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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The First Part of King Henry the Fourth

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King Henry IV, Part I Play

King Henry IV, Part I, picks up where Richard II left off; Henry IV is now King of England but all is not well in his kingdom, Welsh leader Owen Glendower has defeated one of King Henry IV's armies, capturing Edmund Mortimer, its leader. Unfortunately our King does not have a son to take over the reins, his only son Henry V, known as Hal shirks responsibility, preferring to waste away his youth drinking, partying and getting up to trouble with his rogue friends, in particular a certain John Falstaff and his friend Poins.. . He even takes part in the robbery of travellers! If only the King could swap sons with the Percies, he's fighting; Hotspur, the son of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland is by all accounts a brave, couageous soldier. In an important soliloquy, Hal reveals that though he has been keeping bad company, he will soon show his true colors at the right time...

Meanwhile the King punishes the Earl of Worcester, the Earl of Northumberland and Hotspur (Northumberland's son) for forgetting their obligations to their King. Hotspur and his father offer the prisoners from a Scottish campaign gladly, arguing their refusal to do so was all a misunderstanding. The King disagrees, believing Hotspur wanted to use the prisoners to force the King to pay the ransom of Lord Mortimer, his brother-in-law. The King will not do this because Lord Mortimer betrayed his forces by marrying the daughter of Glendower, his enemy on the battlefield! Hotspur is ordered to hand over the prisoners but refuses.

Worcester suggests a plan to deal with the King (the Percy Rebellion), which involves the Percies, Douglas, Glendower and the Archbishop of York siding against the King. Hotspur hands over the prisoners to buy time... The rebels, however quickly begin to argue over how the will divide the spoils of England. Hotspurs' father the Earl of Northumberlaqnd (Henry Percy) falls ill, hurting the rebellion before it even begins since his forces will not be available, whilst Glendower is late gathering his forces. Meanwhile the King has words with his wayward son Hal, Hal becoming determined to earn his father's respect in the forthcoming battle.

The King has also been busy raising a large army... Hotspur, learning this and the fact that Hal will fight beside the King ever courageously tries to find silver linings in an ever darkening cloud... Like Julius Caesar, the two sides exchange words before battle, the King hoping to avoid a bloody fight, offers a pardon to the rebels. Worcester, representing an absent Hotspur, however does not believe this grand offer, choosing to lie to Hotspur that the King is resolute in wanting war. The rebels are completely beaten in the battle that follows, Hal even gaining honor on the battlefield by killing Hotspur, a man many thought would be the stronger of the two in battle. This action saves his father, The King, earning Hal the respect he so desperately wanted. Falstaff, recruited into a battle he wanted no part in, somehow manages to survive the massacre on the battlefield by pretending to be dead, later trying to claim his own glory by claiming Hotspurs' death for himself! Hal graciously lets Falstaff keep this unearned glory. The rebels, Worcester and Sir Richarsd Vernon are executed; Douglas is set free. However not all the rebels have been defeated....


Dramatis Personæ

Act I
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III

Act II
Scene I,
Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV

Scene I, Scene II, Scene III

Act IV
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV

Act V
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV, Scene V

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