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HOME > King Henry IV, Part I Study Guide > King Henry IV, Part I. - Act V.

King Henry IV, Part I Commentary - Act V.

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Act V. Scene I. - The King's Camp near Shrewsbury.

Worcester and Vernon speak with King Henry IV on the rebel's behalf. Worcester airs the rebel's grievance that King Henry has forgotten that they helped him achieve power and that King Henry has taken more than he originally promised. King Henry offers a pardon to all the rebels to avoid a bloody war. Hal shows his wisdom by predicting that Douglas and Hotspur, confident of victory will not accept the pardon. Falstaff is reluctant to die, famously questioning the value of honor from battle...

To the sound of trumpets, Thomas Percy the Earl of Worcester and Sir Richard Vernon arrive at King Henry's camp on behalf of the rebellion to discuss their grievances with their king and to hopefully avoid war (Line 4).

King Henry IV who is surrounded by Prince Hal, John of Lancaster, Sir Walter Blunt and Sir John Falstaff, immediately criticize Worcester and Vernon for deceiving their (King Henry IV and company) trust, asking if it is the rebellion's intention to cause havoc in their once peaceful kingdom (Lines 9-21).

Worcester says he did not wish matters to come to this, King Henry IV asking then why it has happened then? (Lines 22-28).

Falstaff sarcastically remarks that "Rebellion lay in his [Worcester's] way, and he found it" (Line 28).

Worcester makes his grievances very clear to King Henry. First he tells the king that "We were the first and dearest of your friends" (Line 33), then reminds the King Henry IV of the pledge he made at Doncaster that he only wanted "The seat of Gaunt, dukedom of Lancaster" (Line 45) not all of England, explaining how the absence of King Richard II, helped King Henry (Lines 30-71).

King Henry makes it clear he is not moved any of this, suggesting that what Worcester says is merely an excuse for rebellion which will suit the eyes of "fickle changelings and poor discontents," (Line 76).

Prince Henry (Hal, or the Prince of Wales) points out that many will die if they do not settle their grievance now. Hal makes it clear that the Prince of Wales (Hal himself) has great respect for Hotspur and Hal suggests that "to save the blood on either side," the grievance of the Percy family be settled by a fight between himself and Hotspur (Lines 84-100).

King Henry IV dismisses Hal's suggestion and tells Worcester and Vernon that should the rebellion lay down its arms, "every man / Shall be my friend again, and I'll be his" (Line 108), telling Worcester and Vernon to relay this message on. In other words if the rebellion stops, King Henry IV will grant all the conspirators a pardon and bloody war will be avoided.

Worcester and Vernon leave, Prince Henry saying he is certain "on my life" (Line 115) that the King Henry's offer will not be accepted; Hotspur and Douglas together "Are confident against the world in arms" or believe they can win and so will not accept King Henry's terms (Lines 116-117).

King Henry IV agrees with his son, saying that all his men will be ready (Line 117), King Henry IV, Sir Walter Blunt and John of Lancaster now leaving.

Falstaff and Hal are now alone, Falstaff asking Hal to look out for him on the battlefield. Hal tells Falstaff to say his prayers and reminds Falstaff that "thou [you] owest [owe] God a death" (Line 127). Hal now exits.

Falstaff, now completely alone says he does not look forward to death and in fact wants to avoid it, asking for Hal's help should he be in trouble on the battlefield (Lines 120-126), and asking what the value of honor is if one is wounded and pointing out that honor is merely a word (Lines 127-143).

Act V. Scene II. - The Rebel Camp near Shrewsbury.

Hotspur: "Let each man do his best...."

Worcester decides not to tell Hotspur of King Henry's generous pardon offer, arguing that if they accept, they will never be trusted. Vernon disagrees. Douglas and Hotspur arrive, Worcester lying to the two men that King Henry is merciless and also by not telling them of King Henry's pardon offer. Worcester tells us that Hal has challenged Hotspur to single combat and both Vernon and Worcester sing Hal's praises showing just how far Hal has come since his days of stealing with Falstaff and company. Hotspur faces certain defeat but bravely starts battle....

Worcester begins the scene by saying Hotspur, his nephew must not know of "The liberal kind offer of the king" (the generous pardon offer made by the king), (Line 1).

