Henry IV Part 2 condensed

The king’s forces at the end of Part 1 had won a decisive battle over the Welsh rebels at Shrewsbury, but Henry IV remained vigilant, knowing the rebels had regrouped under new leadership.  Hotspur, Worcester and Vernon were either killed or executed at Shrewsbury.  Owen Glendower has died.  The earl of Northumberland, Hotspur’s father, has become less active.  The Archbishop of York, one Richard Scroop, has stepped up to lead the Welsh rebels, along with Bardolph, Mowbray and Hastings.  Stephen Scroop, the archbishop’s brother, had been executed by the current king back in Richard II when he was Henry Bolingbroke, an issue that concerns the king.

Act 1. Northumberland learns soon after the play opens that his son, Hotspur, was slain by Prince Harry at Shrewsbury, that his brother Worcester was executed by Henry IV, and that Douglas was captured, but released, and has returned to Scotland.  The Welsh rebels have regrouped under the leadership of Scroop, who has turned the campaign into a religious crusade.  Clever Falstaff talks himself out of trouble when confronted by the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice being well aware that Falstaff is a person of interest in the Gad’s Hill robbery, telling Falstaff that “Truth is, Sir John, you live in great infamy.”  The leaders of the reformed group of Welsh rebels gather, Bardolph wisely suggesting they need better planning if they are to unseat the king.

Act 2. Falstaff is at his best here.  The Chief Justice tells Falstaff that “you wrench the true cause the false way” and that you must pay Hostess Quickly the “debt you owe her.”  Falstaff ends up borrowing another ten pounds from her.  By disguising themselves as waiters, Prince Hal and Poins plan to listen to Falstaff expound with his exaggerations.  The prince lets Poins know that “now my father is sick.”  Lady Percy, Hotspur’s widow, convinces Northumberland to retire, convincing him that the younger men are strong and can handle it.  At the Eastcheap inn, Falstaff doesn’t disappoint the waiters-in-disguise when he says the prince is “a good shallow young fellow” and that Poin’s “wit is as thick as Tewkesbury mustard.”  Peto enters the inn to let the prince and others know that the king needs their help, the king preparing for war.

Act 3.  A worried Henry IV paces the stage late at night, famously saying “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”  The earl of Warwick, a good friend of the king’s, provides him with confort, reflecting on times past.  It’s here where we learn that Owen Glendower has died.  Having been appointed a captain in the king’s army, Falstaff works his way across the countryside recruiting soldiers for the cause.  His untrained recruits are weak, Shakespeare giving them names such as Mouldy and Shallow. 

Act 4.  The rebels have reached Gaultree Forest where they are prepared for war, if that’s what it takes.  They have a set of grievances to deliver to the king’s men.  The Archbishop presents his list of grievances to Westmorland who takes them back to his commanding officer, Prince John, the king’s third son.  Prince John enters, telling the archbishop that “these griefs shall be with speed redressed.”  The archbishop has his troops discharged.  Westmorland arrests Scroop, Hastings and Mowbray, proclaiming them traitors.  When the Archbishop cries “Will you break your faith” John replies “I promised you redress of these same grievances, which I will perform.”  He has the traitors taken “to the block of death.”  Falstaff, asking John for special privileges, having skipped the encounter at Gaultree Forest, gets short shrift from the prince.  Back at the palace, Prince Harry attends his father, who falls asleep.  Harry tries on the crown for size and look.  The king wakens and berates his oldest son.  They have quite the classy father-son conversation, perhaps Shakespeare’s best.  Promises are made and kept. The king dies. 

Act 5.  The Chief Justice and Prince Harry, now Henry V, have a nice conversation, working through the issues that had in the past separated them.  The new king says to the Chief Justice “you shall be as a father to my youth.”  As the king and his entourage cross the stage, Falstaff irreverently yells out “King Hal, my royal Hal. God save thee, my sweet boy.”  The king has him sent to the Fleet, a prison, not to be heard from again.  Prince John lets us know that he believes France will soon be in the king’s sights.