Henry IV, Part 2 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry IV, Part 2 | Act 5, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

On a street near Westminster Abbey, Falstaff brags to Justice Shallow and Pistol that he will have the new king shower all of them with favors. As they await the new king's procession, Pistol informs Falstaff that Doll Tearsheet has been arrested, and Falstaff resolves to get her released.

When Falstaff tries to speak to King Henry V, the Lord Chief Justice intervenes at the king's command. Then Henry tells Falstaff that "I know thee not, old man." He says that if they change their ways and prove themselves, they will be judged according to their skills and qualities, but "Till then I banish thee, on pain of death, / As I have done the rest of my misleaders, / Not to come near our person by ten mile." He grants Falstaff an allowance to keep him from resorting to crime out of poverty.

Falstaff is shocked but still believes the king will call for him in private to give him his reward. No one believes him. Shallow demands payment of the bet Falstaff made with him. They are all led away to jail by the Lord Chief Justice's men.

Prince John of Lancaster praises the new king's decision to the Lord Chief Justice as Falstaff is led away. He says he expects England will be at war with France before the end of the year.

Analysis

This scene is the conclusion of King Henry V's evolution. He always planned to give up his rowdy lifestyle when it was time to become king—something he mentioned as far back as Act 1, Scene 2 in Henry IV, Part 1. Now it comes to fruition, but Falstaff is the last to know.

Prince Hal's break with Falstaff has been telegraphed throughout the play. He has very few scenes with the man, reflecting that he's been distancing himself from the portly knight, and he reconciles with his father before he dies. Henry V's new partnership with the Lord Chief Justice cements Falstaff's replacement as a father figure. In a way the son has outgrown the father. Prince Hal has grown up. Even his speech—extremely formal, and references to himself in the first-person plural—sounds completely different.

Whether readers/audiences feel sympathy for Falstaff depends on whether they believed him to sincerely like Hal. His excited greeting at seeing the new king is crushed by a cold rebuke: "I know thee not, old man" (47), increasing readers' sympathy for Falstaff. He holds to the belief that Hal will call for him to advance him in private, even though no one believes him, further encouraging sympathy at his painful optimism.

To drive home the change in him, Henry V has his new father figure, the Lord Chief Justice, deal with his old one. Henry orders, "My Lord Chief Justice, speak to that vain man" (43), as if he doesn't even want to deal with Falstaff. Effectively he's setting his future against his past as a way to banish it. Falstaff and his compatriots are dragged off. Law has triumphed over chaos. Order has been restored—even if it means punishing Falstaff, whom Shakespeare's audience loved.

The scene ends with Prince John predicting that England will soon be at war with France, foreshadowing the action in the final play of the Henriad, Henry V. This also hearkens back to King Henry IV's advice to his son to keep his nobles busy with foreign wars to ensure his rule.

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