Vernon disagrees, but Worcester explains that King Henry IV, though he says he will love them, will never totally trust them even if they accept the pardon (Lines 4-24).

Vernon agrees but not wholeheartedly and Hotspur now arrives with Douglas and several officers and soldiers (Line 25).

Worcester tells Hotspur that "The king will bid you battle presently" (Line 30) meaning King Henry IV will fight them soon. Worcester does not mention the King Henry's generous offer of a pardon if the rebellion stopped....

Instead, Worcester tells Hotspur that "There is no seeming mercy in the king" (there appears to be no mercy in the king), (Line 34), Worcester then going on to explain that he gently told King Henry of their "grievances," (Line 36). In return, Worcester tells Hotspur, King Henry called them "rebels," and "traitors;" (Lines 34-40).

Douglas enters, calling the rebels to arms since King Henry's forces are already in battle with Douglas who says he has held them off.

Worcester now mentions that Hal had challenged Hotspur to a single fight (Line 45) and learns from Worcester that Hal has become quite modest, noble and gracious, recognizing Hotspur's merit and chiding his own misspent youth.

Vernon too, is impressed with Hal, so much so that he says "If he outlive the envy of this day, / England did never owe so sweet a hope," (if he lives, England will be lucky) since Hal is a man "So much misconstru'd [misjudged] in his wantonness" (Line 68).

A Messenger now arrives, telling Hotspur, "My lord, prepare; the king comes on apace" (King Henry's forces are approaching), (Line 89).

Outnumbered, Hotspur bravely and courageously exclaims, "Let each man do his best:" (Line 92), Hotspur biding his men to battle to the sounds of trumpets. His men embrace and leave for the battle that awaits them...

Act V. Scene III. - Between the Camps.

Falstaff: "I like not such grinning honour as Sir Walter hath...."

The battle rages. Douglas kills Sir Walter Blunt, believing him to be King Henry. We learn that King Henry has several such impersonators on the battlefield to protect him. Douglas explains to Hotspur that he has only killed Sir Walter Blunt. Falstaff is a worried man, barely three of his one hundred and fifty men have survived the bloodbath, Falstaff questioning again the value of honor if one dies in war. Falstaff tells Hal that he has killed Hotspur. Hal does not believe him. Falstaff pledges to kill Hotspur but to save himself first...

The battle between the rebels and King Henry's forces is in full swing, with fighting on the battlefield.

Douglas and Sir Walter Blunt meet on the battlefield. Sir Walter Blunt demands to know who crosses his path, learning that it is Douglas who wishes to kill King Henry.

Douglas asks Sir Walter Blunt if he is King Henry, Sir Walter lying and saying that he is. Douglas announces that he has already killed "The Lord of Stafford" (Line 7) today but that it was not whom he wished to kill. Clearly the King Henry's forces are swapping armor to deceive the Percies since Douglas believes Sir Walter really is King Henry IV (Lines 1-13).

The two fight and Sir Walter Blunt is slain (killed).

Hotspur now approaches Douglas who proclaims King Henry dead (Lines 13-18).

Douglas is in fact very proud of this, telling Hotspur "All's done, all's won: here breathless lies the king" (Line 16).

Hotspur tells him he is wrong, he recognizes the face as that of Sir Walter Blunt not King Henry IV (Lines 19-23).

Douglas asks Hotspur why Sir Walter told him he was King Henry IV? Hotspur replies that "The king hath [has] many [men] marching in his coats" (Line 25) for the purpose of deception.

Douglas, angry says "I will kill all his coats; / I'll murder all his wardrobes, piece by piece, / Until I meet the king" (Line 26).

Hotspur and Douglas leave, Hotspur pledging to fight on (Line 28).

Falstaff now alone, enters a deeply worried man. On the battlefield, Falstaff realizes that he cannot "'scape [escape] shot-free" from injury as easily as he could in London (Line 30).

Finding the dead body of Sir Walter Blunt, Falstaff remarks "there's honor for you! here's no vanity!" clearly not seeing the point in Sir Walter Blunt's honor if it means death (Line 34).

