On the battlefield, Douglas meets Sir Walter Blunt and, mistaking him for King Henry, challenges him to fight. Blunt goes along with Douglas’ delusion, claiming to be the king and fighting Douglas. Blunt is killed, never admitting that he isn’t the king. Hotspur enters and, recognizing Blunt, explains to Douglas that he has not killed King Henry as he thinks he has. “The King hath many marching in his coats,” Hotspur says. Douglas vows to “murder all his wardrobe piece by piece until I meet the king.” He and Hotspur charge off.
Though the practice of dressing up several soldiers as decoys for the king was a common battle strategy of the time, it is particularly resonant in this play, which is already so invested in appearances. Though Blunt puts on the false appearance of King Henry, his commitment to that appearance reveals the truly deep extent of his loyalty.
Falstaff enters and stumbles on Sir Walter Blunt’s corpse and says “there’s honor for you!” He hopes not to get killed himself. He says all but three of his hundred and fifty soldiers have been killed.
Falstaff continues to scoff at “honor” won in battle, understanding the promise of honor as a trick to get men to charge into their own deaths.
Prince Hal enters and, disgusted that Falstaff is still waddling around in safety when many noblemen have been killed in battle, tells Falstaff to hand over his sword. Falstaff protests that he has been acting bravely all day and says he needs to keep his sword to protect himself from Hotspur. When Hal reaches into Falstaff’s sword sheath to take his sword, he finds a bottle of wine instead. Hal tosses the bottle at Falstaff and rides off. Alone on stage, Falstaff reflects that he wants no part of the honor Sir Walter Blunt has: “give me life,” Falstaff says, “if not, honor comes unlooked for, and there’s an end.”
Falstaff may not be winning the battle glories that honorable noblemen warriors are earning in the field, but he is certainly keeping himself alive—which, to his mind, is a much more desirable goal. Even as Falstaff reflects profoundly on honor, war, and death, he never stops being a clown, stowing a wine bottle where his sword should be.