Henry IV Part 2

Henry IV, Part 2 - William Shakespeare After Hotspur’s defeat at Shrewsbury, other defiant rebel bands pose a continued threat to English peace. However, the play lacks the same drama as in Part One. The rebellion dissipates through Northumberland’s inconstancy and John of Lancaster’s ruse on the Archbishop of York and allied lords.

The rebellion once again turns into backstory as the plot follows the further development of Prince Hal and Falstaff. This time, their paths rarely cross as Hal obtains his kingly bearing and, ultimately, the crown itself. Falstaff continues his debauchery in the name of the crown, but swindles some fame out of the process.

The final act culminates not in the destruction of the rebellion, but in Hal’s (now Henry V) rejection of his own rebellion. With new-found gravitas, he accepts his destiny as king and rejects his former father-figure and friend, Falstaff. It is Henry’s first experience of his father’s oft-quoted line from his despondent soliloquy: “Then, happy low, lie down. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” (Act 3, Sc. 1).

Falstaff is a scoundrel of the first order. And Shakespeare can make you feel sorry for him anyway.