Henry IV Part 2 Summary
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
Let's begin with a Super Brief Recap of where things stand at the end of Henry IV Part 1. Even though King Henry IV's army mopped the floor with the rebels at the battle at Shrewsbury (at the end of Henry IV Part 1), he hasn't yet wrangled up the stray rebel leaders, who are busy plotting to overthrow him. If you need a more detailed brush-up on what went down in the two previous plays, Richard II and Henry IV Part 1, be sure to check out our "Summary" of Henry IV Part 1, but then come right back.
Now let's get started. Rumour appears on stage wearing a robe that's "painted full of tongues" and tells us to open our ears because they're about to be "stuff[ed]" with a bunch of lies, compliments of Rumour. Rumour likes to hitch rides on the wind as it blows around the world, spreading nasty rumors about war in every language. First stop, the Earl of Northumberland's castle (Warkworth), where Northumberland has been pretending to be sick while his son Hotspur and the rebel army have been getting slaughtered by King Henry IV's forces.
Not sure where Warkworth Castle is? Check out this nifty map, which can be enlarged with the click of your mouse.
As Rumour has promised, the Earl of Northumberland hears conflicting news about the outcome of the battle at Shrewsbury. When he finally learns that his son is dead, he gets all riled up (miraculously overcoming his recent illness) and calls for bloody and apocalyptic revenge. But, before he can do anything silly, his pals convince him to hook up with the Archbishop of York (a.k.a. Scroop) who happens to be plotting another rebellion against King Henry IV.
Meanwhile, in London, the Lord Chief Justice confronts Falstaff about his role in the robbery at Gads Hill (which went down earlier in Henry IV Part 1). Falstaff worms his way out of trouble by pointing out that he happens to be an important guy, a war hero in fact, and he's needed in the king's army since there's more civil rebellion brewing. While Falstaff is busy being saucy with the Lord Chief Justice, the rebel leaders gather at the Archbishop's (Scroop's) palace in York to discuss their strategy against King Henry IV. (Henry IV has appointed his son, Prince John of Lancaster, to lead the king's army.) The rebels decide it's probably not such a good idea to run headlong into battle. Hotspur tried that at Shrewsbury and it didn't work out so well for him. (Prince Hal stabbed Hotspur in the guts and then Falstaff came along, after Hotspur died, and stabbed him the thigh for good measure.)
Later, in London, Mistress Quickly files a legal suit against Falstaff, who has managed to swindle her out of a bunch of money by promising to marry her. Falstaff, of course, manages to worm his way out of yet another jam by sweet talking Mistress Quickly and making promises he'll never keep.
Meanwhile, Prince Hal laments to his friend Poins that he's in a tough spot. On the one hand, Hal's grown fond of his low-life pals (especially the cheap beer they drink). Yet, it's not appropriate for him to hang with the commoners anymore because he's about to be king. Plus, he's feeling bummed that his old man, King Henry IV, is so sick. (Did we mention that the king is ill?) Hal says he can't even show his sadness about his father's illness in public because it would make him look like a big hypocrite (since he's spent most of his life acting like a hoodlum and thumbing his nose at his dad).
Up in Northumberland at Warkworth castle, Lady Percy (Hotspur's widow) lays into her father-in-law for not backing up his son at the battle at Shrewsbury. After giving the old guy a major guilt trip, Lady Percy and her mother-in-law, Lady Northumberland, manage to convince him to run away to Scotland instead of participating in the new rebellion. He can always come back to England once the other rebels have done most of the dirty work.
Meanwhile, over at the Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap London, Falstaff parties it up with Mistress Quickly and his favorite prostitute, Doll Tearsheet. The three end up getting into a brawl with a guy named Pistol before Prince Hal and Poins reveal that they've been disguised as waiters and have been spying on Falstaff the entire time.
Over at the castle, the ailing King Henry IV confides in his trusty pal, Warwick, about his depressing life and his troubled reign as king. Henry recalls King Richard's prophesy that Henry's rule would be plagued by civil strife and betrayal and then goes on to say that it's not his (Henry's) fault that Richard was deposed – the guy was a lousy king, etc. (Hmm. Sounds like somebody's feeling pretty guilty about bumping King Richard off the throne but doesn't want to come out and admit he did anything wrong.)
Falstaff arrives at Justice Shallow's pad in Gloucestershire to draft some men into the king's army. (Given Falstaff's recruiting track record, we know there's going to be some corruption involved.) After shooting the breeze with Shallow and Silence, two old justices of the peace who spend all their time remembering the good old days of their youth, Falstaff recruits three guys named Shadow, Wart, and Feeble, who are all ridiculously unfit to serve in the military. Falstaff also takes bribes from two other men, Mouldy and Bullcalf, and lets them off the hook before heading off to meet up with the king's army.
Soon after, the rebels and the king's forces gather at Gaultree Forest in Yorkshire and prepare to battle. Westmoreland arrives at the rebel camp and sets up a meeting between Prince John and the rebel leaders, who lay out their beef with the king to Prince John. Prince John pretends to be sympathetic and convinces the rebels to lay down their arms and make nice. Once the rebels dismiss their army, Prince John says, "Surprise! You're all under arrest and you're going to be executed for treason." That settles that.
Back at the royal palace in Westminster, King Henry is doing what King Henry does best – complaining to Warwick about his good for nothing son, prince Hal, who is still hanging out with commoners. (Apparently, Henry has forgotten all about Hal saving his life at the battle at Shrewsbury in Henry IV Part 1 and he worries about what will happen to his kingdom when Hal gets his hands on the crown.) Warwick defends the prince and points out that Hal's just studying the commoners so he will know how to rule them when he's king.
When Prince Hal finally shows up at the castle, he sits by his father's bed and watches the king sleep. When it appears that Henry has died, Hal is saddened but, life goes on, so Hal takes his father's crown, places it on his head, and leaves the room. Then, surprise! King Henry wakes up. (He's just a very deep sleeper, apparently). When King Henry realizes that Hal has prematurely helped himself to the crown, he flips out and accuses the prince of wanting him dead.
Hal and the king eventually reconcile and Henry gives his son some advice about ruling the kingdom. It would be a good idea, says Henry, for Hal to drum up a nice little foreign war to distract everyone from civil strife at home on English soil. If Englishmen are busy slitting the throats of foreigners, they won't have time to think about overthrowing their king. Henry then notices that he's in a room of the castle called the Jerusalem chamber, which seems fitting to him since he once heard a prophesy that he would die in Jerusalem.
After King Henry dies (off stage) Prince Hal becomes King Henry V. The Lord Chief Justice is a smidge worried about this because he once threw the wild prince in the slammer for being a punk and boxing him, the Lord Chief Justice, on the ears. Turns out he has nothing to worry about. Hal has truly reformed and embraces the Lord Chief Justice as a "father" and advisor.
Meanwhile, Doll Tearsheet and Mistress Quickly are arrested and charged with murdering a man. Falstaff, who has heard that Hal is now king, makes his way to London for the coronation ceremony. When Falstaff approaches Hal on the street, the new king banishes the old knight. Prince John and the Lord Chief Justice are pleased as punch and predict that England will be at war with France soon. The story of King Henry V will be continued…
But wait, there's more! One of the actors (probably the guy who played Falstaff) runs out on stage and delivers an Epilogue (a final speech to the audience). There's the usual hemming and hawing about how terrible the play was and how he hopes the audience will forgive him for being part of such a lousy play, but maybe they'll be kind enough to clap anyway, and so on. Then there's a promise to continue the story of Falstaff in the next play and a little disclaimer about how Falstaff is not based on the historic figure, Sir John Oldcastle.
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Induction with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Note: Before we begin, you might want to review our brief "Summary" of Henry IV Part 1, which also includes a quick recap of events from Richard II.
- Henry IV Part II opens with an "Induction," which is just another word for prologue or an introduction that leads into the main event of the play.
- Rumour steps onto the stage, wearing a visually dramatic robe that's "painted full of tongues." (Note: Rumour is not a human character – it's a personification, which means that rumor, an abstract idea, is given human qualities.)
- Rumour is pretty aggressive here – commanding the audience to open its ears so Rumour can "stuff" them full of lies. The figure also tells us that it rides around the world on the wind, spreading false reports in every language.
- In fact, Rumour has just blown in from the "Orient" and, with the help of the common folk, Rumour has been spreading lies about the recent battle at Shrewsbury all throughout the "peasant towns" of England. Word on the street, thanks to Rumour, is that Hotspur killed Prince Hal and the Scottish Douglas killed King Henry IV. But, the truth is that the king's army trounced the rebel forces at the end of Henry IV Part 1.
- Brain snack: In the Renaissance, Rumour was often associated with warfare. Check out this image of Rumour covered with ears and blowing a trumpet as Mars, the god of war, follows behind. The image is from Vincenzo Cartari's Images Deorum, 1582).
