Henry IV, Part 1 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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

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Summary

Poins tells Prince Hal that, as a joke, he has taken Falstaff's horse from where he left it. Falstaff enters, complaining because he is so fat that walking to get his horse is hard for him. Prince Hal lies to Falstaff, saying that he will look for the horse. The prince leaves, only to return with Poins, Peto, and Bardolph. Falstaff is still complaining when Gadshill shows up and tells everyone that the wealthy travelers are nearby. The thieves get ready, while Poins and Prince Hal sneak away.

The four thieves—Falstaff, Gadshill, Peto, and Bardolph—rob the rich pilgrims and tie them up. When the thieves return, Prince Hal and Poins rob them.

Analysis

This scene includes a plot twist involving a practical joke; Prince Hal and Poins rob their friends after their friends rob the pilgrims. All of the plot twists in the play feature clashes between appearance and reality, honor and dishonor, or order and disorder. In a comic rumination on the honor of criminals, Falstaff speaks ironically (using humor based on contradiction) when he declares, "A plague / upon it when thieves cannot be true one to another!" In the main clash between appearance and reality, Prince Hal and Poins put on disguises to fool their friends.

The scene also contains several signs of the deep fractures in the social order. The victims of the robbery are pilgrims, traveling for a religious purpose. A good king would protect them, especially because their goals are related to the religious goals King Henry mentions in the opening scene. However, Prince Hal, the heir to the throne, not only allows them to be robbed, he also robs his own friends and father figure simply for the sake of a practical joke. Prince Hal is clearly not ready for the "reformation" he describes earlier in the play.

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