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Henry IV, Part 2 | Plot Summary

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Summary

Act 1

Conflicting rumors reach Northumberland and his allies regarding the outcome of the Battle of Shrewsbury (Henry IV, Part 1). When Northumberland learns the truth—that his son is dead, the battle lost, and King Henry's troops are approaching—he makes plans to join forces with the archbishop of York.

Sir John Falstaff prepares to travel north to recruit soldiers. He's visited by the Lord Chief Justice, who questions him about a recent crime. They exchange insults, and the Lord Chief Justice leaves after Falstaff asks him for money.

The archbishop of York, Lord Mowbray, Lord Hastings, and Lord Bardolph discuss the rebellion against the king. They can match the king for troop strength since he is harried on three sides by the French (the Hundred Years' War between France and England stretched intermittent fighting over the years 1337–1453), the Welsh uprising led by Owen Glendower, and the English rebels. They need Northumberland to throw in with them to assure a win.

Act 2

Mistress Quickly tries to have Falstaff, who owes her money, arrested for his debts, and the Lord Chief Justice arrives to investigate the disturbance. But Falstaff manages to talk his way out of it. While Falstaff banters with Quickly, Doll Tearsheet, and others, Gower arrives to bring word that the king and the prince are close by.

Prince Hal and Poins discuss the king's illness. Upon receiving a letter from Falstaff, they decide to spy on Falstaff to see his true colors. They pay the page and Bardolph to remain silent.

Northumberland talks with his wife and Lady Percy (his son's widow). They argue against him going into battle against the king with the archbishop. Eventually he agrees to stay out of the fighting.

Prince Hal and Poins, disguised as servants, observe Falstaff insulting them. Poins and Henry confront Falstaff, and he tries to take back his words, but Hal is not convinced. Poins and Hal are called to meet the king. Falstaff is summoned to his military duties, going into the country to find recruits.

Act 3

King Henry, ill and suffering insomnia, worries for the state of the kingdom and that of his heir. In a late-night meeting, his advisers seek to reassure him, and they deliver word of Glendower's death.

Meanwhile, Falstaff meets with Justice Shallow and Justice Silence to look over possible recruits for conscription. Several bribe their way out of being conscripted.

Act 4

The archbishop of York, Lord Mowbray, and Lord Hastings meet with the earl of Westmoreland in the forest of Gaultree. He agrees to take their grievances to Prince John of Lancaster. John tells them he will address their complaints and concerns, and the lords dismiss their rebel army. John then arrests them for treason and sends his men after the dispersing army.

One of the rebel knights, Sir John Colevile, surrenders to Falstaff. Falstaff then tells Prince John that he overcame Coleville in a fierce fight, although John does not believe him. Nonetheless, the prince agrees to speak well of Falstaff's action before leaving to see the king. Falstaff plans to meet Justice Shallow in Gloucestershire.

The king grows more ill. He worries for the state of the crown when he dies and Prince Hal becomes king. News reaches him of the victory over the rebels. He goes to rest. When Prince Hal visits him, he thinks the king has died. The prince takes his father's crown and ponders the burdens of kingship. Henry wakes and sees his crown gone. He accuses Hal of wishing him dead, although the earl of Warwick insists that Hal is crying because he thinks his father has died. Hal reenters and explains that he only took the crown because he viewed it as responsible for his father's death, and father and son reconcile their differences.

Act 5

Falstaff stays with Justice Shallow at his home in Gloucestershire. Shallow is looking to take advantage of Falstaff's connection to Prince Hal. Falstaff anticipates amusing the king with tales of Shallow and his servants.

The earl of Warwick brings word of the king's death to the Lord Chief Justice. The Lord Chief Justice is concerned that Prince Hal—now king—will punish him for chastising Hal. The new king's three brothers arrive, and they too believe that the Lord Chief Justice may be punished. King Henry V appears and greets them; seeing their nervousness, the new king reassures him that he intends to rule wisely.

At the home of Justice Shallow, Pistol arrives with news of the king's death. Falstaff goes to London to see Hal, thinking that he will be rewarded with the new king's favor.

Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet are arrested on suspicion of murder.

Following the coronation, Falstaff and his retinue come to see the new king's procession. When Falstaff calls out, Henry V rejects Falstaff, claiming not to know who he is. The Lord Chief Justice arrests Falstaff and his companions. Prince John expects they will be fighting France within the year.

Epilogue

A dancer appears, informs the audience that Falstaff will return, and disavows any connection between Falstaff and John Oldcastle (c. 1378–1417), the real-life inspiration for the character.

Henry IV, Part 2 Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction

Introduction

1 Northumberland learns that his son's rebellion failed.

Rising Action

2 Falstaff is nearly arrested but is called to arms.

3 The archbishop of York and other lords plan their rebellion.

4 Prince Hal and Poins spy on Falstaff as he insults them.

5 King Henry IV worries Prince Hal will misrule the kingdom.

6 Prince John of Lancaster defeats the rebels.

7 King Henry IV falls ill.

8 Prince Hal and King Henry IV reconcile.

Climax

9 King Henry IV dies.

Falling Action

10 Prince Hal is crowned King Henry V.

11 King Henry V asks the Lord Chief Justice to be his adviser.

Resolution

12 King Henry V banishes Falstaff from his company.

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