- Shakespeare's portrayal of Rumour may be based on "Fama" from Virgil's Aeneid. Virgil's "Fama" is a female monster covered in tongues, ears, and eyes and she spreads both true and false reports about various events.
- Rumour announces that it's making a pit-stop at Warkworth castle, where the Earl of Northumberland is laying low and pretending to be sick (to avoid participating in the battle at Shrewsbury). Northumberland's been waiting for some news of the recent skirmish and Rumour is more than happy to oblige.
- (Not sure where Warkworth castle is located? Check out this nifty map, which includes all the major geographic locations in the history plays. Tip: Click on the map to enlarge the image and you'll see that Warkworth castle is in northern England.)
Act 1, Scene 1
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 1 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Lord Bardolph (not to be confused with Falstaff's pal, just plain Bardolph) arrives at Warkworth castle and demands to see Northumberland. Just as the Porter tells him to look in the orchard, Northumberland hobbles in the room.
- Northumberland wants news ASAP and he says as much. But first, he takes the time to dazzle us with a fancy simile (a comparison of one thing to another): Civil warfare, he insists, is like a wild horse that's broken out of its stall. In other words, the times are wild and unpredictable so Bardolph should hurry up and tell him what's going on.
- Lord Bardolph excitedly reports that King Henry IV has been wounded at the battle at Shrewsbury and is about to gurgle his very last breath. Even better, Prince Hal has been killed, which conveniently clears the path to the throne for Northumberland's son, Hotspur. Plus, Hotspur captured that "brawn" (a fattened pig), Falstaff, while Prince John, Westmoreland, and Stafford ran away with their tails between their legs. Things haven't been this great since Julius Caesar's victorious civil war in Rome. (Julius Caesar did rock the battlefield back in 49 B.C. but he was also stabbed to death by his own countrymen in 44 B.C. so, Bardolph might want to rethink this comparison.)
- Northumberland wants to know how Lord Bardolph came by this news and Bardolph replies that he heard it from a "gentleman" with good breeding so the report has just got to be true.
- Just then, a servant named Travers bursts in with contradictory news from the field. But, before he can report any information, Bardolph, who's feeling smug, says the kid doesn't know anything that Bardolph, who passed by Travers on the way to the castle, didn't tell him.
- Travers confirms that, yes, he met Bardolph on the road to Warkworth castle and Bardolph did share some news before racing ahead to talk with Northumberland. But then, another guy road by on his horse and told Travers that Hotspur's "spur was cold" (that means Hotspur, Northumberland's son, got his butt kicked and is probably dead).
- Northumberland, who's stunned by the news, stammers a bit before the ever helpful Bardolph urges him not to pay any attention to what Travers has to say.
- Then Morton enters and when Northumberland takes one look at the guy's face, he guesses that Hotspur is indeed dead as a doornail.
- Lord Bardolph says he doesn't believe it but Morton goes on to deliver a lengthy speech about how, sadly, Prince Hal pummeled Hotspur into the earth. As a consequence, Hotspur's army got scared and ran for the hills. In short, the king's army was victorious and King Henry IV has just sent out a crew to capture the Earl of Northumberland.
- Northumberland, who has been hobbling around and bellyaching about painful joints, suddenly experiences a miraculous recovery. The terrible news of his son's death has, strangely enough, cured him of his illness. (Think Grandpa Joe, who summons the strength to leap out of bed for the first time in ages when he sees the golden ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Funny how that happens.)
- Only, instead of being happy about the prospect of gobbling up a bunch of delicious Willy Wonka bars, Northumberland throws down his crutch and says, rather heroically, that he's ready to don his armor and fight to the death.
- Then he shouts some other valiant (and scary and rebellious) things like "Let order die!" He goes on to insist that everybody should act like "Cain" (the guy who killed his brother in the Book of Genesis) until everyone on earth is dead. (FYI: Northumberland has never talked like this before. In fact, if you've read Henry IV Part 1, you probably recognize the way Northumberland seems to be channeling the spirit of his overzealous son, Hotspur, right now.)
- Lord Bardolph says, "Sweet Earl, divorce not wisdom from your honor." Translation: Don't be an idiot.
- Morton chimes in and urges Northumberland to calm down and reconsider his strategy. In a lengthy speech, he says that everyone knew the risks of battle when the rebellion started so Northumberland needs to get it together. He's known all along that his impetuous son would probably die in combat. Besides, the Archbishop of York is organizing another rebel army so there's an additional opportunity to take out the king. The Archbishop's got a huge following because he's running around telling people that he's got God on his side and it's time for King Henry to be punished for the deposition and murder of King Richard II (an event that went down in the first play of the tetralogy, Richard II).
- Northumberland has settled down by now and agrees that charging out of his castle with his sword probably isn't such a great idea, him being outnumbered and all. It would be best to hook up with York and proceed with caution.
- Northumberland makes plans to write letters to his rebel pals in order to get the ball rolling again.
Act 1, Scene 2
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 1 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Meanwhile, on the streets of London, Falstaff (a fat, rowdy, disgraced knight and Prince Hal's good pal) turns to his Page and asks what the doctor had to say about his recent urine sample. (This has got to be one of the most peculiar opening lines ever, don't you think?)
- The Page says the urine was fine but the doctor thinks Falstaff, the owner of the urine, probably has more diseases than he can diagnose.
- Falstaff's not amused by the saucy little Page. Falstaff turns to the Page and says that lots of men try to make fun of him but they're all chumps compared to him, Falstaff, the heavy weight champion of trash talk. He's so good, in fact, that his mad trash talking skills actually rub off on other men and make them funnier and wittier than they actually are. (We have to admit, this is completely true.)
- Then Falstaff proceeds, in a long speech, to hate on just about the entire world. He starts by bagging on the Page for being so tiny and for not even being fit to wait on him. Falstaff ought to send the Page back to Prince Hal, who has hired the servant as a gift to Falstaff. Speaking of Prince Hal, Falstaff's not too happy with that young pip-squeak either. Falstaff will probably grow a beard on his hand before the prince ever grows hair on his face, etc, etc.
- Falstaff has riled himself up by now and he turns his attention to ragging on that good for nothing tailor, Master Dumbleton, who has recently demanded a guarantee of payment before he'll make Falstaff's new outfit, a snazzy set of satin pants and a cloak that are befitting a knight.
- Falstaff compares the tailor to the biblical glutton who refused to help the beggar Lazarus, calls him a "whoreson" (a whore's son) and then proceeds to rag on all men who wear their hair short and dress in fashionable clothes. Who does this guy think he is, demanding a guarantee of payment from Falstaff? Falstaff's a knight and he wants his satin pants, ASAP. Plus, the tailor's wife is cheating on him and everybody knows it but him. And so on.
- Falstaff, who must be out of breath by now, asks the Page where his pal Bardolph is. The Page reports that Bardolph has gone to Smithfield to buy Falstaff a horse.
- Falstaff says if only he could buy himself a wife from a brothel, then he'd have a horse, a servant, and a wife. (In other words, he'd be all set.)
- Falstaff's Page spots the Lord Chief Justice (LCJ) and warns Falstaff, who turns his back and tries to make himself invisible.
- When the LCJ commands his servant to fetch Falstaff for a little chat, Falstaff pretends to be deaf. That doesn't work so Falstaff pretends he thinks the Servant is a beggar and he complains that all street beggars should be drafted into the king's army to fight in the wars.
- The Servant gets all huffy at the insult and finally the LCJ steps in and says enough screwing around – he wants to talk to Falstaff, now.
- When Falstaff finally acknowledges the Lord Chief Justice, he sweetly pretends to be concerned about the LCJ's health and makes a big show of acting like he cares about the man's general well-being.
- The Lord Chief Justice isn't having any of Falstaff's shenanigans. He says that he sent for Falstaff a long time ago but Falstaff never showed up. (Back in Henry IV Part 1 Falstaff robbed the king's exchequer but never had to answer to the LCJ for his crime because he went off to war.)
- Falstaff tries to change the subject and asks the LCJ how the king is doing these days.
- Don't even try to change the subject, says the LCJ.
- Then Falstaff says he's heard that Prince Hal is paralyzed and begins to ramble about how he read all about this crazy disease in Galen's medical book. (Galen's an ancient Greek physician who wrote a bunch of anatomy and medical texts, which were pretty popular well into the 16th century.)
- The LCJ says Falstaff must be deaf because he's not listening to him.
- Falstaff agrees that he has the disease of not listening and then goes on to compare himself to Job, the biblical figure known for patiently bearing excessive burdens in life.
- The LCJ says Falstaff belongs in the stocks and reminds Falstaff that he sent for him but Falstaff never reported to his office.
- Falstaff says he was busy being a war hero, having recently and valiantly served his country at the battle at Shrewsbury.
- Then the LCJ chides Falstaff for being in debt, for having corrupted Prince Hal, and for the robbery at Gad's Hill. Falstaff's lucky he served at the battle at Shrewsbury, says the Lord Chief Justice. Otherwise, he'd be in big, big trouble with the law.
