Shakespeare Videos: Complete List Shakespeare
Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2003
Type of Work
.......Henry IV Part II
is a history play about the last days of England's King Henry IV and
the accession to the throne of his son, Prince Henry (Hal), as King
Henry V. The scenes involving Sir John Falstaff and his drinking
companions are fictional.
Date Written: About 1597.
Published: Henry IV Part II was published in 1600 in a
quarto edition that does not include the first scene of the third act.
This edition was printed by Valentine Simmes. The play was published in
full in 1623 as part of the First Folio, the first authorized
collection of Shakespeare's plays.
.......Shakespeare based Henry
Part II primarily on accounts in The Chronicles of England,
Scotland and Ireland (Holinshed’s Chronicles), by Raphael
Holinshed (?-1580?), who began work on this history under the royal
printer Reginald Wolfe. The first edition of the chronicles was
published in 1577 in two volumes. Shakespeare also drew upon
information in Samuel Daniel's The First Four Books of the Civil
Wars Between the Two Houses of Lancaster and York, published in
1595. There is a possibility that Shakespeare based the character
Falstaff on a boastful but cowardly soldier named Pyrgopolynices in Miles
Gloriosus, a play by Plautus (254?-184 BC).
.......Henry IV Part II
continues the story of Henry
IV Part I. At the end of the latter play, the forces of King
Henry IV defeat a rebel army at Shrewsbury, on the Welsh-English
border, in 1403 during a battle in which the king’s son, Prince Henry
(Hal), distinguishes himself by slaying the rebels’ champion, Hotspur. Henry
Part II focuses on the final defeat of the remaining rebel
forces, the illness and approaching death of King Henry, the
misadventures of the comic character Falstaff and his companions, and
the transition of Hal from the carefree pub-crawler that he was in Henry
Part I to a sober-minded heir to the throne of England.
.......Henry IV Part II takes place in England after
the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. The locales include London, York,
Warkwarth, Westminster, Gloucestershire, Yorkshire, and Gaultree
Presenter of the play in the Induction, preceding Act I.
King Henry IV:
King of England, now ill and suffering from insomnia and a guilty
conscience for usurping the throne of Richard II. The
of the Duke of Lancaster (John of Gaunt), Henry was the first
English king in the House of Lancaster, reigning from 1399 to
Prince Henry of
Wales (Prince Hal): Son of the king. He inherits the throne as
Henry V. He gives up his carefree, fun-loving lifestyle when royal
duties demand his full attention.
Prince John of
Lancaster: Son of the king. John violates a peace pact and
slaughters a rebel army.
of Gloucester: Another son of the king.
Thomas, Duke of
son of the
Earls of Warwick
(Nevil) and Surrey: King's counsellors.
Westmoreland: A leader of the king's forces.
Blunt: Officers in the king's forces.
Northumberland: A leader of the rebellion against the king.
Northumberland: Wife of Northumberland and mother of the dead
Hotspur. (See Background for information on
Other Leaders of
the Rebellion Against the King: Lord Mowbray, Lord Hastings, Lord
Bardolph, Sir John Colville, and Richard Scroop, Archbishop of York.
Widow of Hotspur. (See Background for
information on Hotspur.)
Retainers of Northumberland.
Justice of the King's Bench: Judge appointed by Henry V (Hal).
Servant of the
Falstaff: Fun-loving companion of Prince Hal. Falstaff is rejected
by Hal when the latter becomes king.
Page of Falstaff
Peto: Falstaff's companions.
Poins: Companion of Hal before the latter becomes
Silence: Country justices. Silence is Shallow's cousin.
Fang, Snare: Sheriff's
Prostitute at the Boar's Head Tavern in London's Eastcheap section.
Wart, Feeble, Bullcalf: Falstaff's army recruits.
Hostess of the Boar's-Head Tavern.
of Davy. Davy asks Justice Shallow for favorable treatment of
Visor in a lawsuit.
opposing William Visor in a lawsuit.
Messengers of a court of law.
from the royal court who strew flowers on the road before the passing
of the royal train carrying Hal after his coronation as King Henry V.
Speaker of the epilogue.
Lords, attendants, porter, drawers (tapsters or bartenders).
