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 V. Scene IV.

The First Part of King Henry the Fourth

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Act V. Scene IV.

Scene IV.—Another Part of the Field.

Alarums. Excursions. Enter KING HENRY,
the PRINCE, JOHN OF LANCASTER, and
WESTMORELAND.

K. Hen. I prithee,
Harry, withdraw thyself; thou bleed'st too
much.
Lord John of Lancaster, go you with him.
Lanc. Not I, my lord, unless I did bleed
too.
Prince. I beseech your majesty, make up,
Lest your retirement do amaze your friends.
K. Hen. I will do so.
My Lord of Westmoreland, lead him to his
tent.
West. Come, my lord, I'll lead you to your
tent.
Prince. Lead me, my lord? I do not need
your help:
And God forbid a shallow scratch should drive
The Prince of Wales from such a field as this,
Where stain'd nobility lies trodden on,
And rebels' arms triumph in massacres!
Lanc. We breathe too long: come, cousin
Westmoreland,
Our duty this way lies: for God's sake, come.
[Exeunt JOHN OF LANCASTER and
WESTMORELAND.
Prince. By God, thou hast deceiv'd me, Lan-
caster;
I did not think thee lord of such a spirit:
Before, I lov'd thee as a brother, John;
But now, I do respect thee as my soul.
K. Ben. I saw him hold Lord Percy at the
point
With lustier maintenance than I did look for
Of such an ungrown warrior.
Prince. O! this boy
Lends mettle to us all. [Exit.

Alarums. Enter DOUGLAS.
Doug. Another king! they grow like Hydra's
heads:
I am the Douglas, fatal to all those
That wear those colours on them: what art
thou,
That counterfeit'st the person of a king?
K. Hen. The king himself; who, Douglas,
grieves at heart
So many of his shadows thou hast met
And not the very king. I have two boys
Seek Percy and thyself about the field:
But, seeing thou fall'st on me so luckily,
I will assay thee; so defend thyself.
Doug. I fear thou art another counterfeit;
And yet, in faith, thou bear'st thee like a king:
But mine I am sure thou art, whoe'er thou be,
And thus I win thee.

[They fight. KING HENRY being in
danger, re-enter the PRINCE.
Prince. Hold up thy head, vile Scot, or thou
art like
Never to hold it up again! the spirits
Of valiant Shirley, Stafford, Blunt, are in my
arms:
It is the Prince of Wales that threatens thee,
Who never promiseth but he means to pay.
[ They fight: DOUGLAS flies.
Cheerly, my lord: how fares your Grace?
Sir Nicholas Gawsey hath for succour sent,
And so hath Clifton: I'll to Clifton straight.
K. Hen. Stay, and breathe awhile.
Thou hast redeem'd thy lost opinion,
And show'd thou mak'st some tender of my life,
In this fair rescue thou hast brought to me.
Prince. O God I they did me too much
injury
That ever said I hearken'd for your death.
If it were so, I might have let alone
The insulting hand of Douglas over you;
Which would have been as speedy in your end
As all the poisonous potions in the world,
And sav'd the treacherous labour of your son.
K. Hen. Make up to Clifton: I'll to Sir
Nicholas Gawsey. [Exit.

Enter HOTSPUR.
Hot. If I mistake not, thou art Harry Mon-
mouth.
Prince. Thou speak'st as if I would deny my
name.
Hot. My name is Harry Percy.
Prince. Why, then, I see
A very valiant rebel of that name.
I am the Prince of Wales; and think not,
Percy,
To share with me in glory any more:
Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere;
Nor can one England brook a double reign,
Of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales.
Hot. Nor shall it, Harry; for the hour is
come
To end the one of us; and would to God
Thy name in arms were now as great as mine!
Prince. I'll make it greater ere I part from
thee;
And all the budding honours on thy crest
I'll crop. to make a garland for my head.
Hot. I can no longer brook thy vanities.
[They fight.

Enter FALSTAFF.
Fal. Well said, Hal! to it, Hal! Nay, you
shall find no boy's play here, I can tell you.