- Falstaff makes a few smart aleck comments and the LCJ says Falstaff follows Prince Hal around like an evil angel.
- Then Falstaff accuses the LCJ of being too old to understand youthful men such as himself.
- The Lord Chief Justice responds with a long list of reasons why Falstaff is not young – he's got gray hair, a huge belly, sallow looking skin, a double chin, and so forth.
- Falstaff insults the LCJ back by reminding him of the time Prince Hal gave him a box on the ears. (In other words, the LCJ is a chump.)
- Hmph. The LCJ says he wishes God would send the prince a better companion.
- Falstaff wittily retorts that he wishes God would send him, Falstaff, a better companion because he just can't seem to get rid of Hal, who's kind of a pest.
- Oh yeah, says the LCJ. He heard that the king has separated Falstaff from Hal and that Falstaff is going with Prince John to fight the Archbishop of York's rebel army. That's right, replies Falstaff. You guys who stay at home should say a prayer for us soldiers. Falstaff goes on to waffle that he wishes the enemy soldiers weren't so afraid of him.
- Falstaff, who is totally out of control and belligerent, then asks to borrow some money and the LCJ refuses.
- After the LCJ departs, Falstaff laments that he's completely broke and compares his debt to being sick with gout (which he says is an old man's disease) and syphilis (which he says is a young man's venereal disease). In short, Falstaff is having a hard time curing all of his afflictions.
- Then Falstaff sends his Page to deliver letters to Prince Hal, Westmoreland, Prince John, and his Mistress (whom Falstaff has been promising to marry).
- The Page leaves and Falstaff complains about the serious pain in his big toe. He's not sure if it hurts because of his gout or his syphilis. Either way, he's planning to blame his pain on a battle injury so he can collect a wounded soldier's pension.
Act 1, Scene 3
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 1 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At the Archbishop's palace in York, the rebel leaders (York, Mowbray, Lord Marshall, Hastings, and Lord Bardolph) hold a strategy meeting.
- Mowbray says he's down with the rebel's cause but he'd feel a whole lot better if they had a decent plan because the king's got an awfully powerful army.
- Hastings chimes in that the rebels have got 25,000 good soldiers now but they need Northumberland's forces if they're going to have a shot.
- Lord Bardolph says they can't count on Northumberland's men as reinforcements. There's just too much on the line for them to base their strategy on mere speculation.
- As an example, York and Lord Bardolph recall what recently happened to Hotspur at the battle at Shrewsbury. Hotspur was counting on his father's (Northumberland's) forces for backup but that didn't pan out (because Northumberland called in sick). Hotspur, like a fool, jumped headlong into battle anyway, leading his troops to their death. The remaining rebels don't want to repeat Hotspur's mistakes.
- On the other hand, notes Hastings, there's nothing wrong with having a little "hope." (Note: "Esperance" (which means "hope" in French) was Hotspur's motto in Henry IV Part 1.
- Lord Bardolph disagrees and, in a lengthy speech, warns that the rebels shouldn't be counting their eggs before they hatch. He says that hoping early spring buds will mature into fruit is a bad idea because a frost usually comes along and kills them off. Then Lord Bardolph uses a metaphor comparing the rebels to an architect who carefully plans for and designs a house before he starts building it. (Psst. Bardolph steals this from a biblical parable about a wise builder in Luke 14:28-30.) Lord Bardolph also says that if the rebels can't execute their plot, they need to scrap their plan and then come up with another. Then Lord Bardolph makes a little joke about his building metaphor – before the rebels build their kingdom, first they have to tear down the one that already exists. (That would be the one that belongs to King Henry IV.)
- Hastings wants in on the fun metaphor game and he's not about to be outdone by Bardolph's plagiarized builder metaphor so, he compares the rebels' plan to a pregnancy and says he hopes the baby won't be "stillborn." Still, he thinks the rebels have a "strong enough" body to see this thing through.
- Plus, says Hastings, the king's forces are pretty weak right now, especially because they're divided into three units: One division is busy fighting with Glendower's Welsh army and a second division is in the middle of a dustup with France. That leaves a paltry third division (just 25,000 men) to deal with the English rebels. Also, the king is broke, war being so expensive to finance and all.
- York notes that it's not likely the king will pull his troops away from fighting the French and the Welsh to gang up on the rebels so things are looking good.
- Archbishop York gives the green light for going public with their plan and says the commonwealth is "sick" of Henry and it's their own darn fault. He compares the commoners' love for the king to an eating disorder – they couldn't get enough of Henry, eating him up, so to speak, and gorging themselves in the process.
- York goes on to call the commoners a "common dog" and a "beastly feeder" that throws up its food and then gobbles up its own vomit. (This, by the way, is a reference to the way the commoners once loved King Richard II but soon began to hate him. Now that Richard II is dead and gone, they want him back.)
- Mowbray and Hastings say it's time to get this show on the road and the rebels set off to gather up their soldiers.
Act 2, Scene 1
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 2 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- W are now in Eastcheap, a lively market street in London. Mistress Quickly, a tavern hostess who has been recently widowed, discuss the details of a lawsuit she has recently brought against Falstaff.
- Fang, an officer, assures Quickly that he's entered the suit. Then officer Snare shows up to help Fang arrest Falstaff.
- Quickly warns the officers to be careful because Falstaff is armed and dangerous. One time he even "stabbed" Mistress Quickly in her own house. She warns that once Falstaff whips out his "weapon," he's not afraid to use it. (You may have noticed the bawdy double entendre here. Mistress Quickly has a tendency to talk this way but she doesn't quite seem to be aware that she's doing it.)
- Fang talks a little smack about what he's about to do to Falstaff if the guy tries to put up a fight and Mistress Quickly says she'll help out if Falstaff tries anything.
- Then Mistress Quickly tells us why she's suing – Falstaff owes her a lot of money.
- Enter Falstaff and his Page.
- Fang announces that Falstaff's under arrest and Falstaff draws his sword and tells Bardolph to cut off Fang's head. He also says "Throw the quean in the channel." Translation: "Throw the whore in the gutter."
- Mistress Quickly's not having any of that so she says she's going to throw Falstaff in the gutter.
- A brawl ensues. During the dustup, Mistress Quickly calls Falstaff a "bastardly rogue" and a killer.
- Falstaff calls for help from his chum, Bardolph, and then Falstaff's Page screams at Quickly to get away from Falstaff before he gives her a spanking. (Seriously. He threatens to "tickle [her] catastrophe" with his whip.)
- Just when things are getting interesting, the Lord Chief Justice enters and breaks up the tussle.
- Mistress Quickly turns to the LCJ and says, "I beseech you, stand to me." Translation: Please help. (And, yes, there's also an unintentional pun on the LCJ having an erection for her.)
- As expected, the LCJ begins to lecture Falstaff: this is no way for a man of Falstaff's station (he's an army Captain and a recruiter of soldiers) to behave. Besides, shouldn't Falstaff be on his way to York to fight the rebels with the rest of the king's forces?
- Mistress Quickly plays the martyr, calling herself a "poor widow" who's suing Falstaff because he's "eaten [her] out of house and home."
- FYI: This is the first recorded use of the phrase "eaten out of house and home." So, you could say that Shakespeare coined this saying (along with about a gazillion others).
- The LCJ turns to Falstaff and attempts to shame him for being such a scoundrel.
- Falstaff, who has no shame, demands to know how much he owes Mistress Quickly.
- Here's where things start to look a lot like an episode of Judge Judy. Mistress Quickly says that Falstaff owes her everything. Not only did he borrow a ton of money, he also promised to marry her, which he hasn't done.
- Falstaff turns to the Lord Chief Justice and says this woman just can't be trusted and implies that poverty has made her crazy. He also says that Quickly's been going around town telling people that her son looks a lot like the Lord Chief Justice, who is possibly the boy's father.
- The LCJ's not buying it. He calls out Falstaff for his bad behavior. Falstaff has obviously swindled Mistress Quickly.
- Falstaff asks if he can be excused from all this unpleasantness since he's so important and busy. In fact, he's on an important mission from the king and doesn't have time to deal with Mistress Quickly's petty lawsuit.
- Too bad, says the LCJ. Falstaff needs to make amends with the tavern hostess, or else.
- Falstaff and Quickly speak privately (meaning, we can't hear them) while the LCJ chats with Gower about a letter that's just arrived.
- Then we catch the tail end of Falstaff and Quickly's conversation. Apparently, Falstaff has talked her out of suing him and has also asked to borrow more money from her. (Can you believe the nerve of this guy?) When she complains that she'll have to pawn all of her dishes and her clothes, Falstaff guilt-trips her into making the loan anyway.
- Then Mistress Quickly arranges for Falstaff to hook up with her friend (and Falstaff's favorite prostitute), Doll Tearsheet, over dinner.
