Henry IV, Part 2 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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

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Summary

On a street in London, Falstaff and his page (assigned to him by Prince Hal) discuss a recent urine sample he's submitted to the doctor. Falstaff grows annoyed with the page's mockery and threatens to send him back to his master, who's too young even to grow a beard. They are interrupted by the Lord Chief Justice's arrival, who wants to know why Falstaff did not answer his summons to answer questions about the robbery Falstaff and his companions committed (in Henry IV, Part 1).

Falstaff does his best to change the subject. The Lord Chief Justice calls him a bad influence on Prince Hal and tells him the only reason he hasn't been arrested is because he is needed to fight in the king's wars. When Falstaff asks the Lord Chief Justice for money, the justice refuses and leaves. Falstaff then sends his page out with a number of letters.

Analysis

Falstaff, one of Shakespeare's most popular characters and a key player in Henry IV, Part 1, is reintroduced in this scene. He is a larger-than-life character, almost a force of nature, and he dominates any scene in which he appears.

At first glance Falstaff is a craven and foolish man, completely superficial and morally bankrupt. He fits the archetype of the charming rogue. When we first see Falstaff in the play, he's asking his page about what the doctor said of his health (he's being checked for sexually transmitted diseases), and we get the first of many jokes. We also learn that he and his friends have also been implicated in a robbery.

Falstaff flouts the conventions of the time and his station—although he fits the archetype of the witty clown on the Elizabethan stage. He speaks to the Lord Chief Justice insultingly, turning the man's words into something humorous or mocking. His wit is his chief weapon, his skill with language nearly unmatched in the play. He turns aside the Lord Chief Justice's investigation, giving him nothing of use and doing so with deft wit. He is a gentle form of chaos, more interested in having a good time and enjoying his pleasures, whether food, women, or wine, than in "proper" values of the time, and he does so unrepentantly. Perhaps this is what makes him such a popular figure—he seems, throughout most of the play, to be the living embodiment of "No regrets."

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