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Henry IV, Part 1 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 5, Scene 3

Course Hero Literature Instructor Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 5, Scene 3 of William Shakespeare's play Henry IV, Part 1.

Henry IV, Part 1 | Act 5, Scene 3 | Summary



The battle is underway, and it is chaotic. The king crosses the stage and leaves again. A moment later, Sir Walter Blunt enters, wearing the king's clothes. Douglas fights and kills Blunt.

When Hotspur arrives, Douglas informs him that he has just killed the king. However, Hotspur recognizes Blunt's face. Douglas wonders why Blunt said he was the king, and Hotspur says the king has many men fighting disguised as him. Douglas says he will kill them all until he gets to the real one.

They leave. Falstaff comes onstage and recognizes the dead man as Blunt. The prince follows a moment later. He has lost his sword and asks Falstaff for his. Falstaff refuses and offers his pistol instead. When Prince Hal draws it, it is a bottle of sack (wine). Prince Hal curses Falstaff for joking at a time like this, throws the bottle at him, and leaves. After another speech about liking life more than honor, Falstaff leaves the stage.


This scene, which contains some of the great plot twists of the play, is one of the drama's high points. First is the onstage battle to the death between Douglas and Blunt. For a play about armed rebellion, it is striking to note that this is only the third fight the audience sees. The first is when Falstaff and the thieves rob the pilgrims. The second is when the disguised Prince Hal and Poins rob Falstaff. In this third battle, the fight is finally between two relative equals, but it, too, contains deception.

The king has cunningly sent many men into battle dressed as him. Viewed from the perspective of honor, that is a questionable action. Rather than meet the rebels himself, the king distracts them, making them waste their efforts. This act of disguise is thematically related to Prince Hal's choice to play a part.

The deception also provides a nice moment of dramatic irony, for the audience knows something that Douglas does not. They saw the true king walk across stage just moments earlier. At the same time, Douglas's win against Blunt and his commitment to killing all the "kings" ratchet up the tension. The scene also demonstrates Blunt's tremendous loyalty to his leader, which contrasts sharply with the ways in which the members of the rebel army have continually undermined one another.

The emotional intensity of the battle may be why Shakespeare follows with another comic Falstaff scene. It cuts the tension, giving the audience a moment to relax. Yet even this comic relief sounds the play's important themes. Blunt was noble enough to die for his king, but as Falstaff points out, many people like life more than honor. Falstaff here also serves as a foil, or contrast, to Prince Hal, who is no longer interested in jokes or cynicism. Prince Hal is now determined to protect the king at all costs, which could be a very high cost indeed.

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