Henry IV, Part 2 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry IV, Part 2 | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary



Justice Shallow and Justice Silence, two country justices, talk about their misspent youths and the deaths of old friends. They are waiting for Falstaff outside Shallow's house. Shallow remembers his days spent in London with Falstaff, mentioning that many of their friends from that time are dead. Silence says that they will soon follow, to which Shallow replies that death is a certainty for all men.

Bardolph and Falstaff arrive. Falstaff asks if the two have gathered the men he requires. A line of men come forth, and Falstaff chooses among them for his recruits.

Mouldy, Shadow, Bullcalf, and Feeble are selected for the muster, but Mouldy and Bullcalf approach Bardolph and bribe their way out of it. Falstaff then picks Wart to fill in his ranks. Upon questioning from Shallow, Falstaff delivers false reasons for the change. After the others have left, Falstaff speaks of the lying of old men.


In the conversations between Falstaff, Shallow, and Silence, growing old and man's mortality come up several times. The juxtaposition between King Henry IV's worries about his own mortality in the previous scene and Shallow and Silence in this one shows that death makes all equal. Whether a king or a peasant or somewhere between, death comes for everyone. But their frankness in the face of death contrasts with Henry's behavior in the previous scene: he was reassured by his nobles, and imagined being able to launch a crusade to Jerusalem, even as he is clearly growing more unwell.

The theme of appearance versus reality comes up again in this scene. Falstaff says he is choosing the best men for his recruits. But he rejects Wart until Mouldy and Bullcalf bribe Bardolph, who splits the proceeds with his master. Tellingly, Falstaff speaks of old men being liars, of whom he is one.

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