Study Guide

Henry IV Part 1 Act 2, Scene 1

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Act 2, Scene 1

Read the full text of Henry IV Part 1 Act 2 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.

  • At dawn in the yard of a roadside inn (the Super 8 motel of Elizabethan England) near Gads Hill, two Carriers (like UPS drivers) pack up their horses and gear in preparation for a little road trip, Elizabethan style.
  • The Carriers chit-chat about the usual kinds of things that concern sixteenth-century delivery men – the good-for-nothin' stable boy who can't seem to keep the horses' food dry, the flea problem at London inns, what to do when a motel doesn't offer a toilet ("leak" in the fireplace, of course), and so on.
  • The Carriers also discuss the goods and supplies they're transporting (bacon, ginger, turkeys).
  • Gadshill (not to be confused with Gads Hill), Falstaff's thieving buddy, enters and asks the Carriers to loan him a lantern so he can check on his horsey, it being so dark and all during the pre-dawn hours. "No way," say the Carriers – Gadshill's not the kind of fella' that returns things after he "borrows" them.
  • The Carriers run off to wake up the gentlemen travelers staying at the inn – since these rich guys are carrying valuable luggage, it's likely they'll want to ride together for more safety.
  • The Chamberlain enters and greets Gadshill – they joke about stealing purses.
  • The Chamberlain tells Gadshill there's a wealthy franklin (landowner) staying at the inn and he's travelling with a bunch of gold – the Chamberlain overheard him talking about it the night before at dinner.
  • Gadshill thanks his super-shady pal for the tip – he can't wait to rob the franklin and his rich traveling companions. The two men joke about being hanged as thieves before Gadshill heads off to join Falstaff and company at Gads Hill.
  • We interrupt this program for a little history snack: Apparently, roadside inns in Elizabethan England were notorious places where "inside men" like the Chamberlain gathered information about wealthy travelers and passed along the information to roadside thieves. Check out what William Harrison says about inns in his "Description of England:"

    Certes, I believe not that …[a] traveler in England is robbed by the way without the knowledge of some of [the hostlers, tapsters, and drawers at London inns] ; for when he [the traveler] cometh into the inn and alighteth from his horse, the hostler forwith is very busy to take down his budget.

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