J. Cummings...© 2003
.......Rumor spreads that
Hotspur has killed Prince Hal and that the rebels have defeated the
royalists. However, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, soon learns
the truth about his son Hotspur and the rebel army: It was not Hotspur
who killed Hal; it was Hal who killed Hotspur. What is more, it was not
the rebels who defeated the royalists; it was the royalists who
defeated the rebels. Nevertheless, the rebels are far from ripe for
surrender. They form a coalition that includes a defector to their
cause: Richard Scroop, the Archbishop of York. He is much disenchanted
with the policies of Henry IV.
.......Meanwhile, fat old Falstaff lives it up in London. He
has his own page to wait on him—compliments of Hal—and more than twenty
yards of silk with which to fashion a cape and breeches. His
prodigality soon leaves him with but eight coins in his purse. Not to
worry. The gout in his big toe, which causes him to limp, will surely
qualify him for a rise in his pension.
.......Before Falstaff leaves for battle, his landlady,
Mistress Quickly, calls the law down on him for failure to repay a
loan. Even worse, he has failed to make good on his promise to marry
her. When officers attempt to arrest him, a great ruckus ensues. In the
end, Falstaff not only escapes arrest, but he also persuades Mistress
Quickly to lend him ten more pounds. Prince Hal happens by, and he and
Falstaff enjoy a bit of merrymaking until the time comes for them to
embark for war. In the new campaign against the rebels, Falstaff will
be under the command of Prince John of Lancaster, Hal’s younger
brother. The Earl of Northumberland will not be wielding a sword in
this campaign, for his wife and daughter-in-law have persuaded him to
stand aside. However, if the rebels gain the upper hand, Lady Percy
advises, then it would be wise for him to enter the fray.
.......Meanwhile, at the palace in Westminster, King Henry
IV, seriously ill, frets about the state of his country. Insomnia
seizes him. He says,
Gaultree forest in Yorkshire, site of the insurgents’ camp, the
archbishop and other rebel leaders despair at news that Northumberland
will not be fighting at their side. Then the Earl of Westmoreland, an
ambassador from royalist forces under Prince John of Lancaster, arrives
to parlay with the rebels, telling them that John is willing to hear
their grievances and grant concessions if the grievances are just.
After the rebels present their list of complaints, Westmoreland
delivers it to Lancaster.
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my senses in forgetfulness? (3.1.7-10)
then meets with the rebels and swears by his honor that he will
speedily redress the grievances. Taking the prince at his word, the
rebel leaders order their armies
disperse. However, as soon as the armies leave, Prince John goes
back on his word, arrests the leaders, and summarily executes them.
Then he orders the fleeing rebel troops to be run down.
another part of the forest, Falstaff somehow has managed to capture a
prisoner. When Falstaff and Lancaster meet, the prince rebukes the fat
knight for always being absent from the scene of battle and threatens
to send him to the gallows. Falstaff then proudly displays his prize,
the prisoner, saying he is a “most furious knight and valourous enemy .
. . I came, I saw, I overcame”1
Lancaster leaves, Falstaff says the cold, unsmiling prince is the way
he is because he has not cultivated the habit of drinking wine. In
Westminster, the king, now very sick, broods about his son Prince Hal.
Will he ever mature enough to succeed his father as King of England?
Westmoreland then arrives with excellent news: The rebels have been
defeated; peace reigns. However, the king’s condition worsens, and he
realizes death stands near to claim him. When Prince Hal arrives to
comfort his father, the king offers this advice to his son: “Be it thy
course to busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels; that action, hence
borne out, may waste the memory of the former days” (4.5.221-223).
other words, if England centers its attention on conflicts with foreign
countries, the people will likewise divert their attention from making
domestic mischief and focus instead on making international mischief.
The king then is carried to the palace’s Jerusalem Chamber. There he
dies, fulfilling a prophecy that he would die in Jerusalem.
hearing that Hal is now King Henry V, Falstaff hurriedly returns to his
friend’s side to reap the benefits of having a monarch for a bosom pal.
However, Hal, as king, becomes a different person. He is sober, solemn,
full of kingly dignity; he means business. Hal lectures Falstaff on his
unprincipled ways, then banishes him on pain of death, telling him “not
to come near our person by ten mile” (5.5.56). If Falstaff reforms, Hal
says, “We will, according to your strengths and qualities, give you
advancement” (5.5.60-61). The new king next convenes a session of
parliament to discuss war with a new enemy, France.