- Quickly, Bardolph, the Page, Fang, and Snare exit the stage, leaving Falstaff, the LCJ, and Gower on stage.
- The LCJ and Gower discuss the letter that the Lord Chief Justice recently received, ignoring all of Falstaff's nosy questions about what's going on.
- Apparently, the LCJ just learned that the king's forces are marching up to meet with Lancaster before they rumble with Northumberland, York, and the other rebels.
- The LCJ promises to write Gower in the near future as he continues to ignore Falstaff, who desperately wants to know what's going on.
- Falstaff can't get anything out of the LCJ so he invites Gower to dinner. The LCJ tells Falstaff to scram – he's not getting any information. Besides, Falstaff's supposed to be recruiting soldiers, not messing around in Eastcheap.
Act 2, Scene 2
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 2 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At the prince's bachelor pad in London, Hal and his buddy, Ned Poins, chill out and shoot the breeze.
- Prince Hal complains that he's exhausted and Poins teases that he thought guys with royal blood didn't get tired.
- Hal says that, embarrassingly, he gets tired a lot. Then he asks Poins if he thinks he, Hal, is a chump for craving the taste of "small beer."
- FYI: "Small beer" (cheap, light beer) is the kind of thing that commoners, not royalty, usually drink. In other words, Hal has developed a taste for his Eastcheap lifestyle and he's worried that he's becoming too much like the commoners.
- In fact, says Hal, he shouldn't even be hanging out with Poins because he, Hal, is a prince, whereas Poins is a guy who has spent all his cash in the brothels and has fathered a bunch of illegitimate children.
- Poins plays along and points out that it's most unbecoming for a Prince to even talk of such things, especially when his father, the king, is so sick right now.
- Hal confesses that he can't reveal to anyone just how sad he is that his father is ill. He would look like a hypocrite if he wept because he's spent so much of his youth rebelling against his dad and thumbing his nose at authority. Still, his "heart bleeds inwardly" for his father.
- Bardolph and Falstaff's Page enter and the guys immediately fall into a familiar routine of horsing around and volleying insults at each other.
- Poins, for example, bags on Bardolph's notoriously red face and then accuses him of blushing like a girl. According to Poins, what Bardolph should be doing (instead of blushing) is chugging beer and sleeping with virgins. (Don't get mad at us. This is how they really talk.)
- The Page joins in on the fun and cracks a joke about Bardolph's red face and Prince Hal notes that Falstaff has definitely rubbed off on the kid because the Page is quite a smart aleck.
- Hal gives the Page some money as a reward for being so clever with his insults.
- Poins gives the Page some money too and jokes that he hopes the extra cash will help prevent the young Page from being corrupted (i.e., by Falstaff's company, venereal disease, etc.). It won't, of course.
- Bardolph gives Prince Hal a letter.
- The letter's from Falstaff and it's obnoxious so, the guys take turns passing it around and reading it aloud so they can mock the contents of the letter.
- Poins bags on the pretentious Falstaff for always referring to himself as a knight and then Hal reads a part of the letter that warns the prince not to hang out with Poins because Poins has been telling everyone that Hal is going to marry his sister.
- Poins is ticked off – he threatens to dip the letter in wine and then shove it down Falstaff's throat. He never said the prince would marry his sister.
- Hal says this is all a big waste of time and asks where Falstaff is hanging out that night.
- When he learns that Falstaff's having dinner at the Boar's Head tavern, with Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet, he decides that he and Poins should pay a surprise visit to Falstaff.
- Hal gives the Page and Bardolph some money so they'll keep their mouths shut about Hal visiting the tavern – that way, he can spy on Falstaff.
- Then Hal and Poins crack jokes about Doll Tearsheet, who Hal says, must be "some road." Translation: Doll Tearsheet must be a prostitute.
- Poins chimes in that Doll Tearsheet is a well-travelled "road" at that.
- Poins and Hal decide to go to the Boar's Head Tavern and dress up like waiters so they can spy on Falstaff. It'll be tons of fun to see how the old man acts when he doesn't know they're there.
- Prince Hal says that when he dresses up like a lowly waiter, it will be like Jove transforming himself into a bull. (Hmm. Jove's the guy who turned himself into a bull right before he raped Europa.)
Act 2, Scene 3
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 2 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Meanwhile, up at Warkworth castle in Northumberland, the Earl is in the middle of an intense conversation with his wife, Lady Northumberland, and his daughter-in-law, Lady Percy.
- Northumberland gently asks his wife and daughter-in-law to stop pestering him about his affairs. He's got enough things to worry about as it is. (He is in the middle of a rebellion that isn't going so well, after all.)
- Lady Northumberland says she gives up and she promises to keep her opinions to herself. Northumberland says his honor is at stake so she should cut him some slack.
- Then we find out what the trio has been arguing about. Lady Percy, Hotspur's widow, tells Northumberland he's nuts if he goes to battle against the king and she doesn't care if he gave his word to the other rebel leaders. Then she reminds him that he didn't seem to have a problem breaking his word to his son when he failed to show up at the last battle (at Shrewsbury), which is where Hotspur was killed.
- Lady Percy continues to lay on the guilt and says Hotspur was counting on his father to back him up and bring reinforcements but Northumberland left him hanging. It's all Northumberland's fault that Hotspur was killed. Northumberland has lost all of his "honour."
- Lady Percy imagines that she would be in Hostpur's arms at this very moment if only Northumberland had kept his word and brought reinforcements to Shrewsbury.
- Northumberland is completely ashamed.
- Lady Northumberland chimes in and suggests that her husband should run away to Scotland until the rebels are more in control of the situation. When the coast is clear, Northumberland can come back to England.
- Lady Percy agrees that her father-in-law can come back and offer the rebels additional support when it's safer. Then she reminds him it's his fault she's a widow.
- Northumberland says it's hard to make up his mind but finally agrees to run away to Scotland until the rebels call on him for help.
Act 2, Scene 4
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 2 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At a tavern (probably the Boar's Head) in Eastcheap, a couple of Drawers (waiters) argue about a dish of apples and then reminisce about the time Prince Hal insulted Falstaff by comparing him to a round, withered up, old apple. Falstaff was so mad.
- The Drawers can't wait 'til Hal shows up tonight – the Prince and Poins are going to dress up like waiters so they can play a joke on Falstaff. It'll be a barrel of laughs, just like old times.
- Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet stumble in and they're rip-roaring drunk.
- Quickly says that Tearsheet's face is all red and she herself has had way too much wine.
- Enter a drunken Falstaff, who's singing a song about King Arthur and Sir Lancelot, the "worthy knight." Falstaff pauses in between lyrics to shout that someone really ought to clean out the chamber pot. (That's Shakespeare's clever way of telling us Falstaff, who is decidedly not a "worthy knight," has just been using the toilet.)
- Then Falstaff greets Tearsheet and Quickly and this is what audiences (especially the "groundlings" in the cheap seats) have been waiting for. Let the trash talking begin.
- When Mistress Quickly says she's feeling sick and faint, Falstaff insults her (and all women) by saying that when women aren't feeling sick, they're usually out sleeping around.
- Tearsheet says she hopes Falstaff gets the "pox" (syphilis) and Falstaff retorts that men catch venereal diseases from women.
- Tearsheet snaps back that the only thing men "catch" from women are their "jewels." Translation: Men, especially Falstaff, are thieves. In other words, she's reminding Falstaff that he's always ripping off Mistress Quickly. (Hmm. Doll Tearsheet appears to be a lot smarter than Mistress Quickly. Good to know.)
- Falstaff, not to be outdone, compares sleeping with a woman and catching a venereal disease to being wounded in battle.
- Mistress Quickly thinks that all this insulting and sexually charged banter is great fun. It's just like old times. Then Quickly says that Doll Tearsheet is an empty vessel (a common term for a woman and also an empty cargo ship).
- Doll Tearsheet quips that an "empty vessel" could never carry such heavy cargo like Falstaff. (Translation: She could never bear the weight of him in bed.) Falstaff drinks so much booze that it would be like carrying an entire cargo of imported wine.
- Then Tearsheet makes nice with Falstaff, since he's going to war soon and may get himself killed.
- A Drawer enters and announces that Pistol is at the door. Mistress Quickly doesn't want him anywhere near the joint because he's such a "swaggering" trouble maker but Falstaff convinces her to let him in. But first, Falstaff makes a bawdy comment that Doll Tearsheet can "stroke" Pistol like a "puppy."
- Pistol enters and he and Falstaff make some lewd comments about how Pistol should "discharge" his "pistol" on Mistress Quickly.
- When Pistol turns to Doll Tearsheet and suggests he should "discharge" on her as well, she calls him a slew of names (like "scurvy companion," and "mouldy rogue"). Then she whips out her trusty knife and tells him to get lost before she stabs him between his "mouldy chaps" (his cheeks).