Falstaff now worried, explains that "I am as hot as molten lead, and as heavy too:" (Line 35). He begs that "God keep the lead out of me!" that is flying across the battlefield and remarks that barely three of his one hundred and fifty men have survived the bloodbath of this battle.

Hal now arrives, criticizing Falstaff for standing idle whilst the battle still rages on. Hal also asks for Falstaff's sword so he may continue fighting and avenging the death of his men to their "vaunting enemies," (Lines 41-44).

Falstaff refuses, claiming that he deserves rest since "I have paid [killed] Percy [Hotspur], I have made him sure" (Line 48).

Hal does not believe him, saying Percy is still alive and able to kill Falstaff, Hal again asking for Falstaff's sword. Falstaff refuses, giving Hal his pistol instead. Opening a case to hopefully find Falstaff's pistol, Hal instead finds a bottle of sack (alcohol), (Lines 54-56).

Hal is not impressed, asking if now is the time to "jest and dally" (rejoice) when others are still fighting (Line 57). Knowing it is not, Hal throws the bottle of sack at Falstaff and leaves.

Alone again, Falstaff is certain that "if Percy [Hotspur] be alive, I'll pierce [kill] him" (Line 58). Falstaff will kill Hotspur [Percy] if he crosses him but he will not look for Hotspur and face death if he can avoid it. Falstaff also makes it clear that he does not think death is at all glorious and seeks to avoid it at all costs.

Falstaff: "I like not such grinning honour as Sir Walter hath [has]: give me life; which if I can save, so; if not, honour comes unlooked for, and there's an end" (Lines 61-64).

Act V. Scene IV. - Another Part of the Field.

Falstaff: "The better part of valour is discretion...."

King Henry IV tells his son to leave the battlefield. Hal does not want to, arguing that a scratch should not warrant his leaving the battle. Douglas fights King Henry, King Henry losing. Hal saves King Henry, Douglas running away. This redeems Hal in King Henry's eyes.

Hotspur and Hal at last fight, Hal first showing his respect for Hotspur. Falstaff cheers Hal on but Douglas returns, fighting Falstaff who falls to the ground, feigning death. Hal kills Hotspur and mourns Falstaff's death. Falstaff rises, explaining that he faked his death to avoid a real one at the hands of Douglas.

Falstaff, fearing Hotspur is faking his death, stabs him and claims that he killed Hotspur, expecting to be made an Earl or a Duke. He explains that though he was on the ground like Hotspur, both rose up and Falstaff then killed Hotspur. The battle over, a general stand down in announced....

King Henry IV, Hal, John of Lancaster and Westmoreland enter. King Henry tells his son whom he calls Harry (Hal) to withdraw from the battle, instructing Lord John of Lancaster to accompany Harry (Lines 1-3).

Lord John wishes not to unless he too bleeds which he does not. King Henry orders the Earl of Westmoreland to accompany his son instead.

Hal however does not want to leave the battlefield for his tent, saying to Westmoreland that "I do not need your help: / And God forbid a shallow scratch [his wound] should drive / The Prince of Wales from such a field as this, / Where stain'd nobility lies trodden [trodden] on, / And rebels' arms triumph in massacres!" (Lines 11-13), Hal at last showing his true colours to all in this very important and explicit speech.

Lancaster is clearly moved by Hal's words, bidding Westmoreland who exits with him, presumably back into the raging battle (Lines 14-16).

Hal is very impressed with Lancaster, saying "I did not think thee [you] lord of such spirit:" adding that before Hal loved Lancaster as a brother, "But now, I do respect thee [you] as [much as] my soul" (Line 20).

King Henry tells Hal how Lancaster held "Lord Percy at the point", Hal agreeing that "this boy / Lends mettle [spirit] to us all" (Line 24). Hal now exits.

Douglas now enters, shouting "Another king!" adding that "they grow like Hydra's heads:" (Line 25).

Announcing himself as Douglas, a man fatal to those wearing the "colours" of kings, Douglas immediately asks: "what art thou, / That counterfeit'st the person of a king?" (Who are you that impersonates the king?), (Line 28).

King Henry IV announces himself as "The king himself;" and tells Douglas that it is he whom "Douglas, grieves at heart" for because Douglas has met "So many of his shadows" and "not the very king" himself (Lines 29-34).

