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King Henry IV, Part I

Please see the bottom of the page for extensive explanatory notes and other helpful resources.

ACT I SCENE II London. An apartment of the Prince's.
FALSTAFFNow, Hal, what time of day is it, lad?
PRINCE HENRYThou 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.5
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-coloured taffeta, I see no10
reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand
the time of the day.
FALSTAFFIndeed, you come near me now, Hal; for we that take
purses go by the moon and the seven stars, and not
by Phoebus, he,'that wandering knight so fair.' And,15
I prithee, sweet wag, when thou art king, as, God
save thy grace,--majesty I should say, for grace
thou wilt have none,--
FALSTAFFNo, by my troth, not so much as will serve to20
prologue to an egg and butter.
PRINCE HENRYWell, how then? come, roundly, roundly.
FALSTAFFMarry, 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's25
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 HENRYThou sayest well, and it holds well too; for the30
fortune of us that are the moon's men doth ebb and
flow like the sea, being governed, 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 with35
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.
FALSTAFFBy the Lord, thou sayest true, lad. And is not my
hostess of the tavern a most sweet wench?40
PRINCE HENRYAs the honey of Hybla, my old lad of the castle. And
is not a buff jerkin a most sweet robe of durance?
FALSTAFFHow now, how now, mad wag! what, in thy quips and
thy quiddities? what a plague have I to do with a
buff jerkin?45
PRINCE HENRYWhy, what a pox have I to do with my hostess of the tavern?
FALSTAFFWell, thou hast called her to a reckoning many a
time and oft.
PRINCE HENRYDid I ever call for thee to pay thy part?
FALSTAFFNo; I'll give thee thy due, thou hast paid all there.50
PRINCE HENRYYea, and elsewhere, so far as my coin would stretch;
and where it would not, I have used my credit.
FALSTAFFYea, and so used it that were it not here apparent
that thou art heir apparent--But, I prithee, sweet
wag, shall there be gallows standing in England when55
thou art king? and resolution thus fobbed as it is
with the rusty curb of old father antic the law? Do
not thou, when thou art king, hang a thief.
PRINCE HENRYNo; thou shalt.
FALSTAFFShall I? O rare! By the Lord, I'll be a brave judge.

PRINCE HENRYThou judgest false already: I mean, thou shalt have
the hanging of the thieves and so become a rare hangman.
FALSTAFFWell, Hal, well; and in some sort it jumps with my
humour as well as waiting in the court, I can tell
PRINCE HENRYFor obtaining of suits?
FALSTAFFYea, 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 HENRYOr an old lion, or a lover's lute.70
FALSTAFFYea, or the drone of a Lincolnshire bagpipe.
PRINCE HENRYWhat sayest thou to a hare, or the melancholy of
FALSTAFFThou hast the most unsavoury similes and art indeed
the most comparative, rascalliest, sweet young75
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 yet80
he talked very wisely, but I regarded him not; and
yet he talked wisely, and in the street too.
PRINCE HENRYThou didst well; for wisdom cries out in the
streets, and no man regards it.
FALSTAFFO, thou hast damnable iteration and art indeed able85
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 give90
it over: by the Lord, and I do not, I am a villain:
I'll be damned for never a king's son in
PRINCE HENRYWhere shall we take a purse tomorrow, Jack?
FALSTAFF'Zounds, where thou wilt, lad; I'll make one; an I95
do not, call me villain and baffle me.
PRINCE HENRYI see a good amendment of life in thee; from praying
to purse-taking.
FALSTAFFWhy, Hal, 'tis my vocation, Hal; 'tis no sin for a
man to labour in his vocation.100
[Enter POINS]
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.105
PRINCE HENRYGood morrow, Ned.
POINSGood 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 Madeira110
and a cold capon's leg?
PRINCE HENRYSir 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.
POINSThen art thou damned for keeping thy word with the devil.115
PRINCE HENRYElse he had been damned for cozening the devil.
POINSBut, 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 vizards120
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, tarry125
at home and be hanged.
FALSTAFFHear ye, Yedward; if I tarry at home and go not,
I'll hang you for going.
POINSYou will, chops?
FALSTAFFHal, wilt thou make one?130
PRINCE HENRYWho, I rob? I a thief? not I, by my faith.
FALSTAFFThere'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 HENRYWell then, once in my days I'll be a madcap.135
FALSTAFFWhy, that's well said.
PRINCE HENRYWell, come what will, I'll tarry at home.
FALSTAFFBy the Lord, I'll be a traitor then, when thou art king.
POINSSir John, I prithee, leave the prince and me alone:140
I will lay him down such reasons for this adventure
that he shall go.
FALSTAFFWell, God give thee the spirit of persuasion and him
the ears of profiting, that what thou speakest may
move and what he hears may be believed, that the145
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 HENRYFarewell, thou latter spring! farewell, All-hallown summer!
[Exit Falstaff]
POINSNow, my good sweet honey lord, ride with us150
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, cut155
this head off from my shoulders.
PRINCE HENRYHow shall we part with them in setting forth?
POINSWhy, 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 adventure160
upon the exploit themselves; which they shall have
no sooner achieved, but we'll set upon them.
PRINCE HENRYYea, but 'tis like that they will know us by our
horses, by our habits and by every other
appointment, to be ourselves.165
POINSTut! 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 immask our noted outward garments.
PRINCE HENRYYea, but I doubt they will be too hard for us.170
POINSWell, 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 will175
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 HENRYWell, I'll go with thee: provide us all things180
necessary and meet me to-morrow night in Eastcheap;
there I'll sup. Farewell.
POINSFarewell, my lord.
[Exit Poins]
PRINCE HENRYI know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humour of your idleness:185
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,190
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,195
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So, when this loose behavior 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;200
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;205
Redeeming time when men think least I will.