.......The main conflicts center on (1) Henry
IV and his rebellious enemies, (2) Henry's concern about his son, and
(3) Henry's gnawing guilt about his accession to the throne over the
body of Richard II.
a loss at the Battle of Shrewsbury (Henry IV Part I),
the rebel forces regroup to renew their fight against the king. While
considering the threat they pose, the king also worries whether Young
Hal—who proved himself an outstanding at
Shrewsbury—has the wherewithal to be a future king.
the king frets over the state of his soul. After all, he had
acceded to the throne after one of his supporters killed his
predecessor, Richard II. The king, therefore, believes he has blood on
his hands. He hopes to make a pilgrimmage to Jerusalem to redeem
himself. He tells Warwick and Surrey, "And were these inward wars once
out of hand, / We would, dear lords, unto the Holy
.......The tone of the play is alternately
serious and lighthearted, with the comic episodes of Falstaff
contrasting with the sober business of war. However, Hal bends his mind
to affairs of state, becoming deadly serious. At the end of the play,
when he becomes king, he chastens Falstaff, telling him he must reform
becomes a mature, reliable, and upright leader while executing his
military and governmental duties. After his father dies and he becomes
King Henry V, he renounces his former self—the carousing, fun-loving
Hal who mingled with rowdies to learn the ways of the common folk. To
prove that he is now deadly serious about his kingly duties, he also
renounces Falstaff, saying,
Reply not to me with a fool-born jest:
What's Past Remains Past
Presume not that I am the thing I was;
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turn’d away my former self;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . .I banish thee, on pain of death,
As I have done the rest of my misleaders,
Not to come near our person by ten mile. (5.5. 46-47 and
.......Even the best
of men sometimes have checkered pasts. Like many modern politicians,
Prince Hal has engaged in reprehensible and censurable conduct, thanks
to his association with Falstaff and his friends. But he leaves the
past behind him—forever. If he were running for political office in
modern times, he would have difficulty burying his past; for the media
would surely exhume it and vilify Hal
Troubles at Home
violence strikes not only families but also entire kingdoms. Henry IV
uses his army to fight citizens of his own country. In modern times,
governments have often done the same—rightly or wrongly—in Russia,
Northern Ireland, Vietnam, and other countries.
experiences deep guilt for the manner in which he came to power:
overthrowing the previous king, Richard II. Shakespeare says he did not
merely overthrow him; he murdered him. Henry's guilt consumes him and
remains with him until he draw his last breath. As he near death, he
prays for remission of his sin, saying, "How I came by the
crown, O God, forgive! / And grant it may with thee in true peace live"
.......The climax of a
play or narrative work, such as a short story or a novel, can be
defined as (1) the turning point at which the conflict begins to
resolve itself for better or worse, or as (2) the final and most
exciting event in a series of events. The climax in Henry IV
Part II occurs, according to the first definition, when Prince Hal
renounces his old ways once and for all and banishes Falstaff.
According to the second definition, the climax occurs when King
Henry dies and his son, Prince Hal, accedes to the throne.
The Role of Falstaff
.......Henry IV Part I made Falstaff a popular comic
character with audiences. He even became a favorite of Queen Elizabeth
I. Consequently, in Henry IV Part II, Shakespeare devotes
considerable attention to the fat knight, perhaps more attention than
he should receive in a play that presents as the central characters a
dying king and his son. However, Falstaff’s shenanigans play a key role
in the play in that they (1) demonstrate the kind of life Prince Hal
has led as a companion of Falstaff and (2) set up the stunning scene at
the end of the play when Hal, more mature, renounces his old lifestyle
and Falstaff. This scene is important because it shows that Hal
spine to give up his carefree, irresponsible ways to take on the heavy
burdens of kingship.
.......As in the first play, Falstaff eats,
drinks, and makes merry. And, of course, there is no end to his
bragging, as in the following passage in which he hyperbolizes about
himself: “I would to God my name were not so terrible to the enemy as
it is: I were better to be eaten to death with a rust than to be
scoured to nothing with perpetual motion (1.2.66). Falstaff, a
companion of Prince Hal, even thinks himself young like the prince,
telling the Lord Chief Justice, "You that are old consider not the
capacities of us that are young; you do measure the heat of our livers
with the bitterness of your galls; and we that are in the vaward2 of our youth, I must
confess, are wags too (1.2.66).
