The History of Henry the Fourth, Part One: Plot Synopsis
Continuing Richard II, Henry IV is now king and is fighting a revolt led by the Welshman Owen Glendower and the Percies. Henry
IV wishes he could switch sons with Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland, whose son is Henry Percy (Hotspur), a valiant
soldier. The third Percy is Thomas Percy, the Earl of Worcester and brother to Northumberland. Henry IV is mad at Henry V
because Henry V hangs out with John (Jack) Falstaff (who calls Henry V, Hal) and Poins. At the tavern, Poins convinces Falstaff,
Bardolph, and Peto to rob some travelers. Poins and Henry V plan to then rob Falstaff et. al. of the loot. Back at the palace, Henry
IV demands that Hotspur turn over the Scottish prisoners he has. As insurance, Henry IV holds Hotspur's brother-in-law Mortimer
as hostage (Hotspur's wife Kate is Mortimer's sister and Mortimer's wife is Glendower's daughter). Ironically, Mortimer was
proclaimed heir to the English throne by Richard II, though Henry IV became king. The Percies explain to Henry IV that they are
revolting because Henry IV has placed unreasonable demands on them, even after they helped him (as Bolingbroke) become king.
Returning to Falstaff et. al., they rob the king's transport then Poins and Hal rob them and Falstaff et. al. flee. At the pub, Falstaff
makes up extravagant lies about the robbery. Hal rebukes him, proving Falstaff false. In jest, the two pretend to be King Henry IV
and Hal and Hal (as Henry IV) tells Falstaff (as Hal) that the man Falstaff is a thief and Hal promises to banish him for his crimes.
Moving to the revolt, Mortimer, Worcester, and Hotspur plan the revolt, overseen by Glendower. Oddly, Mortimer speaks no Welsh
and his wife speaks no English, so her father interprets for them. Back to Henry IV, he criticizes Henry V for this deeds and
associations. Henry IV tells Henry V that Hotspur is more deserving of the crown than Henry V, whereby Henry V vows to prove
himself by killing Hotspur in battle. Back at the tavern we learn that Hal repaid the travelers whom the money was stolen from, and
that Hal has arranged for Falstaff to lead some forces in the king's army.
Hotspur's father (Northumberland) becomes sick, greatly weakening the revolting forces since his men cannot attend the battle. This
news, and Prince Hal's newfound leadership, and a report that Glendower will arrive late disheartens Hotspur, yet he overcomes
these setbacks with renewed vigor. Falstaff, as military leader, hires very poor and unfit soldiers. Prince Hal and the Earl of
Westmoreland observe this, but do nothing. Hotspur wishes to fight the first battle at nighttime, but delays after Sir Walter Blunt
brings kind greetings from the king. Worcester meets the king the next morning, but no agreement is made, though the king offers to
pardon all the revolters. Worcester, however, lies to Hotspur and tells him the king readies for battle, since Worcester does not
believe Henry IV will pardon them and doesn't want Hotspur to back off. In battle, Archibald, the Earl of Douglas (Percies' side)
kills Blunt, thinking Blunt is Henry IV due to a disguise. Henry V then rescues Henry IV from Douglas' sword. Falstaff and Douglas
fight and Falstaff pretends to die. Henry V and Hotspur fight and Henry V kills Hotspur. Falstaff arises and stabs Hotspur in the leg,
then claims to have killed him. Henry IV wins the battle (of Shrewsbury) and executes Worcester and Sir Richard Vernon, but lets
Douglas go free. Henry IV also divides his power with Henry V and Hal's brother John of Lancaster. This is a play concerning
honor, as reasoned by Falstaff.
The History of Henry the Fourth, Part Two: Plot Synopsis
This play, contrasting with 1 Henry IV, is a play concerning justice, sickness and betrayal. Lord Bardolph tells the Earl of
Northumberland (Henry Percy) the rumor that Hotspur killed Hal in battle, but Morton reveals the truth of Hotspur's death to his
father (Northumberland). Morton also reports that the Richard Scroop, the Archbishop of York is rebelling against Henry IV. Back
in London, the Chief Justice talks to Falstaff about his crimes and comments that Henry IV has separated Falstaff from Henry V
(Hal) by sending Falstaff with Prince John of Lancaster (the Duke of Bedford; Henry IV's son) to fight Scroop and
Northumberland. At the battlefield, Lord Hastings and Scroop decide to fight Henry IV's men before Northumberland gets there,
even though Lord Bardolph suggests waiting for reinforcements.
Back again in London, Henry V returns from fighting the Welsh (in 1 Henry IV) and discusses with Ned Poins Henry IV's sickness
and Falstaff's pompous letter to Hal. Hal and Poins pretend to be waiters for Falstaff's supper. Meanwhile, Northumberland's wife
and his daughter-in-law (Hotspur's widow) successfully convince him not to fight in the ensuing battle, criticizing him for abandoning
Hotspur in the Battle of Shrewsbury (even though he was sick). The ladies convince Northumberland to flee to Scotland and hide
(far from battle). At Mistress Quickly's tavern, Falstaff meets Mistress Doll Tearsheet. Tearsheet argues with Pistol upon his arrival
and Falstaff chases him out with a sword, wounding him in the shoulder, impressing Tearsheet. Soon after, Hal (disguised) catches
Falstaff talking badly of Hal, then toys with Falstaff about it, but is stopped when they all have to leave for battle.
Henry IV, sick, cannot sleep. The Earl of Warwick (with the Earl of Surrey and Sir Walter Blunt) assure Henry IV that
Northumberland will be defeated, though Henry IV repeats Richard II's prediction that Northumberland, who helped Henry IV to
the throne, would eventually revolt and win. On his way to battle, Sir John Falstaff arrives at Justice Shallow's home seeking old
friends (commoners) to be soldiers. Falstaff conscripts Moldy, Shadow, Wart, Feeble, and Bullcalf, though Bullcalf and Moldy bribe
Bardolph (Falstaff's friend) to not have to fight. At the battlefield, Scroop, Mowbray, and Hastings learn that Northumberland will
not help them. The Earl of Westmoreland meets Scroop and receives a list of grievances to be given to Henry IV. Prince John
responds personally and yields to Scroop's demands, granting protection to the rebelling nobles, who quickly tell their armies to
disperse. Westmoreland and Prince John, though, then betray Hastings, Scroop, and Mowbray and arrests them for treason. Falstaff
captures Sir John Coleville of the Dale (a rebel) without a fight. Prince John sends Coleville with the other rebel nobles to be
executed. Falstaff, alone, complains that Prince John never smiles, blaming it on the fact that Prince John doesn't drink. Falstaff likes
Hal, though, because Hal does drink.
Back in London, Henry IV vows to go on a crusade to the Holy Land if the rebellion is suppressed. When it is, he is happy, though
still sick because Henry V is still associating with criminals. Hal arrives while Henry IV is asleep, and takes his father's crown.
Henry IV wakes, calling Hal back, and rebukes Hal for wishing him dead and taking the crown, though Hal claims he only though
his father dead and wanted to protect the crown. Henry IV advises Henry V to wage foreign wars as king to occupy Britain's time
and to increase Henry V's popularity, then Henry IV dies. Henry V becomes king and swears to be kind to all, even the Chief
Justice who once jailed Henry V. Falstaff quickly returns to London, hoping to receive favors from the now king Henry V.
However, in a coronation march, Henry V meets Falstaff and banishes him (quasi-betraying Falstaff) and his gang from approaching
Henry V within 10 miles, after which Falstaff is arrested for his crimes.
By: Matthew Monroe