King Henry IV also tells Douglas that "I have two boys" who are seeking out both Hotspur and Douglas to kill. However since he has found Douglas first, King Henry tells Douglas that he will kill him instead.

Douglas for his part, says he fears he is fighting yet another counterfeit (impostor) and the two fight (Lines 29-39).

King Henry IV, however is not winning this battle, and is clearly facing death when Hal reenters telling Douglas to:

"Hold up thy [your] head, vile Scot, or thou [you] art [are] like [likely to] / Never to hold it up again!" (Line 40), (Give up by holding your head up vile Scot or you are likely never to hold it up again since it will be cut off).

Saying that the spirits of the valiant Shirley, Stafford and Blunt (all dead) are on his arms, Hal immediately tells Douglas that "It is the Prince of Wales [successor to King Henry's throne] that threatens thee [you]," and the two immediately begin fighting (Lines 40-41).

In the fighting Douglas flies or runs away from Hal, obviously running away from fighting for his life.

With his life now safe, King Henry IV tells his son to "Stay, and breathe awhile" or catch his breath, adding that Hal has redeemed himself in his eyes by saving his life (Lines 47-50).

King Henry IV leaves and Hotspur enters, finally meeting Hal on the battlefield.

Hotspur announces himself by saying, "If I mistake not, thou art Harry Monmouth" (If I am not mistaken, you are Harry Monmouth), (Line 59). Hal is annoyed that Hotspur does not address him by his title of Prince, Hotspur no doubt doing this to show he does not recognize either King Henry IV's or Prince Hal's title or claim to rule England.

Hotspur announces himself as "Harry Percy" (Line 61).

Hal respectfully tells Hotspur that "I see / A very valiant rebel" (Line 62), telling Hotspur that he is "the Prince of Wales;" and also that just as "Two stars keep not [cannot keep] their motion in one sphere [England]; / Nor can England brook [accept] a double reign, [a double rule], / Of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales" (Lines 62-67).

Hotspur agrees, saying, "the hour is [has] come / To end the one of us;" (The time has come for one of us to die), (Line 68).

After Hotspur says that he can no longer "brook" [accept], Hal's vanities, the two fight (Line 74).

Falstaff who is watching nearby, cheers on Hal (Line 76) remarking that "you shall find no boy's play here," (Line 76) in the fighting.

Having said this, Falstaff is immediately joined by Douglas who fights with Falstaff, Falstaff dropping to the ground as if dead. Douglas leaves and Hotspur himself is wounded and falls to the ground.

Hotspur with his dying breaths says his last words only to die before finishing them (Lines 77-85).

Hal, again showing his respectful character, nobly finishes his Hotspur's last words, telling Hotspur, "Fare thee well [good luck], great heart!" (Line 87).

Hal then goes on to list Hotspur's many virtues (Lines 88-101), telling Hotspur that his "ignominy [disgrace or humiliation]" will not be "remember'd [remembered or recorded] in thy [your] epitaph! [words on one's headstone, grave]" (Line 101).

Spying Falstaff on the ground, Hal mourns the loss of his friend, saying "Poor Jack, farewell!" (Line 103) yet mentioning perhaps a little disrespectfully that "Death hath [has] not struck so fat a deer to-day, / Though many dearer, in this bloody fray" (Line 108). Hal also says that he will see Falstaff "Embowell'd" before leaving his dead comrade.

Falstaff, alone and now rising has other ideas about the greatly exaggerated rumors of his death. Exclaiming "Embowelled!", Falstaff says if Hal would do this, he might as well powder and eat him for breakfast too (Line 111).

Falstaff now explains his actions, saying he counterfeited or faked his own death to avoid a real one at the hands of Douglas. He explains that "to die, is to be a counterfeit;" adding that to counterfeit or fake dying when a man lives because of it is no counterfeit at all.

Falstaff: "to die, is to be a counterfeit; for he is but the counterfeit of a man, who hath not the life of a man; but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby [therefore] liveth [lives], is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed" (Lines 114-121).

Falstaff now famously exclaims that "The better part of valour is discretion;" adding "in the which better part, I have saved my life" (Line 122).

