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Henry IV, Part 1 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 1, Scene 2

Course Hero Literature Instructor Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 1, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare's play Henry IV, Part 1.

Henry IV, Part 1 | Act 1, Scene 2 | Summary



Prince Hal and Sir John Falstaff launch into a series of jokes, puns, and insults. Prince Hal teases Falstaff for being a fat drunk. Falstaff defends his dishonesty, calling robbery his profession. Their friend Poins, who is also a highwayman, or robber, enters and tells them he and a third thief (Gadshill) are planning a robbery for early the next morning. They invite Prince Hal to come with them to rob a group of wealthy pilgrims, but he refuses.

Poins then tells Falstaff to leave him alone with Prince Hal. Once Falstaff leaves, Poins suggests to Prince Hal that the two of them play a practical joke on Falstaff and the others. They will ride separately, arrive wearing masks and disguises, and rob Falstaff after he robs the pilgrims. Prince Hal thinks it will be funny and agrees.

Once Poins leaves, Prince Hal delivers a soliloquy (a speech that represents his inner thoughts) about how he chooses to hang around with lowlifes so that everyone will think less of him. The prince believes that when he assumes his rightful place in court and takes up his duties, people will appreciate him that much more.


The second scene has several purposes. First and most simply, it provides comic relief. Whereas the first scene opens grimly with talk of rebellion, war, and slaughter, this scene opens with drinking and laughter.

However, in the midst of the kidding around, the second scene introduces important content. Prince Hal is the heir to the throne of England; his drinking and association with thieves clash with his duty as a prince. His behavior helps the audience understand why the king prefers Hotspur, "a son who is the theme of Honor's tongue, / Amongst a grove the very straightest plant." The scene also introduces Falstaff, who is a slob but a much easier father figure for Prince Hal to deal with than is his true father, King Henry.

In many ways, this scene points out the clash between appearance and reality. Not only is Prince Hal going to wear a disguise and pretend to rob his friends, he also shares his plans to play at being a slovenly drunk until it suits him, at which point his newly honorable behavior will "attract more eyes."

Finally, this scene takes an approach that is common in Shakespeare's plays, in which plots involving similar themes occur at different levels of society. The themes of order, honor, and father-son relationships are all present in Prince Hal's decision to "rebel" against Falstaff and rob him.

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