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 II. Scene II.

The First Part of King Henry the Fourth

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Act II. Scene II.

Scene II.—The Road by Gadshill.

Enter the PRINCE and POINS.

Poins. Come, shelter, shelter: I have re-
moved Falstaff's horse, and he frets like a
gummed velvet.
Prince. Stand close.

Fal. Poins! Poins, and be hanged! Poins!
Prince. Peace, ye fat-kidneyed rascal! What
a brawling dost thou keep!
Fal. Where's Poins, Hal?
Prince. He is walked up to the top of the
hill: I'll go seek him.
[Pretends to seek POINS, and retires.
Fal. I am accursed to rob in that thief's
company; the rascal hath removed my horse
and tied him I know not where. If I travel but
four foot by the squire further afoot I shall
break my wind. Well, I doubt not but to die a
fair death for all this, if I 'scape hanging for
killing that rogue. I have forsworn his com-
pany hourly any time this two-and-twenty years,
and yet I am bewitched with the rogue's com-
pany. If the rascal have not given me medicines
to make me love him, I'll be hanged; it could
not be else: I have drunk medicines. Poins
Hal! a plague upon you both! Bardolph!
Peto! I'll starve ere I'll rob a foot further. An
'twere not as good a deed as drink to turn true
man and leave these rogues, I am the veriest
varlet that ever chewed with a tooth. Eight
yards of uneven ground is threescore and ten
miles afoot with me, and the stony-hearted
villains know it well enough. A plague upon't
when thieves cannot be true one to another!
[They whistle] Whew! A plague upon you
all! Give me my horse, you rogues; give me
my horse and be hanged.
Prince. [Coming forward.] Peace, ye fat-
guts! lie down: lay thine ear close to the
ground, and list if thou canst hear the tread
of travellers.
Fal. Have you any levers to lift me up again,
being down? 'Sblood! I'll not bear mine own
flesh so far afoot again for all the coin in thy
father's exchequer. What a plague mean ye to
colt me thus?
Prince. Thou liest: thou art not colted; thou
art uncolted.
Fal. I prithee, good Prince Hal, help me to
my horse, good king's son.
Prince. Out, you rogue I shall I be your ostler?
Fal. Go, hang thyself in thine own heir appa-
rent garters! If I be ta'en I'll peach for this. An
I have not ballads made on you all, and sung to
filthy tunes, let a cup of sack be my poison: when
a jest is so forward, and afoot too! I hate it.

Gads. Stand.
Fal. So I do, against my will.
Poins. O! 'tis our setter: I know his voice.

Bard. What news?
Gads. Case ye, case ye; on with your vizards:
there's money of the king's coming down the
hill; 'tis going to the king's exchequer.
Fal. You lie, you rogue; 'tis going to the
king's tavern.
Gads. There's enough to make us all.
Fal. To be hanged.
Prince. Sirs, you four shall front them in the
narrow lane; Ned Poins and I will walk lower:
if they 'scape from your encounter then they
light on us.
Peto. How many be there of them?
Gads. Some eight or ten.
Fal. 'Zounds! will they not rob us?
Prince. What! a coward. Sir John Paunch?
Fal. Indeed, I am not John of Gaunt, your
grandfather; but yet no coward, Hal.
Prince. Well, we leave that to the proof.
Poins. Sirrah Jack, thy horse stands behind
the hedge: when thou needst him there thou
shalt find him. Farewell, and stand fast.
Fal. Now cannot I strike him if I should be
Prince. [Aside to POINS.] Ned, where are our
Poins. Here, hard by; stand close.
[Exeunt PRINCE and POINS.
Fal. Now my masters, happy man be his dole,
say I: every man to his business.

Enter Travellers.
First Trav. Come, neighbour; the boy shall
lead our horses down the hill; we'll walk afoot
awhile, and ease our legs.
Thieves. Stand!
Travellers. Jesu bless us I
Fal. Strike; down with them; cut the vil-
lains' throats: ah! whoreson caterpillars! bacon-
fed knaves! they hate us youth: down with them;
fleece them.
Travellers. O! we are undone, both we and
ours for ever.
Fal. Hang ye, gorbellied knaves, are ye un-
done? No, ye fat chuffs; I would your store
were here! On, bacons, on! What! ye knaves,
young men must live. You are grand-jurors are
ye? We'll jure ye, i' faith.
[Here they rob and bind them. Exeunt.

Re-enter the PRINCE and POINS.
Prince. The thieves have bound the true men.
Now could thou and I rob the thieves and go
merrily to London, it would be argument for a
week, laughter for a month, and a good jest for
Poins. Stand close; I hear them coming.

Re-enter Thieves.
Fal. Come, my masters; let us share, and
then to horse before day. An the Prince and
Poins be not two arrant cowards, there's no
equity stirring: there's no more valour in that
Poins than in a wild duck.
Prince. Your money!
Poins. Villains!
[As they are sharing, the PRINCE and
POINS set upon them. They all run
away; and FALSTAFF, after a blow
or two, runs away too, leaving the
booty behind.
Prince. Got with much ease. Now merrily
to horse:
The thieves are scatter'd and possess'd with fear
So strongly that they dare not meet each other;
Each takes his fellow for an officer.
Away, good Ned. Falstaff sweats to death
And lards the lean earth as he walks along:
Were't not for laughing I should pity him.
Poins. How the rogue roar'd! [Exeunt.
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