Falstaff still fears Hotspur however, saying "'Zounds! I am afraid of this gunpowder Percy though he be dead:" (Line 124). Fearing Hotspur might very well be counterfeiting his death as Falstaff has done, Falstaff resolves to be certain of Hotspur's death by stabbing him.

Additionally Falstaff reasons he can claim to have killed Hotspur himself, gaining all the glory of this kill. After all, there is no one around to dispute him. Stabbing the already dead Hotspur in the thigh, Falstaff carries Hotspur on his back.

Hal and John of Lancaster reenter, the two seeing Falstaff very much alive and not dead as Hal had told John (Lines 132-135).

Hal is certain that he saw Falstaff "dead, / Breathless and bleeding on the ground" (Line 136), wondering if this is some fantasy "That plays upon our [Hal and John's] eyesight?" (Line 138).

Hal still confused, remarks that "Thou [you, Falstaff] are not what thou [you] seem'st [seem]" (Line 140).

Falstaff agrees, saying he is indeed Jack and that the man he now boldly throws to the ground is indeed a Percy, telling Hal that he expects to be made "either earl or duke," for killing Hotspur (Lines 141-146).

Hal explains that he killed Hotspur himself (Line 147), Falstaff correcting Hal that though they were both on the ground out of breath, they both rose up and it was here that Falstaff killed Hotspur after a fight of over an hour. Furthermore Falstaff directs Hal to the thigh wound Falstaff made as further proof that it is he, not Hal who killed Hotspur (Lines 148-157).

Jack of Lancaster says this "is the strangest tale that e'er [ever] I heard" (Line 158), Hal deciding to let Falstaff keep this false victory.

Hal sums this up by saying to Falstaff "if a lie may do thee [you] grace, / I'll gild [metaphor for embellish / add to] it with the happiest terms I have" (Line 161).

A retreat is sounded, the battle over, Hal best describing their victory by saying, "the day is ours" (Line 164). The Prince and John of Lancaster leave to "see what friends are living," and "who are dead" ( Line 165).

Falstaff, alone again says that he will follow to receive his reward (Lines 166-169).

Act V. Scene V. - Another Part of the Field.

King Henry: "did we not send grace, / Pardon, and terms of love to all of you?"

The rebels defeated, King Henry IV reminds prisoner Worcester that he did offer the rebels a pardon to avoid war. Worcester and Vernon are to be killed, while King Henry IV decides the fate of the other prisoners. King Henry allows Hal to set Douglas free. Attention now turns to the next battle to be fought, against Northhumberland and Archbishop Scroop, who are arming themselves for war...

With the rebels soundly defeated, King Henry IV, Hal, John of Lancaster, Westmoreland and "Others" enter with Worcester, Vernon and others held as prisoners

King Henry reminds Worcester that "did we not send grace, / Pardon, and terms of love to all of you?" (Did we not offer a full pardon and our love to all of you to stop this rebellion?), (Line 2).

Worcester bravely replies that he did what "safety urg'd [urged] me to;" saying that "I embrace this fortune patiently, / Since not to be avoided it falls on me" (I embrace my fate patiently since I know that it cannot be avoided), (Lines 12-13).

King Henry agrees that his fate cannot be avoided, ordering Worcester and Vernon to be put to death whilst considering the punishment of the other prisoners (Line 14-15).

Worcester and Vernon are escorted off by guards leaving Hal and King Henry to discuss events. Hal asks his father to let him dispose (control) of the life of Douglas who is currently a prisoner in his tent, King Henry agreeing to his son's wish "With all my heart" (Line 24).

Hal then gives John of Lancaster the task of setting Douglas free whilst pointing out that Douglas' valour has taught them all to "cherish such high deeds, / Even in the bosom of our adversaries" (Line 31).

King Henry IV finishes the play by explaining that all that remains is for them to divide their forces. King Henry IV sends John and Westmoreland to York at their best speed to fight Northhumberland and Richard Scroop, Archbishop of York who are apparently arming themselves.

King Henry IV and Hal (Harry as King Henry IV calls him) will head to Wales to fight "Glendower and the Earl of March."

King Henry is determined that the "Rebellion in this land shall lose his sway," (Line 41), and adds that they should not rest nor take leave "till all our own be won" (End of play).

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