- When Pistol threatens Doll Tearsheet, Mistress Quickly begs him not to start any trouble. Tearsheet lays into him again and the two continue to trade insults.
- Pistol, who has whipped out his sword, is all riled up and starts misquoting lines from famous plays like Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine Part 2 and George Peele's Battle of Alcazar.
- The brawling and smack talk continues until Falstaff takes Pistol's sword and tells him to scram.
- Pistol's not having any of that and the brawl ensues. Pistol and Falstaff stab wildly at each other until, finally, Bardolph tosses Pistol out on the street.
- Tearsheet and Quickly fawn over Falstaff, who has made quite a heroic showing. They want to make sure he didn't get stabbed in the groin by Pistol.
- Doll Tearsheet calls Falstaff pet names like "whoreson chops" as she tenderly wipes the sweat from his brow.
- Falstaff continues to show off by threatening to "toss" a sheet over Pistol and beat him to a pulp. Doll Tearsheet lovingly replies that she's going to "toss" Falstaff between her sheets later that night because he's such a brave guy.
- A band of musicians arrive and the party heats up. Doll sits on Falstaff's knee and continues to call him pet names like a "tidy Bartholomew boar-pig" (a plump, roasted pig). Falstaff doesn't like being reminded of his mortality when he's about to go off to war and says as much.
- Then the talk turns toward Prince Hal and Poins, who, by now, are in the tavern wearing disguises. Falstaff starts badmouthing the pair.
- Hal and Poins overhear Falstaff and respond in kind. They should beat up Falstaff, a dried up and impotent old man, in front of his girl, Doll Tearsheet. That would show him.
- Poins and Hal continue to eavesdrop on Tearsheet and Falstaff, who, by now, are making out and saying lovey-dovey things to each other. (Tearsheet says she loves Falstaff more than any of the other "scurvy young boy[s]" and Falstaff offers to buy her a nice outfit. Doll Tearsheet says she sure will miss Falstaff when he goes off to war.)
- Falstaff calls for more wine so Hal and Poins emerge (since they're pretending to be waiters). Falstaff sees Hal and says "Ha, a bastard son of the King's." Hal insults Falstaff in kind.
- Mistress Quickly gets all excited that Prince Hal is there and Poins urges Hal to hurry up and give Falstaff a beating.
- Hal asks Falstaff how he could even dare to say such horrible things about him, the prince, in front of such a fine, upstanding, and virtuous "gentlewoman" like Doll Tearsheet.
- Mistress Quickly, who doesn't understand that Hal's being a smart-aleck, says that she couldn't agree more. Doll Tearsheet is a great girl.
- Falstaff says something like, "Oh, you heard what I just said about you? I didn't know you were in earshot."
- Falstaff's in the process of talking his way out of the jam when Peto arrives and says a bunch of army captains are looking for Falstaff (who is supposed to be recruiting soldiers for the war, not having fun in the tavern).
- Prince Hal says he feels bad that he's been wasting time in the tavern when so much is going on in the world and the country is in the middle of a rebellion. Hal and Poins leave.
- Falstaff laments that he has to go away before he has time to sleep with Doll Tearsheet but, he's such an important guy that he can't ignore the call of duty.
- Falstaff leaves but then Bardolph comes back to fetch Doll Tearsheet for Falstaff, presumably so the two can have a proper "goodbye."
Act 3, Scene 1
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 3 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At the palace at Westminster, King Henry IV gives a page some letters to deliver to the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Surrey.
- Then the king delivers a soliloquy (a speech that reveals what's on his mind). The entire kingdom is snoozing away peacefully but, alas, Henry cannot seem to fall asleep. It's not fair that the god of sleep should reward the commoners with rest when he, a king, is deprived of slumber. Even a sailor who's aboard a ship during a terrible storm gets to sleep so why is the king still awake on such a calm night? Henry concludes that kings don't get any sleep or rest because they're burdened with weighty matters.
- Warwick and Surrey arrive and say they've read the king's letters.
- Henry says the "body" of the "kingdom" is full of "disease" (rebellion). FYI: Get your highlighter out because that's important.
- Warwick says yep, the kingdom's sick alright and needs a little "medicine," especially the rebel, Northumberland.
- Henry is full of despair and launches into a lengthy speech that's full of doom and gloom about the future of the kingdom. He remembers the time when everybody was friends. That is, until Northumberland helped him, Henry, overthrow King Richard II. Now Richard's prophesy (about Northumberland and Henry having a falling out) has come true. Henry's worried that he and the kingdom are fated for destruction.
- Nonsense, says Warwick. There's no such thing as prophetic power. King Richard only made a "perfect guess" that Northumberland would betray Henry and that's because Northumberland had already betrayed one king.
- Henry says that he's heard the rebels (Northumberland and York) have any army that's 50,000 men strong. Warwick insists that's impossible – it's just a rumor. King Henry should go to bed and get some sleep.
- Henry says fine, he'll go to bed, but he wishes this civil war were over. That way, he could go on a crusade to the Holy Land. (Ever since he became king, he's been hot to rumble with the "pagans" in the Holy Land.)
Act 3, Scene 2
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 3 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Outside his country house in Gloucestershire, Justice Shallow greets his longtime friend, Justice Silence. The two men engage in the easy banter of the middle class – they exchange pleasantries, ask after each other's families, talk about young relatives who are attending law school, the current price of livestock, and so on.
- It's not long before the two begin to reminisce about the "good old days," when Shallow and Silence were young students at the Inns of Court (prestigious law schools in London). Nowadays, so many of their old friends are dead and gone.
- Shallow says "Jesu, Jesu, the mad days that I have spent." (He's rather fond of this expression.)
- The old men note that they too will be dead and gone some time soon, death being the one certainty in life.
- Before the Justices can think of any more of their dead friends, Bardolph and Falstaff's Page show up and announce the imminent arrival of Falstaff.
- The Justices ask how Falstaff's wife is doing and Bardolph replies that Falstaff is "better accommodated" than with a wife. (Translation: Please. Falstaff doesn't need a wife. He sees plenty of action at the brothels.)
- Falstaff arrives, exchanges pleasantries with the old men, and asks if they've gathered up the men he's asked for. (Falstaff is in Gloucestershire to enlist soldiers into the king's army.)
- Shallow and Silence have indeed gathered up some men and proceed to trot out the recruits one at a time so Falstaff can inspect them and make fun of them.
- The first man is Mouldy (that's really his name) who tries to get out of serving by claiming that his wife will be seriously angry at him if he leaves for battle because she won't have anyone to service her or do the household chores. Too bad, says Falstaff, who signs him up for military service anyway.
- Next come Shadow, Wart, and Feeble. The latter is a woman's tailor so Falstaff makes a few cracks about what a "feeble" wimp he must be. He signs up Shadow and Feeble but tells Wart to stand aside.
- Then a young man named Bullcalf is trotted out. When Falstaff enlists him, Bullcalf complains that he's "diseased." Apparently, he caught a cold while he was celebrating the king's recent coronation and, sadly, he's now unfit to serve the king in the army. Falstaff signs him up anyway.
- Enlisting unwilling men into the military is thirsty work so Justice Shallow invites Falstaff in for a drink and a nice, hot meal.
- Of course Falstaff will stay for a drink but he doesn't have time for dinner.
- Shallow can't wait to reminisce with Falstaff about the old days, when they were law students together and spent their free time raising hell in the taverns and brothels.
- Shallow asks if an old acquaintance, Jane Nightwork, is still alive and Falstaff says yes but she's old these days. (We're guessing by her name that Ms. Nightwork is a prostitute the men used to visit.)
- Wow, says, Justice Silence, that was over fifty years ago.
- Yep, says, Falstaff, "We have heard the chimes at midnight." Translation: We've seen a whole lot in our day.
- We interrupt this program for a brain snack. Orson Welles loved this line so much that he made it the title of his famous film Chimes at Midnight. (The film is an elaborate character study of Falstaff and draws from the history tetralogy and Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor.)
- Now, back to our program. Shallow says "Jesu the days we have seen!" and urges Falstaff to join him and Silence for dinner. The three old school chums go inside, leaving the lackeys outside.
- Bullcalf steps forward and offers Bardolph a bribe. Bardolph takes it, of course.
- Mouldy thinks this is a good idea so he offers Bardolph money as well.
- Then Falstaff, Shallow, and Silence return and Bardolph informs Falstaff that Bullcalf and Mouldy have coughed up some cash so they can let them go.
- Falstaff excuses Mouldy and Bullcalf from service.
- Shallow points out that Mouldy and Bullcalf are the most able bodied men in the bunch and Falstaff pretends to be miffed that another man would tell him how to do his job.
- Then Falstaff makes Wart march around and demonstrate how to load and discharge a firearm before he declares that he'd take a ragged and skinny soldier like Wart over Mouldy and Bullcalf any old day of the week.
- Shallow points out that Wart has absolutely no idea what he's doing.
