Heart of gold Introduction
I'm Pistol. I'm one of Falstaff's motley crew, and I've got a really big mouth. I just love to talk to anyone who will listen. And most of the things I say are pretty hilarious, if I do say so myself. And you know what I think?
The king's a bawcock, and a heart of gold,
A lad of life, an imp of fame;
Of parents good, of fist most valiant.
I kiss his dirty shoe, and from heart-string
I love the lovely bully. What is thy name? (4.1.44-48)
Who Said It and Where
It's the night before the Battle of Agincourt. The English troops are seriously down and out. They're exhausted and know they're outnumbered by the French soldiers. So Henry walks through his camp and tries to cheer them up. When that doesn't go over well, he borrows some dirty old clothes and disguises himself as a commoner so he can wander around the camp and get the 411 on what his soldiers are really thinking.
It turns out they're not as excited about warfare as Henry is. They point out that they're the ones who will probably be killed or who will lose important body parts (like heads, legs, and arms) during the fighting. The king, on the other hand, will probably just get captured and ransomed for a bunch of money before the French ship him back to England with his tail between his legs.
Pistol shows up and chats up Henry. When Henry claims to be a kinsman of Fluellen, Pistol makes an obscene hand gesture (the fig) and storms off. Fluellen and Gower show up and Henry eavesdrops on their conversation. Gower speaks too loudly and Fluellen tells him to pipe down since they're so close to the French camp. Henry thinks that, even though Fluellen is kind of wacky, he's actually a pretty smart Captain.
Three common soldiers show up (Bates, Court, and Williams) and Henry talks to them about the war. All three soldiers wish they were back at home and question the King's motives and decisions. Bates, who doesn't recognize Henry, declares that the king isn't as brave as he pretends to be. Uh-oh.
Henry tries to defend himself by saying that he's sure Henry wouldn't wish that he was anywhere else but here. Williams and Bates are skeptical. They admit that they don't even know if Henry's war against France is just or fair.
Either way, Williams declares that the king is going to be responsible when the English soldiers are slaughtered in battle. This ticks off Henry, who argues that, actually, the king is not responsible for the lives of his men, even though they have to follow his orders and he's just ordered all of them to fight a battle they'll probably lose. (Um, okay.) When he's alone, Henry feels sorry for himself and delivers a long, whiny speech about how hard it is to be a king. Cue the sad violin music.