Continue to Henry IV, Part I, Act 1, Scene 3

The scene shifts to Prince Hal in London, who is with Falstaff, his rotund and pontificating drinking companion. They joke about the petty crimes they have committed, and reminisce about their alcoholic binges and the many women that they have wooed. Poins enters the tavern and tells them of a plan to commit highway robbery. Prince Hal is reluctant until Poins, after Falstaff leaves, suggests that they use the robbery to play a joke on Falstaff. They will agree to meet with Falstaff as planned, but when they arrive they will refuse to take part in the crime. Then, after Falstaff has by himself stolen the goods, Hal will steal them from Falstaff. Poins bids Hal farewell and when alone, the Prince makes clear in a soliloquy the true motivation behind his ignoble behaviour. Through this life of debauchery Hal prepares for his future as the next ruler of England. Falstaff and the others are teaching him about the common man -- a valuable lesson that he will remember well throughout his reign as Henry V.


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2
From Henry IV, Part I. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark and Maynard.
(Line numbers have been altered.)

12. Time of day. To ask for the time of night would be more fitting, Hal thinks.

15. That wandering knight, introduced by Falstaff for the sake of the equivoque between knight and night.

21. Prologue, an allusion to grace before meat.

22. Roundly, in plain, blunt terms.

24. Squires of the night's body. The principal attendant of a knight was called his squire.

25. Beauty, a pun upon booty.

36. Swearing lay by. Lay by was a highwayman's phrase, meaning surrender. Crying bring in, crying to the waiter to bring in wine.

41. Hybla, a hill in Sicily abounding in thyme, etc., and famous for honey. Old lad of the castle. This is allusive to the name Oldcastle, by which the Falstaff of this play was originally designated. It is said that Queen Elizabeth requested Shakespeare to alter the name, as some of the family of the Oldcastles were still remaining.

42. Durance was a strong and very durable kind of cloth. It also denoted prison or imprisonment. The buff leather jerkin, or doublet, commonly worn by a sergeant or sheriff's officer was from its durability and its wearer's office called sometimes a robe of durance.

53. Yea, and so used it. Falstaff here refers to credit in the sense of character.

56. Resolution thus fobbed, shall boldness of spirit, or the spirit of daring, be thus foiled or disappointed. The rusty curb, the chains of imprisonment.

57. Antic denotes what is ancient or old-fashioned.

63. Jumps with, agrees with.

67. No lean wardrobe. The clothes of criminals were the hangman's perquisite.

69. Gib cat. Gib is a contraction of Gilbert, as Tib is of Tibert. A gib cat was an old male cat. The melancholy look of an old cat, or that of a bear lugged about the streets with a chain, is what Falstaff refers to.

72. A hare. Dr. Johnson says of the hare, "She is upon her form always solitary, and, according to the physic of the times, the flesh of it was supposed to generate melancholy."

73. Moor-ditch, part of the great moat formerly surrounding the city of London, and extending from Moorgate to Bishopsgate. Its dull filthy stream, with the marshes on one side of it, and the wretched houses on the other, gave rise to the term Moor-ditch melancholy.

75. Most comparative, most apt to use comparisons.

83. Wisdom cries out. Prov. 1: 20-24.

85. Iteration, mockery of one's words.

95. Zounds, God's wounds. An oath the meaning of which the user never knew. Cf. 'Sblood, Marry, dear me.

96. Baffle originally meant to punish a recreant knight by hanging him up by the heels and beating him.

101. If Gadshill have set a match. To set a match was to lay a plan for a robbery. Gadshill, near Rochester, was much infested with highwaymen in Shakespeare's time.

134. Stand for ten shillings = stand for a royal. The royal was a coin worth ten shillings.

143. This speech is in ridicule of the usual style of the Puritan preacher's prayer before sermon. In it Falstaff calls robbing a recreation.

149. All-hallown summer. All-hallows, or All-saints day, is November 1. The Prince likens Falstaff to a latter spring and an All-hallown summer, because of the youthful passions of his old age.

164. Habits, garments.

165. Appointment, equipment. There is here a quibbling reference to the words of Poins, "appoint them a place of meeting."

169. The nonce. The n of then passing over to once, the nonce is then once = this once. Noted, known.

179. Reproof, refutation, disproof.

185. Unyok'd, unrestrained.

192. To strangle him, to smother him. Cf. Macbeth, ii. 3, "'T is day, and yet dark night strangles the traveling lamp."

200. Hopes, expectations.

204. Foil, a piece of gold or silver leaf placed under a transparent gem to set it off.

205. To make offence, as to make my offending a piece of skillful conduct. "This speech," says Johnson, "is very artfully introduced to keep the prince from appearing vile in the opinion of the audience; it prepares them for his future reformation; and, what is yet more valuable, exhibits a natural picture of a great mind offering excuses to itself, and palliating those follies which it can neither justify nor forsake."

How to cite the introduction:

Mabillard, Amanda. Introduction to King Henry IV, Part 1 (1.2). Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. King Henry IV, Part 1. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark and Maynard, 1885. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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