- Falstaff blows him off and says he's got a long way to march that night. He takes his leave of the old men but not before he tells the audience he's going to swindle Justices Shallow and Silence on his way back from the war.
- Then Falstaff says that all old men are liars. They love to talk about the good old days but their memories and stories are garbage.
Act 4, Scene 1
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 4 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- In Gaultree Forest in Yorkshire, the rebels have gathered in anticipation of a showdown with the king's forces. (Tip: Now would be a good time to consult the map we mentioned earlier if you're not sure where Yorkshire is.)
- The Archbishop of York gives orders for the other rebel leaders to send out some scouts to find out how many troops the king's army (led by Prince John) has amassed. Hastings says they've already done so.
- York tells the other leaders that he received a letter from Northumberland, which says something like this: "Sorry, but I won't be partaking in the rumble with the king. I'm going to chill out in Scotland for a while. Best Wishes, Northumberland."
- A messenger arrives with word that about 30,000 troops are approaching from the west and they're barely a mile away.
- Mowbray says that's exactly the number of troops they estimated the king would have.
- (Hmm. We seem to recall that Mowbray and company estimated 25,000. But, what's an extra 5,000 men, give or take?)
- Just then, Westmoreland (one of the king's men) rides up on his horse.
- Westmoreland, whose feeling pretty snarky, says the Archbishop of York has done a swell job maintaining such a civil and peaceful diocese. Then he takes off his smart-aleck hat and accuses the Archbishop of abusing his power as a religious leader by organizing a rebellion against the King. Westmoreland wants to know what gives.
- York says that he's turned to rebellion because the kingdom is "diseased" and must be cured with a little bloodletting in order to be saved from total ruin. The king has ignored their grievances so they have no other choice but to fight. (By the way, York never says what his beef is, exactly.)
- History Snack: You're probably wondering about York's bloodletting comment. Essentially, he's saying that a little blood shed in battle is just the thing the "diseased" country needs in order to heal. Say what? How the heck is it possible to "heal" a country with bloodshed? Basically, York is punning on the old school medical practice of "bleeding" sick patients. The idea was that the human body was made up of four basic elements, called humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. These elements were supposed to influence a person's general health, disposition, and mood. When someone got sick, one of the first things a physician did was check to make sure all the "humors" were in balance (by inspecting blood, stool, urine, mucous, and so on). If it was looking like a person had too much blood then the solution was to drain some of it. The "safest" way to do this was by using blood-sucking leeches. But, leeches were kind of slow so physicians often opted to open a patient's vein to let the blood out. The thing about opening up veins like this is that it almost always results in bleeding to death. Check out this illustration by Hans von Gersdorff, which shows all the major points for bloodletting on the human body. (It's from a book called Field Book of Wound Medicine, 1517.)
- Then Mowbray and Westmoreland bicker about some events that occurred in Richard II so we need a little background info. In Richard II Henry of Bolingbroke (who is now King Henry IV) accused Mowbray's father, the Duke of Norfolk, of treason and of conspiring to murder the late Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. Henry and Norfolk challenged each other to a duel but before they could duke it out, King Richard II called the whole thing to a halt and banished both men. Then Richard stole a bunch of land from their families. Norfolk died in exile but Henry of Bolingbroke came back to England, deposed King Richard, and now sits on the throne as King Henry IV. Mowbray is feeling bitter about it.
- Mowbray chimes in that everyone has been injured by King Henry IV but Westmoreland points out that Mowbray shouldn't have any beef with the king, since Henry's the one who restored all of his family's land after King Richard II annexed it.
- Mowbray retorts that his father's death was all Henry's fault. King Richard, he says, only banished his father because Henry made such a big fuss and, if Richard hadn't stopped the duel, his father would have pummeled Henry into the earth. But now Henry has ruined the entire kingdom.
- Westmoreland replies that Mowbray doesn't know what he's talking about. Everybody knows that Henry was the toughest nobleman around and would have mopped the floor with Norfolk if the fight had been allowed to continue. Besides, even if Norfolk had won the duel with Henry, the commoners would have killed him for it because Henry was the crowd favorite and more beloved than everyone else, including Richard II.
- Westmoreland then says he's come to tell the rebels that Prince John will listen to their grievances and will try to settle the dispute so that everybody's happy.
- Mowbray says the prince is just doing this for political gain, not because he gives a rat's behind about the rebels.
- Hastings asks if Prince John has the king's permission to negotiate with the rebels and Westmoreland replies that, yes, Prince John speaks for the king.
- The Archbishop of York whips out a laundry list containing the rebels' grievances and hands it over to Westmoreland, who promises to deliver it to Prince John.
- Mowbray says he's got a bad feeling about all of this but Hastings assures him that all will be well.
- York and Hastings agree that Mowbray's got nothing to worry about. King Henry's got enough to worry about and doesn't want any more trouble with the rebels. Besides, he can't possibly punish everybody he's got beef with, can he?
- Westmoreland returns from delivering the rebels' list of complaints to Prince John. He says there's good news. Prince John wants to meet with the rebels halfway between the two enemy camps.
Act 4, Scene 2
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 4 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- The scene continues.
- The rebel leaders meet up with Prince John, who lectures the Archbishop about taking up arms against the king when he should be back at home with his bible, preaching about peace and obedience. Prince John says that the Archbishop is seriously abusing his religious authority by using his power to get the people all riled up against the king. The Archbishop, he says, should know better than anyone that the king is God's "substitute."
- History Snack: Prince John is referring to a political theory known as the doctrine of "divine right," which says that kings are appointed by God to be his representatives on earth. Rebelling against the king is tantamount to sinning against God. Queen Elizabeth, who ruled England at the time the play was written, even made the churches in England read a sermon (on a regular basis) called "Homily Against Disobedience and Willful Rebellion." Rebellion, according to the Elizabethan worldview, was a "great a sin against God."
- York responds that he has no choice because King Henry has refused to address the rebels' grievances. Mowbray and Hastings chime in that they're prepared to fight.
- Prince John says he's had a chance to look over the rebel's list of grievances and he's prepared to put things to rights. If the rebels send their troops home, Prince John will do the same and they can all sit down and have a drink together, toasting their love for one another.
- York accepts and Prince John raises his glass in a toast and assures the rebels that they have his word on it – their grievances will be addressed.
- Hastings gives orders to Coleville to send the rebel troops home and the rebel leaders drink a toast to peace.
- Mowbray says that he's suddenly feeling sick and the others tell him to cheer up.
- The rebel troops can be heard in the distance, shouting in celebration of the peace compact. The Archbishop of York says it's great that both sides have come out winners today.
- Prince John sends Westmoreland to send the king's troops home and makes small talk with the rebel leaders, even suggesting that they all lodge together that night.
- Westmoreland returns with news that the king's forces refuse to disband until Prince John delivers a speech. Just then, Hastings announces that the rebel army has disbanded – the troops have run home like schoolboys on the last day of classes.
- Then Westmoreland turns to Hastings, York, and Mowbray and says, "Surprise! You're all under arrest for treason."
- Mowbray says something like "No fair! You promised to redress our grievances and now you've betrayed our trust."
- Prince John replies that he's going to address their grievances but first he's also going to sentence the rebels to death.
Act 4, Scene 3
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 4 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- The scene continues at Gaultree Forest, where Falstaff, a Captain in the king's army, encounters the rebel, Coleville.
- Falstaff calls Coleville a traitor and tells him he better get used to the idea of living in a dungeon, because that's where traitors end up.
- Coleville is literally shaking in his boots and asks "Are you Falstaff?"
- Falstaff replies that he's as good a man as Falstaff so Coleville better submit, ASAP, unless he wants a beating.
- Coleville drops to his knees and surrenders.
- Prince John, Westmoreland, and John Blunt arrive with their posse of nobles and soldiers.
- Prince John demands to know where the heck Falstaff has been this whole time. He's sick and tired of Falstaff's shenanigans. Sooner or later, Falstaff's going to get himself hanged.
- Falstaff responds that Prince John's got a lot of nerve. Falstaff rushed to Gaultree Forest just as soon as he possibly could. (As if he hadn't been messing around in a tavern with Doll Tearsheet or anything.)
- Falstaff continues to say that, when he arrived at Gaultree, he fought valiantly against Coleville, "a most furious knight and valorous enemy." Falstaff caps off his story by comparing himself to Julius Caesar and then quoting, "I came, I saw, and overcame."
- History Snack: In 47 B.C. Julius Caesar addressed the Roman senate after his victory in the Battle of Zela. He summed things up by saying Veni, vidi, vici, which is Latin for "I came, I saw, I conquered." Recall that the rebel Lord Bardolph referred to Julius Caesar back in Act 1, Scene 1.
- Prince John's not buying anything Falstaff's selling, including the aforementioned bologna.
