Henry IV, Part II

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Henry IV, Part II
Commentary & Resources

The play picks up the action three years after the death of Hotspur at Shrewsbury. Westmoreland and Lancaster are appointed by the king to lead an army against the last of the rebels. The Archbishop of York, Scroop, is backing the lords Hastings, Mowbray, and Bardolph, along with the tacit support of Northumberland. Northumberland, however, is later dissuaded from joining the rebellion by Lady Grey. Meanwhile, Falstaff is back at the Boar's Head Inn, driving Mistress Quickly out of business with his appetite. Prince Hal visits to have some sport with him, but both he and Falstaff are soon summoned to war by the king, who has come down with a grave illness. Falstaff is to recruit soldiers for the king's army.

This is not a duty one would normally entrust to Falstaff, and true to form, Falstaff finds himself lingering in Gloucestershire with the local justice, Shallow. His "recruits" are easily allowed to buy their way out of service to the army, and Falstaff wastes no opportunity to take advantage of Shallow's hospitality or wallet. In the meantime, the rebel army forces the king to send his younger son, Prince John of Lancaster, to parley with the insurrectionists. John agrees to address the issues raised by the rebels, but only if their army is dispersed. That done, John's army (which has conveniently not disbanded) seizes Scroop and the rest of the lords at the head of the conspiracy. The leaders are summarily executed.

King Henry IV, by this time, is near death with his illness. In a deathbed meeting with Hal, the king is at last reconciled with his son, convinced that his true nobility will prevail. With that accomplished, the king dies; Hal ascends to the throne as King Henry V. When Falstaff hears this news, he immediately sets out for London—after all, Falstaff is a freeloader, and the thought of his old friend's new station has him envisioning all kinds of rewards. To his shock, Henry bars him and any of his acquaintances from henceforth approaching within ten miles of him on pain of death.

Dramatis Personae:

  • Rumour, the presenter
  • King Henry the Fourth
  • Henry, Prince of Wales; afterwards King Henry the Fifth
  • Thomas of Clarence
  • Prince John of Lancaster
  • Humphrey of Gloucester
  • Earl of Warwick
  • Earl of Westmoreland
  • Earl of Surrey
  • Gower
  • Harcourt
  • Blunt
  • Lord Chief Justice
  • A Servant to the Chief Justice
  • Earl of Northumberland
  • Scroop, Archbishop of York
  • Lord Mowbray
  • Lord Hastings
  • Lord Bardolph
  • Sir John Coleville
  • Travers and Morton
  • Falstaff, Bardolph, Pistol, and a Page
  • Poins and Peto
  • Shallow and Silence, country justices
  • Davy, Shallow's servant
  • Mouldy, Shadow, Wart, Feeble, and Bullcalf, recruits
  • Fang and Snare, sheriff's officers
  • Lady Northumberland
  • Lady Percy
  • Mistress Quickly
  • Doll Tearsheet
  • Lords and Attendants
  • Officers, Messengers, Soldiers
  • Porter, Drawer, Beadles, Grooms, etc.
  • A Dancer Speaker of the Epilogue
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