William Shakespeare's King Henry the Fourth is forever famous for the comic character Falstaff who infamously proclaims "discretion is the better part of valour".
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HOME > Plays > The First Part of King Henry the Fourth > Act I. Scene II.

The First Part of King Henry the Fourth

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Act I. Scene II.

Scene II.—The Same. An Apartment of the
PRINCE'S.

Enter the PRINCE and FALSTAFF.

Fal. Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad?
Prince. Thou art so fat-witted, with drinking
of old sack, and unbuttoning thee after supper,
and sleeping upon benches after noon, that thou
hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou
wouldst truly know. What a devil hast thou to
do with the time of the day? unless hours were
cups of sack, and minutes capons, and clocks the
tongues of bawds, and dials the signs of leaping-
houses, and the blessed sun himself a fair hot
wench in flame-colour'd taffeta, I see no reason
why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand
the time of the day.
Fal. Indeed, you come near me now, Hal;
for we that take purses go by the moon and the
seven stars, and not by Phœbus, he, 'that wan-
dering knight so fair.' And, I prithee, sweet wag,
when thou art king,—as. God save thy Grace,—
majesty, I should say, for grace thou wilt have
none,—
Prince. What! none?
Fal. No, by my troth; not so much as will
serve to be prologue to an egg and butter.
Prince. Well, how then? come, roundly,
roundly.
Fal. Marry, then, sweet wag, when thou art
king, let not us that are squires of the night's
body be called thieves of the day's beauty; let us
be Diana's foresters, gentlemen of the shade,
minions of the moon; and let men say, we be
men of good government, being governed as the
sea is, by our noble and chaste mistress the moon,
under whose countenance we steal.
Prince. Thou sayest well, and it holds well
too; for the fortune of us that are the moon's
men doth ebb and flow like the sea, being go-
verned as the sea is, by the moon. As for proof
now; a purse of gold most resolutely snatched
on Monday night and most dissolutely spent on
Tuesday morning; got with swearing 'Lay by;'
and spent with crying 'Bring in:' now in as
low an ebb as the foot of the ladder, and by and
by in as high a flow as the ridge of the gallows.
Fal. By the Lord, thou sayest true, lad. And
is not my hostess of the tavern a most sweet
wench?
Prince. As the honey of Hybia, my old lad of
the castle. And is not a buff jerkin a most sweet
robe of durance?
Fal. How now, how now, mad wag! what, in
thy quips and thy quiddities? what a plague
have I to do with a buff jerkin?
Prince. Why, what a pox have I to do with
my hostess of the tavern?
Fal. Well, thou hast called her to a reckoning
many a time and oft.
Prince. Did I ever call for thee to pay thy
part?
Fal. No; I'll give thee thy due, thou hast
paid all there.
Prince, Yea, and elsewhere, so far as my coin
would stretch; and where it would not, I have
used my credit.
Fal. Yea, and so used it that, were it not here
apparent that thou art heir apparent,—But, I
prithee, sweet wag, shall there be gallows stand-
ing in England when thou art king, and resolution
thus fobbed as it is with the rusty curb of old
father antick the law? Do not thou, when thou
art king, hang a thief.
Prince. No; thou shalt.
Fal. Shall I? O rare! By the Lord, I'll be a
brave judge.
Prince. Thou judgest false already; I mean,
thou shall have the hanging of the thieves and
so become a rare hangman.
Fal. Well, Hal, well; and in some sort it
jumps with my humour as well as waiting in the
court, I can tell you.
Prince. For obtaining of suits?
Fal. Yea, for obtaining of suits, whereof the
hangman hath no lean wardrobe. 'Sblood, I am
as melancholy as a gib cat, or a lugged bear.
Prince. Or an old lion, or a lover's lute.
Fal. Yea, or the drone of a Lincolnshire
bagpipe.
Prince. What sayest thou to a hare, or the
melancholy of Moor-ditch?
Fal. Thou hast the most unsavory similes,
and art, indeed, the most comparative, rascalliest,
sweet young prince; but, Hal, I prithee, trouble
me no more with vanity. I would to God thou
and I knew where a commodity of good names
were to be bought. An old lord of the council
rated me the other day in the street about you,
sir, but I marked him not; and yet he talked
very wisely, but I regarded him not; and yet he
talked wisely, and in the street too.
Prince. Thou didst well; for wisdom cries
out in the streets, and no man regards it.
Fal. O! thou hast damnable iteration, and
art indeed able to corrupt a saint. Thou hast
done much harm upon me, Hal; God forgive
thee for it! Before I knew thee, Hal, I knew
nothing; and now am I, if a man should speak
truly, little better than one of the wicked. I
must give over this life, and I will give it over;
by the Lord, an I do not, I am a villain: I'll be
damned for never a king's son in Christendom.
Prince. Where shall we take a purse to-mor-
row. Jack?
Fal. Zounds! where thou wilt, lad, I'll make
one; an I do not, call me a villain and baffle me.
Prince. I see a good amendment of life in
thee; from praying to purse-taking.