- Falstaff, as we know, is out of control and continues on, insisting that his heroic deeds should be published. In fact, he might just commission a ballad (a kind of newsletter that reports gossip and news stories) complete with a picture of Coleville kissing his, Falstaff's, foot. And furthermore, Prince John and the others look like a bunch of phonies compared to Falstaff, who deserves a reward for his heroism, etc.
- Prince John ignores Falstaff, turning his attention instead to ordering the execution of Coleville.
- Prince John then sends Westmoreland ahead to King Henry IV's castle to deliver the great news to the ailing king, who might find comfort in the victory over the rebels.
- All but Falstaff ride off, leaving our man on stage to deliver a speech about his favorite beverage, wine.
- Falstaff's speech goes something like this: Prince John doesn't like me much but that's no wonder because the guy doesn't drink wine, which is also the reason why Prince John didn't turn out to be a man. Instead, he suffers from "greensickness" (an anemic condition thought to affect young girls during puberty). In other words, Prince John is acting like a girl. If he had been a big wine drinker like me, he would have turned out to be a valiant man. Also, Prince Hal would have been a wimp like his father if he hadn't taken a liking to drinking wine, which made him "hot and valiant." If I had sons of my own, the first thing I'd teach them about is the importance of becoming "addicted" to wine.
- Bardolph shows up and Falstaff says they should return home to London. But first, they should make a pit-stop in Gloucestershire so Falstaff can swindle Justice Shallow and Justice Silence.
Act 4, Scene 4
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 4 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Meanwhile, at the palace in London, King Henry IV, who's laid up in bed, tells his attendants that, if his army beats the rebels today at Gaultree Forest, he's going to lead a holy crusade to Jerusalem. He sure hopes he's feeling better soon.
- Warwick says he's sure the king will be feeling better any second now.
- King Henry turns to his son, Humphrey (a.k.a. Gloucester), and asks where Prince Hal is today. Humphrey says Hal's at Windsor, doing a little hunting. Fine, says Henry, who turns to his other son, Thomas (a.k.a. Clarence), and asks why he isn't hanging out with his brother, Hal.
- Then Henry proceeds to give Thomas some lengthy advice about how to handle Prince Hal, who can be a bit moody at times. Thomas will have to be the one who holds the brother's together.
- When Henry asks Thomas why he isn't at Windsor with Prince Hal, Thomas admits that Hal's hanging out in London with Poins and his pals, which sends Henry into a big rage. Hal's friends are like rotten weeds and the kingdom is in big, big, big trouble when Henry dies and Hal's in charge of leading the country.
- Warwick sticks up for Hal and points out that Hal is hanging with the commoners in order to study them, which will make him a better ruler. In time, the Prince will ditch his loser pals. King Henry is underestimating his son.
- Henry says that's not likely.
- Westmoreland arrives with news of Prince John's victory over the rebels. Hooray!
- Then Harcourt arrives with more fabulous news – Northumberland and Lord Bardolph have been overthrown in Yorkshire and the king can read all about it in the official documents Harcourt has brought with him.
- King Henry says that's awesome news but his glass is still only half full. Just as he says he's too sick to fully enjoy any of this great news, he faints (rather dramatically).
- The princes are scared and rush over to their father. Westmoreland tries to calm them down and tells them to stand back and give the guy some air already.
- Clarence and Gloucester, who are a bit superstitious, say that some strange things have been happening lately. There have been reports from the commoners about children being supernaturally conceived and other children being born with physical deformities. Also, the weather has been bizarre lately and it seems like some seasons have been skipped over by nature. Plus, the Thames River has flooded three times without ever receding – the last time that happened was when King Edward III (b.1312-d.1377) got sick and died.
- Having a hard time keeping track of the royal family roots? Check out this nifty family tree. (It's color coded and everything).
- Westmoreland hushes them up as King Henry comes to from his fainting fit.
- Henry wakes up and asks to be taken into another room so he can enjoy some peace and quiet.
Act 4, Scene 5
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 4 Scene 5 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- The scene continues and the king is carried into another room. Warwick calls for some soft music to be played and Clarence removes Henry's crown, setting it beside his head on a pillow.
- Prince Hal arrives and, seeing that his father is ill, says he's going to sit beside his father while the old man sleeps. His brothers and Warwick leave him alone in the room with his father.
- Prince Hal notices the crown sitting next to the king and says that it has caused his father a lot of trouble. Henry's duties as king have prevented him from getting any sleep or rest.
- When Hal sees a down feather has landed on his father's lips and doesn't seem to be moving, he believes his father is no longer breathing and has died in his sleep.
- Hal, rather tenderly (if not a bit briefly) expresses his grief and love for his father before picking up the crown, which he inherits as the king's first-born son.
- Hal places the crown on his head and promises to guard the honor of the crown as he leaves the room.
- Uh oh. King Henry wakes up from his nap and yells for his sons and Westmoreland – he wants to know why they've left him alone.
- When Henry learns that Prince Hal was sitting with him and that his crown just happens to have gone missing, along with Hal, he's furious. Who does Hal think he is? After everything Henry has done for his kids, all sons are nothing but greedy little murderers.
- Warwick enters in the middle of Henry's tirade to announce that he found Prince Hal in another room, crying over the death of his father. Hal was sobbing so much that his tears could have washed a bloody knife. (Hmm. That's an interesting way to put it, don't you think?)
- Whatever, says Henry, who wants to know why Hal made off with his crown.
- When Hal enters the room, everybody else high tails it out of there while King Henry lays into his rotten kid for trying to steal his crown before he's even dead. If Hal would have waited just a few hours longer, he wouldn't have had to steal it, Henry says bitterly. And another thing, the king's known all along that Hal's been hiding his murderous thoughts.
- Boy oh boy, he adds, the kingdom's in for a treat when Hal becomes king – the monarch will be a murderer, a thief, and a ruffian, turning the kingdom into a "wilderness."
- That's not so, insists Hal, who begs his father's pardon.
- Hal returns the crown and kneels before his father. Then he says he only took the crown because he thought Henry was dead and he wanted to yell at the crown as if it were a person who was responsible for killing his father. Hal also says he only put the crown on his head because he wanted to argue with it and to see if it would make him think bad thoughts. If it did, he would take it off and never wear it again. Honest.
- (Hmm. Is it just us or is this a totally inaccurate description of Hal's response when he thought the king was dead? Why would he lie? To sooth his father and prove his love? What do you think?)
- King Henry forgives Hal and calls him over to his bed for one last heart-to-heart talk before he dies. Henry admits that his path to the crown was "crook'd" and says his son's reign will be better since he's inheriting the throne, not stealing it like Henry did. Henry also admits that his plan to lead a crusade to the Holy Land was just a diversionary tactic to keep people busy so they wouldn't try to depose him. If Hal's smart, he'll whip up a nice little foreign war to distract anyone who's thinking about civil rebellion. Henry then asks God to forgive him.
- Hal promises to defend the crown, which will be rightfully his.
- Prince John enters, followed by Warwick.
- When Henry asks for the name of the room he was just in (the one in which he fainted), Warwick tells him that it's called the "Jerusalem Chamber."
- Henry asks to be taken back there and says it's fitting that he'll die in a room called the Jerusalem Chamber. A long time ago, he heard it was prophesied that he would die in Jerusalem. At the time, Henry thought that meant he would die in the Holy Land but now he knows better.
Act 5, Scene 1
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 5 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At Justice Shallow's country estate in Gloucestershire, Bardolph and Falstaff have dropped by to make a house call to Falstaff's old law school chum. When the scene opens, Justice Shallow is being a good host and insists that Falstaff spend the night instead of travelling on to London.
- Falstaff does the "aw shucks" routine and pretends he doesn't want to impose. (We know better, right? Earlier, Falstaff promised to swing by Shallow's place after finishing up his military duties at Gaultree Forest in order to scam the old guy.)
- When Shallow's servant, Davy, enters with some papers, Shallow does a little multitasking. He attends to some household issues, like giving orders for the preparation of dinner, while Davy pesters him about some local legal issues involving some of his friends.
- Davy asks Justice Shallow (who is a local law official) if he would please take it easy on his friend, William Visor, who has gotten into a bit of legal trouble. Shallow reassures his servant that his friend will be okay and sends him on his way.
- Shallow says that Falstaff, Bardolph, and the Page are all welcome in his home and leads the group inside. Justice Silence, who has been silent this whole time, tags along.
- Falstaff lingers alone on stage for a moment – just long enough to mock Justice Shallow for being a "foolish justice." Shallow is way too nice to his servants and acts just like them. Falstaff can't wait to tell Prince Hal all about the silly old goat – the stories will keep Hal rolling with laughter for a good long time.
- Falstaff runs inside when Shallow calls to him.
Act 5, Scene 2
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 5 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At the palace in London, Warwick delivers news to the Lord Chief Justice (LCJ) that King Henry IV has died.
- The LCJ says he wishes that he would have died right along with the king. He's been so loyal to Henry IV that he's worried about what will happen to him now that the king's gone and Hal's in charge. (Remember, the LCJ once had Hal arrested for striking him.)