.......The Lord Chief Justice, well knowing
that Falstaff is little more than a wheezing bag of wind, replies,
"Have you not a moist eye? a dry hand? a yellow cheek? a white beard? a
decreasing leg? an increasing belly? is not your voice broken?
your wind short? your chin double? your wit single? and every part
about you blasted with antiquity? (1.2.66).
Shakespeare critic G.B. Harrison, impressed with Shakespeare's handling
of Falstaff, wrote the falling appraisal of the character:
The most notable person in [King Henry IV] is the fat
knight, Sir John Falstaff, the supreme comic character in all drama. In
creating Falstaff, Shakespeare used principally his own eyes and ears.
Falstaff is the gross incarnation of a type of soldier found in any
army, and there were many such—though on a lower level of
greatness—swarming in London when the play was first written, spending
the profits of the last campaign in taverns, brothels, and playhouses,
while they intrigued for a new command in the next season's
campaign.... Many of them were rogues who cheated the government and
their own men on all occasions.... Though he [Falstaff] can quote
Scripture on occasion, he is a liar, a drunkard, and a cheat; he robs
the poor and flouts every civic virtue; but on the stage at least he
redeems his vices by his incomparable wit and his skill escaping from
every tight corner."—G.B. Harrison, ed. Major British Writers.
New York: Harcourt, 1967 (Page 59).
.......Among the most memorable passages in
the play are those in which King Henry—suffering
terminal illness, guilt, and anxiety about domestic strife—uses personification
to communicate his concerns. Following are two examples of such
passages. In the first, sleep is personified; in the second,
thousand of my poorest subjects
Other Figures of Speech
Are at this hour
asleep! O sleep! O gentle sleep!
nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more
wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my
senses in forgetfulness?
Why rather, sleep,
liest thou in smoky cribs,3
Upon uneasy pallets4 stretching thee,
And hush’d with
buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in the perfum’d chambers
of the great,
Under the canopies
of costly state,5
And lull’d with
sound of sweetest melody?
O thou dull god!6 why liest thou with
In loathsome beds,
and leav’st the kingly couch
a common ’larum bell?8
Wilt thou upon the
high and giddy mast
up9 the ship-boy’s eyes, and rock his brains
of the rude imperious surge,10
And in the
visitation of the winds,
Who take the
ruffian billows by the top,
monstrous heads, and hanging them
clamour in the slippery clouds,
That, with the hurly,11 death itself
Canst thou, O
partial sleep! give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy
in an hour so rude,
And in the calmest
and most stillest night,
appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king?
Then, happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the
head that wears a crown. (3.1.6-32)
should these good news make me sick?
Will Fortune never
come with both hands full
But write her fair
words still in foulest letters?
She either gives a
stomach and no food;
Such are the poor,
in health; or else a feast
And takes away the
stomach; such are the rich,
abundance and enjoy it not.
I should rejoice
now at this happy news,
And now my sight
fails, and my brain is giddy.
O me! come near
me, now I am much ill. (4.4.110-118)
.......Following are examples of other
figures of speech in the play. For definitions of figures of speech,
see Literary Terms.
that he gave his able horse
I’ll tickle your catastrophe. (2.1.25)
roughly send to prison
I did not think Master Silence had been a man of this mettle.
So fought, so
follow’d, and so fairly won,
Came not till now
to dignify the times (1.1.-28-30)
Even such a
man, so faint, so spiritless,
So dull, so
dead in look, so woe-begone,
Priam’s12 curtain in the dead of night. (1.1.85-87)
Whose see is by a civil peace
Whose beard the silver hand of peace hath
Whose learning and good letters peace hath
Whose white investments figure
The dove and very
blessed spirit of peace. . . . (4.1.48-53)
nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more
wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my
senses in forgetfulness? (3.1.7-10)
addresses sleep as if it were a person.
get no remedy against this consumption of the purse: borrowing only
lingers and lingers it out, but the disease is incurable. (1.2.73)
impoverishment to a disease (consumption)
poverty and emptiness. (1.3.77-78)
poverty to the sound made by empty strongboxes (coffers)
you muddy conger, hang yourself! (2.4.23)
compares Falstaff to an eel (conger).
Thou globe of
sinful continents, what a life dost thou lead! (2.4.127)
Falstaff to world of sin.