Re-enter DOUGLAS; he fights with FALSTAFF.
who falls down as if lie were dead, and exit
DOUGLAS. HOTSPUR is wounded, and falls.
Hot. O, Harry! thou hast robb'd me of my
youth.
I better brook the loss of brittle life
Than those proud titles thou hast won of me;
They wound my thoughts worse than thy sword
my flesh:
But thought's the slave of life, and life time's
fool;
And time, that takes survey of all the world,
Must have a stop. O! I could prophesy,
But that the earthy and cold hand of death
Lies on my tongue. No, Percy, thou art dust,
And food for— [Dies.
Prince. For worms, brave Percy. Fare thee
well, great heart!
Ill-weav'd ambition, how much art thou shrunk!
When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;
But now, two paces of the vilest earth
Is room enough: this earth, that bears thee
dead,
Bears not alive so stout a gentleman.
If thou wert sensible of courtesy,
I should not make so dear a show of zeal:
But let my favours hide thy mangled face,
And, even in thy behalf, I'll thank myself
For doing these fair rites of tenderness.
Adieu, and take thy praise with thee to heaven'
Thy ignomy sleep with thee in the grave,
But not remembered in thy epitaph!
[He spies FALSTAFF on the ground.
What! old acquaintance! could not all this flesh
Keep in a little life? Poor Jack, farewell!
I could have better spar'd a better man.
O! I should have a heavy miss of thee
If I were much in love with vanity.
Death hath not struck so fat a deer to-day,
Though many dearer, in this bloody fray.
Embowell'd will I see thee by and by:
Till then in blood by noble Percy lie. [Exit.
Fal. [Rising.] Embowelled! if thou embowel
me to-day, I'll give you leave to powder me and
eat me too, to morrow. 'Sblood! 'twas time to
counterfeit, or that hot termagant Scot had paid
me scot and lot too. Counterfeit? I lie, I am
no counterfeit: 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 liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but
the true and perfect image of life indeed. The
better part of valour is discretion; in the which
better part, I have saved my life. 'Zounds! I
am afraid of this gunpowder Percy though he
be dead: how, if he should counterfeit too and
rise? By my faith I am afraid he would prove
the better counterfeit. Therefore I'll make him
sure; yea, and I'll swear I killed him. Why may
not he rise as well as I? Nothing confutes me
but eyes, and nobody sees me: therefore, sirrah
[stabbing him], with a new wound in your thigh
come you along with me.
[He takes HOTSPUR on his back.

Re-enter the, PRINCE and JOHN OF LANCASTER.
Prince. Come, brother John; full bravely hast
thou flesh'd
Thy maiden sword.
Lanc. But, soft! whom have we here?
Did you not tell me this fat man was dead?
Prince. I did; I saw him dead,
Breathless and bleeding on the ground.
Art thou alive? or is it fantasy
That plays upon our eyesight? I prithee, speak;
We will not trust our eyes without our ears:
Thou art not what thou seem'st.
Fal. No, that's certain; I am not a double
man: but if I be not Jack Falstaff, then am I a
Jack. There is Percy [throwing the body down]:
if your father will do me any honour, so; if not,
let him kill the next Percy himself. I look to
be either earl or duke, I can assure you.
Prince. Why, Percy I killed myself, and saw
thee dead.
Fal. Didst thou? Lord, lord' how this world
is given to lying. I grant you I was down and
out of breath, and so was he; but we rose both
at an instant, and fought a long hour by Shrews-
bury clock. If I may be believed, so; if not, let
them that should reward valour bear the sin
upon their own heads. I'll take it upon my
death, I gave him this wound in the thigh: if
the man were alive and would deny it, 'zounds,
I would make him eat a piece of my sword.
Lanc. This is the strangest talte that e'er I
heard.
Prince. This is the strangest fellow, brother
John.
Come, bring your luggage nobly on your back:
For my part, if a lie may do thee grace,
I'll gild it with the happiest terms I have.
[A retreat is sounded.
The trumpet sounds retreat; the day is ours.
Come, brother, let us to the highest of the field,
To see what friends are living, who are dead.
[Exeunt the PRINCE and JOHN OF
LANCASTER.
Fal. I'll follow, as they say, for reward. He
that rewards me. God reward him! If I do grow
great, I'll grow less; for I'll purge, and leave
sack, and live cleanly, as a nobleman should do.
[Exit.
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