- Warwick chimes in that Prince Hal definitely is not a big fan of the LCJ.
- Prince John, Gloucester, and Warwick enter and Warwick says he wishes Hal were more like his brothers. Warwick is also worried about what will happen now that Henry's dead. He especially feels sorry for the Lord Chief Justice.
- When Gloucester chimes in that the LCJ will probably have to be nice to Falstaff now, the Lord Chief Justice says he'd die before he would cow-tow to the likes of Falstaff.
- Prince Hal enters and the LCJ says, "God save your majesty!"
- Prince Hal notices that his brothers look sad about their dead father and worried about what kind of a king he will be. He puts their worries to rest by promising to take care of them like a father and a brother.
- Prince Hal then turns to the LCJ and notes that the poor guy is looking a little stressed out. Hal also guesses that the LCJ thinks Hal doesn't like him.
- The LCJ responds in a dignified way – he says he's pretty sure Hal doesn't have any "just cause" to hate him.
- For a moment, Hal acts as though he does have a reason to hate the guy – the LCJ once threw him in jail, after all. Is Hal just supposed to forget that?
- The Lord Chief Justice replies that it was his job to uphold and administer the law in the name of King Henry IV. The Lord Chief Justice is the king's representative. So, when Hal boxed him on the ears, it was as if Hal had boxed his father, the king, on the ears. Therefore, it was the LCJ's duty to punish Hal for offending the king. The LCJ insists that he would do the exact same thing if he were Hal's Lord Chief Justice. That is, he'd do everything in his power to uphold the law and the dignity of the new king.
- Then Hal shocks everyone around him when he says the LCJ is absolutely right and that he wants him to keep his job. What's more, he hopes the LCJ will live long enough to see Hal's own sons. And, if Hal has a kid that's as rotten as he was, he hopes the LCJ will put him in his place too.
- Hal admires the LCJ's impartial spirit and, offering his hand, embraces the LCJ as a "father" and a most trusted advisor.
- Hal also promises his brothers that his "wild" behavior is a thing of the past – he's buried his wild ways along with the king's dead body. Hal also says he is now ready to defy the expectations of the world – even though everyone expects him to be a lousy king, he's going to prove them wrong, just as he promised. (Recall that, back in Henry IV Part 1, Hal told us he was just pretending to be bad so he could stage his "glittering" "reformation," which would "show more goodly and attract more eyes / Than that which [had] no foil to set it off" (Part 1, 1.2.29). In other words, Hal's coronation would be a whole lot more dramatic if it were to look like Hal had transformed from a wild child to a noble king.)
- Hal says he will soon call Parliament to order so he can choose his counsel and proceed to ensure that England is well governed. With the help of the Lord Chief Justice, Hal will rule in such a way that nobody will ever regret his reign.
Act 5, Scene 3
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 5 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Meanwhile, back at Justice Shallow's country estate in Gloucestershire, Falstaff and his men enjoy a delicious meal (along with Shallow's sidekick, Justice Silence, of course). The motto for the evening is "eat, drink, and be merry."
- Falstaff admires the delectable spread and Shallow makes small talk about his apple orchard and the home grown food on the table.
- Justice Silence, who's drunk, sings a bawdy song about "lusty lads" and "cheap flesh." (That's interesting. The guy hardly ever talks but when he does finally open his mouth, he turns out to be a dirty man.)
- Falstaff's pleased as punch about Shallow's naughty little outburst and drinks a toast to the old man.
- Davy, the servant, pours another round of wine and Silence breaks into song again. This time, the ditty is about being merry during Shrovetide. FYI: Shrovetide is a time of festivity when people can cut loose and have fun before Lent because Lent requires that they spend all their time in prayer, self-denial, and penitence for a period of time that leads up to the celebration of Easter. Shakespeare's tipping us off that even though Falstaff's been cutting loose and living his life like it's one big Shrovetide festivity, the partying is definitely coming to an end soon.
- Falstaff says he's shocked that Silence knows how to party and Silence insists that he's been wild a time or two in his day.
- More eating, drinking, and merrymaking ensues.
- Davy announces that Pistol has arrived. Then Pistol enters and says Falstaff's "now one of the greatest men in this realm" because his "tender lambkin," Prince Hal, is now King Henry V.
- Falstaff doesn't want to waste any more time in Gloucestershire – he orders his men to saddle up so he can ride to London, ASAP. He thinks that Hal will want to see him right away and he's also psyched that "the laws of England" will now be at his "commandment." In other words, Falstaff thinks that he's going to be able to run amok now that Hal's in charge so the Lord Chief Justice better watch out.
Act 5, Scene 4
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 5 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- On a street in London, two Beadles (officers) tussle with Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet, who are being arrested for their involvement in murder.
- Quickly struggles with one of the officers and Tearsheet announces that she's pregnant. If she has a miscarriage, she says, it'll be the officers' fault.
- The first officer accuses Doll Tearsheet of stuffing her dress with pillows to fake a pregnancy and accuses the two women of beating a man to death with the help of Pistol.
- There's more struggling and lots of name calling. Doll Tearsheet demands to see a Justice of the Peace and the officers drag the women off stage.
- Note: If you're wondering if you missed something, you haven't. This is the first time we've heard anything about the women being involved in a murder.
Act 5, Scene 5
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Act 5 Scene 5 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- On a public street near Westminster Abbey, two Grooms (workers) cover the ground with rushes in preparation for the new king's procession.
- Falstaff, Shallow, Pistol, Bardolph, and the Page stand on the street so they can watch the newly crowned king as he makes his way through the streets of London. Falstaff brags to his pals that Hal will give him a special look as he passes by.
- Falstaff also wishes he had time to have some new clothes made but, he reasons that his presence will be enough to show his support of Hal.
- Pistol informs Falstaff that Doll Tearsheet and Mistress Quickly have been imprisoned and Falstaff brags that he'll set them free them.
- King Henry V enters with his retinue (Prince John, Clarence, Gloucester, the Lord Chief Justice and some other important men).
- When Falstaff spots the king he shouts "God save thy grace, King Hal, my royal Hal!"
- Hal ignores him and Falstaff tries again: "God save thee, my sweet boy!"
- Hal turns to his main man, the Lord Chief Justice, and tells him to deal with the foolish old man that's trying to talk to the king. (Ouch.)
- The LCJ turns to Falstaff and asks him what he thinks he's doing – Falstaff's got no business trying to speak to the king.
- Falstaff ignores the LCJ and addresses Hal again: "My king, my Jove, I speak to thee my heart!"
- Then, in one of the most painful moments of the play, Hal turns to Falstaff and says "I know thee not, old man. Fall to thy prayers."
- Hal continues to deliver a speech about how Falstaff shouldn't presume to know him – Hal's no longer a wild boy. Now that he's king, he's "turned away from [his] former self," which means that Falstaff is no longer fit company.
- Hal then banishes Falstaff, "on pain of death," and orders him to stay ten miles away from him.
- As Hal turns and moves on, Falstaff tries to play off the insult. He tells Justice Shallow that Hal had to act that way in public but he'll probably send for Falstaff privately.
- Apparently, Falstaff has borrowed some money from Justice Shallow and has promised him some kind of advancement in the king's service. Since it doesn't look like that's going to happen any time soon, Shallow asks for his money back. Falstaff, of course, doesn't have it.
- Just then, the Lord Chief Justice enters with some officers and commands them to take Falstaff and all his cronies to Fleet Prison in London. Falstaff objects and the LCJ dismisses him, saying that he'll deal with Falstaff later.
- As the men are escorted to prison, Prince John and the LCJ are left alone on stage. Prince John says he's happy about Hal's decision. Hal has made private arrangements to ensure that Falstaff and the others will be well provided for but, they're banished until they can shape up. (That's not likely to happen soon so it looks like Falstaff's banished forever.)
- Prince John also notes that Hal has called Parliament to order and predicts that before the year is over, English soldiers will be fighting on French soil. (Hmm. Sounds like there's going to be a sequel to this play…)
Read the full text of Henry IV Part 2 Epilogue with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- One of the actors (probably the guy who played Falstaff) comes on stage and delivers an Epilogue (a final speech to the audience). There's the usual hemming and hawing about how terrible the play was and how he hopes the audience will forgive him for being part of such a lousy play but maybe they'll be kind enough to clap anyway.
- Then there's a promise to continue the story of Falstaff in the next play, along with the story of Hal's future wife, Catherine. The speaker also makes a disclaimer about how Falstaff is not based on the historic figure, Sir John Oldcastle. (Falstaff's original name was "Sir John Oldcastle" in Henry IV Part 1. But, when the descendants of the historical Sir John Oldcastle pitched a fit, Shakespeare changed the name of his disgraceful knight to "Falstaff.") Then the speaker does a jig, which is a lively and bawdy dance number.