You are too
shallow, Hastings, much too shallow,
To sound the
bottom of the after-times. (4.2.54-55)
Hastings to a sounding line used to measure the depth of a body of water
after-times (the future) to a measurable thing, such as body of water
poison there is physic [healing]. (1.1.153)
induction, which precedes Act 1, uses personification to turn the
speaker, Rumour (rumor), into a rumormonger painted with tongues. His
opening lines are as follows:
Open your ears;
for which of you will stop
The vent of
hearing when loud Rumour speaks?
I, from the orient
to the drooping west,
Making the wind my
post-horse, still unfold
The acts commenced
on this ball of earth:
Upon my tongues
continual slanders ride,
The which in every
language I pronounce,
Stuffing the ears
of men with false reports. (3-10)
times are wild; contention, like a horse
Full of high
feeding, madly hath broke loose
And bears down all
before him. (1.1.15-17)
contention to a horse
brow, like to a title-leaf,
nature of a tragic volume (1.1.74-75)
the man's brow to the title page of a book
You are both,
in good troth, as rheumatic as two dry toasts. (2.4.24)
Quickly compares the demeanor of Falstaff and Doll Tearsheet to dry
His wit is as
thick as Tewksbury mustard. (2.4.108)
insultingly compares Poins' with to thick mustard.
Quoit him down,
Bardolph, like a shove-groat shilling. (2.4.79)
Bardolph to throw Pistol down the stairs, as if Pistol were a coin to
be tossed like a quoit.
Our peace will,
like a broken limb united,
Grow stronger for
the breaking. (4.1.232-233)
peace to a broken limb
is the old king dead?
As nail in door: the things I speak are just.
Henry IV is as dead as a doornail.
.......In the dialogue of Henry IV Part II
and other Shakespeare plays, characters sometimes speak wise or witty
sayings, or epigrams, couched in memorable language. Among the more
memorable sayings in Henry IV Part II are the following:
lies the head that wears the crown. (3.1.32)
line, spoken by the king, is one of the most pithy observations in all
of literature about the burdens of leadership.
nature falls into revolt
When gold becomes
her object! (4.5.71-72)
dying, speaks these lines after Prince Hal sees his father sleeping
and, believing him dead, removes his crown and places it on his own
Past and to
come seems best; things present worst. (1.3.113)
likes to reminisce about the good old days while also entertaining the
notion that “the best is yet to come.” The here and now, however,
always seems dull and wearisome. Through the Archbishop of York,
Shakespeare captures this universal truth in nine words.
Is it not
strange that desire should so many years outlive performance? (2.4.114)
Poins is poking
fun at old Falstaff, but he is really speaking about everyone who
discovers in old age that his body can no longer do what his mind
1....I came, I saw, I overcame: These
words parody the Latin words of Julius Caesar: Veni, vidi, vici
(VAY ne, VE de, VE chee), meaning I came, I saw, I conquered.
wrote the words in a message to the Roman Senate after he won a
victory in the Battle of Zela (in present-day northern Turkey) in 47 BC.
3....smoky cribs: Small room heated with a
mattress placed on the floor.
5....costly state: Luxurious furnishings;
6....dull god: Sleep; the god of sleep.
7....vile: Commoners; peasants.
8....watch-case . . . bell: Sentry post;
place where a guard keeps watch to sound an alarm (bell) against danger.
9....Seal up: Close.
10..rock . . . surge: Rock him to sleep
with the motions of the sea.
11..hurly: Hurly-burly; turmoil.
12..Priam: In Greek mythology, Priam was
the king of Troy.
Study Questions and Essay Topics
Plays on DVD (or VHS)
- King Henry
observes, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” (3.1.32). He
means that those who take on the responsibilities of leadership also
take on the worries that go with them. Identify several world leaders
today who may be uneasy because they “wear the crown.”
- Prince Hal
thinks his father is dead when in reality the king is only sleeping.
Hal removes the king’s crown and places it on his own head. What
motivates Hal to do this? Is he overly ambitious? Is he simply trying
to demonstrate, after leading the life of a playboy, that he is now
mature enough to assume the awesome responsibility of kingship? Explain
- Has the
attitude toward war as a glorious adventure changed since the days of
King Henry IV?
- Do you
believe Prince Hal was right, at the end of the play, to scold Falstaff?
- Who is the
most admirable character in the play? Who is the least admirable?
- Write an
essay comparing and contrasting the Prince Hal of Henry IV Part I
with the Prince Hal of Henry IV Part II.
- Write an
essay identifying kingly qualities in Prince Hal.
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