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MonkeyNotes-Henry IV, Part 1 by William Shakespeare
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Act II, Scene 4

Summary

Prince Hal and Poins are drinking in a tavern. Hal has previously been drinking with some of the tavern employees and seems proud to have been accepted into their company, rather than to be considered a "proud jack" (11), and to have learned some of their slang terms. Hal and Poins then amuse themselves by tormenting Francis, their waiter. Poins goes off into an adjoining room and continually calls for Francis while Hal keeps him occupied and confused by asking him ridiculous questions.

Falstaff, Peto, and Bardolph arrive and join the two men at drinks. Falstaff accuses the prince of cowardice and recounts how he bravely fought a hundred men who tried to rob him of his loot. As he speaks, the tale becomes more fantastic and the number of men he fought continually changes. Finally the prince and Poins expose his lies, but Falstaff is able to save face by his sheer wit. Falstaff says that all along he knew of their plan. He also recognized the prince. However, he did not attack them only because he had no wish to harm the heir apparent to the throne. He is, in fact, happy that the prince has the money and is ready to celebrate and spend it.


A messenger from the king arrives. Falstaff leaves to get rid of him, and, while he is gone, Peto and Bardolph try to explain away their cowardice and tell Hal how Falstaff persuaded them to lie. They are no match for the prince, however, who wittily puts them down.

Falstaff returns and informs Hal of the rebellion. Hal is furthermore summoned to appear before the king. Hal takes the news in stride. When Falstaff asks him if he is not afraid, Hal responds that he lacks Falstaff's "instinct" (383) in that area. The two then begin to humorously act out Hal's upcoming audience with his father, taking turns playing the role of the prince and the king.

While they are playing this game, the hostess announces the arrival of the sheriff, and the prince has Falstaff hide. The sheriff enters with a carrier, looking for a fat knight who participated in the recent robbery. Hal satisfies the sheriff that the man is not there and sends him off, promising that whoever is guilty of the robbery will answer to the charges.

Meanwhile Falstaff has fallen asleep behind the curtains. Hal has Peto search his pockets, but all they find is a tavern bill. Before leaving for the palace, Hal announces his intention to put Falstaff in charge of an infantry troop in the upcoming war. He also promises to give Peto an honorable position and to give the money back.

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