Enter POINS, at a distance.
Fal. Why, Hal, 'tis my vocation, Hal; 'tis no
sin for a man to labour in his vocation. Poins!
Now shall we know if Gadshill have set a match.
O! if men were to be saved by merit, what hole
in hell were hot enough for him? This is the
most omnipotent villain that ever cried 'Stand!'
to a true man.
Prince. Good morrow, Ned.
Poins. Good morrow, sweet Hal. What says
Monsieur Remorse? What says Sir John Sack-
and-Sugar? Jack! how agrees the devil and thee
about thy soul, that thou soldest him on Good-
Friday last for a cup of Madeira and a cold
capon's leg?
Prince. Sir John stands to his word, the devil
shall have his bargain; for he was never yet a
breaker of proverbs: he will give the devil his due.
Poins. Then art thou damned for keeping
thy word with the devil.
Prince. Else he had been damned for cozen-
ing the devil.
Poins. But my lads, my lads, to-morrow
morning, by four o'clock, early at Gadshill!
There are pilgrims going to Canterbury with rich
offerings, and traders riding to London with fat
purses: I have vizards for you all; you have
horses for yourselves. Gadshill lies to night in
Rochester; I have bespoke supper to-morrow
night in Eastcheap: we may do it as secure as
sleep. If you will go I will stuff your purses full
of crowns; if you will not, tarry at home and be
hanged.
Fal. Hear ye, Yedward: if I tarry at home
and go not, I'll hang you for going.
Poins. You will, chops?
Fal. Hal, wilt thou make one?
Prince. Who, I rob? I a thief? not I, by my
faith.
Fal. There's neither honesty, manhood, nor
good fellowship in thee, nor thou camest not of
the blood royal, if thou darest not stand for ten
shillings.
Prince. Well, then, once in my days I'll be a
madcap.
Fal. Why, that's well said.
Prince. Well, come what will, I'll tarry at
home.
Fal. By the Lord, I'll be a traitor then, when
thou art king.
Prince. I care not.
Poins. Sir John, I prithee, leave the prince
and me alone: I will lay him down such reasons
for this adventure that he shall go.
Fal. Well, God give thee the spirit of per-
suasion and him the ears of profiting, that what
thou speakest may move, and what he hears
may be believed, that the true prince may, for
recreation sake, prove a false thief; for the poor
abuses of the time want countenance. Farewell:
you shall find me in Eastcheap.
Prince. Farewell, thou latter spring! Fare-
well, All-hallown summer! [Exit FALSTAFF.
Poins. Now, my good sweet honey lord, ride
with us to-morrow: I have a jest to execute that
I cannot manage alone. Falstaff, Bardolph,
Peto, and Gadshill shall rob those men that we
have already waylaid; yourself and I will not be
there; and when they have the booty, if you
and I do not rob them, cut this head from my
shoulders.
Prince. But how shall we part with them in
setting forth?
Poins. Why, we will set forth before or after
them, and appoint them a place of meeting,
wherein it is at our pleasure to fail; and then
will they adventure upon the exploit themselves,
which they shall have no sooner achieved but
we'll set upon them.
Prince. Yea, but 'tis like that they will know
us by our horses, by our habits, and by every
other appointment, to be ourselves.
Poins. Tut! our horses they shall not see,
I'll tie them in the wood; our vizards we will
change after we leave them; and, sirrah, I have
cases of buckram for the nonce, to inmask our
noted outward garments.
Prince. Yea, but I doubt they will be too hard
for us.
Poins. Well, for two of them, I know them to
be as true-bred cowards as ever turned back;
and for the third, if he fight longer than he sees
reason, I'll forswear arms. The virtue of this
jest will be, the incomprehensible lies that this
same fat rogue will tell us when we meet at
supper: how thirty, at least, he fought with;
what wards, what blows, what extremities he
endured; and in the reproof of this lies the jest.
Prince. Well, I'll go with thee: provide us
all things necessary and meet me to-morrow
night in Eastcheap; there I'll sup. Farewell.
Poins. Farewell, my lord. [Exit.
Prince. I know you all, and will awhile up-
hold
The unyok'd humour of your idleness:
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder'd at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wish'd for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So, when this loose behaviour I throw off,
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I'll so offend to make offence a skill;
Redeeming time when men think least I will.
[Exit.
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