. Spread Davy, spread Davy.
Well said, Davy.
Falstaff. This Davy serves you for good uses.Shallow. A good
varlet, a good varlet, a very good varlet.
By the mass, I have drank too much sack at supper. A
good varlet. Now sit down, now sit down. Come, cousin."
The true spirit of humanity, the thorough knowledge of the stuff
we are made of, the practical
wisdom with the seeming fooleries in the whole of the
garden-scene at Shallow's country-seat,
and just before in the exquisite dialogue between him and
Silence on the death of old Double,have no parallel anywhere else.
In one point of view, they are laughable in the extreme; in
another they are equally affecting, if it is affecting to shew
what a little thing is human life, what
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a poor forked creature man is!
The heroic and serious part of these two plays founded on the
story of Henry IV. is not inferior tothe comic and farcical. The
characters of Hotspur and Prince Henry are two of the most
and dramatic, both in themselves and from contrast, that ever
were drawn. They are the essence
of chivalry. We like Hotspur the best upon the whole, perhaps
because he was unfortunate.Thecharacters of their fathers, Henry
IV. and old Northumberland, are kept up equally well. Henry
naturally succeeds by his prudence and caution in keeping what
he has got: Northumberland fails
in his enterprise from an excess of the same quality, and is
caught in the web of his own cold,dilatory policy. Owen Glendower
is a masterly character. It is as bold and original as it is
intelligible and thoroughly natural. The disputes between him
and Hotspur are managed with
infinite address and insight into nature. We cannot help
pointing out here some very beautiful
lines, where Hotspur de-scribes the fight between Glendower and
"When on the gentle Severn's sedgy bank,
In single opposition hand to hand,
He did confound the best part of an hourIn changing hardiment
with great Glendower:
Three times they breath'd, and three times did they drink,Upon
agreement, of swift Severn's flood;
Who then affrighted with their bloody looks,
Ran fearfully among the trembling reeds,
And hid his crisp head in the hollow bank,Blood-stained with
these valiant combatants."
The peculiarity and the excellence of Shakespear's poetry is,
that it seems as if he made hisimagination the hand-maid of nature,
and nature the plaything of his imagination. He appears to
have been all the characters, and in all the situations he
describes. It is as if either he had had alltheir feelings, or had
lent them all his genius to express themselves. There cannot be
strongerinstances of this than Hotspur's rage when Henry IV.
forbids him to speak of Mortimer, his
insensibility to all that his father and uncle urge to calm him,
and his fine ab-stracted apostrophe
to honour, "By heaven, me-thinks it were an easy leap to pluck
bright honour from the moon,"etc. After all, notwithstanding the
gallantry, generosity, good temper, and idle freaks of the mad-
cap Prince of Wales, we should not have been sorry if
Northumberland's force had come up in
time to decide the fate of the battle at Shrewsbury; at least,
we always heartily sympathise with
Lady Percy's grief, when she exclaims,
"Had my sweet Harry had but half their numbers,
To-day might I (hanging on Hotspur's neck)Have talked of
The truth is, that we never could forgive the Prince's treatment
of Falstaff; though perhapsShakespear knew what was best, according
to the history, the nature of the times, and of the man.
We speak only as dramatic critics. Whatever terror the French in
those days might have of Henry
V., yet, to the readers of poetry at present, Falstaff is the
better man of the two. We think of himand quote him oftener.
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King Henry IV, Part I Essay en
Act i. sc. i. King Henry's speech:
o more the thirsty entrance of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood.
A MOST obscure passage: but I think Theobald's inter-pretation
right, namely, that 'thirsty
entrance' means the dry penetrability, or bibulous drought, of
the soil. The obscurity of thispassage is of the Shakspearian
Ib. sc. 2. In this, the first introduction of Falstaff, observe
the consciousness and theintentionality of his wit, so that when it
does not flow of its own accord, its absence is felt, and
an effort visibly made to recall it. Note also throughout how
Falstaff's pride is gratified in the
power of influencing a prince of the blood, the heir apparent,
by means of it. Hence his dislike toPrince John of Lancaster, and
his mortification when he finds his wit fail on him:
P. John. Fare yon well, Falstaff : I, in my condition, Shall
better speak of you than you deserve.Fal. I would you had but the
wit; 'twere better than your dukedom.Good faith, this same
sober-blooded boy doth not love me;nor a man cannot make him
Act ii. sc. i. Second Carrier's speech:
.... breeds fleas like a loach.
Perhaps it is a misprint, or a provincial pronunciation, for
'leach,' that is, blood-suckers. Had itbeen gnats, instead of
fleas, there might have been some sense, though small probability,
Warburton's suggestion of the Scottish 'loch. Possibly 'loach,'
or 'hitch,' may be some lost word
for dovecote, or poultry-lodge, notorious for breeding fleas. In
Stevens's or my reading, it should
properly be 'loaches,' or 'leeches,' in the plural; except that
I think I have heard anglers speak oftrouts like a salmon.
Act iii. sc. i.
Glend. Nay, it you melt, then will she run mad.
This 'nay' so to be dwelt on in speaking, as to be equiva-lent
to a dissyllable -u, is characteristicof the solemn Glendower; but
the imperfect line
She bids you On the wanton rushes lay you down, &c.
is one of those fine hair-strokes of exquisite judgment peculiar
to Shakspeare;thus detaching
the Lady's speech, and giving it the individuality and
entireness of a little poem, while he draws