Richard II | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Richard II | Act 5, Scene 3 | Summary



At his palace Henry IV speaks with some followers, including Henry Percy. He is worried his son, Prince Hal—who later becomes Henry V—is spending time "'mongst the taverns" of London, with a bunch of criminals: "he daily doth frequent / With unrestrainèd loose companions." The king hopes Prince Hal will mature and improve with time.

Aumerle/Rutland enters. He asks the king for pardon for a crime he had planned to commit, not giving any specifics. The king agrees, but just then York arrives and tells the king about the treasonous plot, then asks the king to punish his son. Then the Duchess of York arrives. She begs the king to have mercy on her son. Henry IV pardons Aumerle/Rutland and plans to execute the other plotters.


The mention of Prince Hal in this scene again foreshadows important elements of subsequent plays in the Henriad. Prince Hal is said to be hanging out in the taverns of London with "unrestrainèd loose companions." Among those loose companions is John Falstaff, one of Shakespeare's most popular comic characters. The shenanigans of Hal, Falstaff, and other tavern-goers plays a large part in Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2, and Hal's poor treatment of these former friends when he is crowned Henry V provides part of the underlying emotional tension of the tetralogy's final play.

Henry IV shows he can dispense mercy as well as justice when he agrees to pardon Aumerle/Rutland. This is an important development in his character, since an ideal king would show both traits; this idea will come back as a major theme in Henry V.

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