Study Guide

Henry IV Part 2 Act 2, Scene 1

By William Shakespeare

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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.

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