Henry IV Part 1

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Falstaff is Prince Hal’s best friend and a merrily obese clown who loves drinking and eating and shamelessly avoids work, war, and responsible adulthood. Unafraid to lie about being more noble than he really is, Falstaff’s seemingly mocking musings on the nature of honor and war turn out to contain some of the most profound thinking in the play.

Sir John Falstaff Quotes in Henry IV Part 1

The Henry IV Part 1 quotes below are all either spoken by Sir John Falstaff or refer to Sir John Falstaff. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Appearances Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Henry IV Part 1 published in 2005.
Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

Why, hear ye, my masters: Was it for me to kill the heir-apparent? should I turn upon the true Prince? why, thou knowest I am as valiant as Hercules: but beware instinct; the lion will not touch the true Prince. Instinct is a great matter; I was now a coward on instinct. I shall think the better of myself and thee during my life; I for a valiant lion, and thou for a true prince.

Related Characters: Sir John Falstaff (speaker), Prince Hal (Henry, Prince of Wales)
Page Number: 2.4.279-286
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we meet Falstaff, who has just come from a skirmish with masked attackers--whom we know to be Prince Hal and his friends. Falstaff boasts about winning his encounter with the attackers, and offers various details about the skirmish. After Falstaff has bragged enough, Hal coolly reveals to Falstaff that he knows the truth: he was the one who attacked Falstaff. Surprisingly, Falstaff has no trouble recovering from his rhetorical setback: he backpedals and boasts about being perceptive enough to recognize Hal in disguise, and showing mercy to him because he recognized that he couldn't hurt the "true Prince."

Falstaff, is one of the most interesting characters in the play, famous for both his boorish comedy and his perceptive cynicism. Here he skillfully (if comically) "spins" his cowardice to look like discretion and intelligence, arguing that he's too honorable to touch Prince Hal. While some have interpreted Falstaff as a dishonorable, amoral character, it's difficult to deny Falstaff's charm--even when he's being a coward, Falstaff's gift for language entertains us. Moreover, Falstaff's deftness with language suggests that he's an important mentor for Prince Hal.

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Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

Tut, tut; good enough to toss; food for powder, food for powder; they’ll fill a pit as well as better: tush, man, mortal men, mortal men.

Related Characters: Sir John Falstaff (speaker)
Page Number: 4.2.66-68
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Falstaff has assembled a ragtag group of soldiers to fight on behalf of Hal in the war with Hotspur. Falstaff introduces his troops to Hal, who immediately criticizes them for their meagerness and cowardice. Indeed, most of the troops Falstaff has recruited have paid off other people to fight in their place--with the result that Falstaff's troops are skinny, weak, and generally bad soldiers, but Falstaff himself has gotten richer. Falstaff defends his troops on the grounds that they're just as good as any other soldiers--all soldiers are mortal, after all.

Falstaff's words have been interpreted in many different ways. Falstaff is making the argument that a man is a man, at the end of the day--in other words, a good soldier is basically the same as a bad soldier, because in the harsh reality of war, death comes to most, and it comes at random. Falstaff's phrase, "food for powder" implies that his troops are doomed to be nothing more than "food"--i.e., they're just pawns in a vast war. It's nobles like Henry and Hotspur who make all the decisions and win all the glory, while thousands of nameless soldiers just fight and die for their rulers' cause. In general, Falstaff shows himself to be cynically perceptive of the harsh realities of combat, even as he's also being incredibly callous.

Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

Well, ‘tis no matter; honour pricks me on. Yea, but how if honour prick me off when I come on? How then? Can honour set a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honour hath no skill in surgery, then? No. What is honour? A word. What is in that word “honour”? What is that “honour”? Air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died o’Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. ‘Tis insensible then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore I’ll none of it. Honour is a mere scutcheon. And so ends my catechism.

Related Characters: Sir John Falstaff (speaker)
Page Number: 5.1.131-142
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Falstaff--who's about to go into battle on behalf of Prince Hal--criticizes the concept of honor. Falstaff has been pressured to fight because of the principle of honor (i.e., Falstaff's loyalty to Hal, and his confidence in his own abilities). And yet Falstaff doesn't see the point of honor at all. Honor is a meaningless concept because it compels men to go to battle, causes them to be injured, and then doesn't act as a "surgeon." In short, honor demands a lot of people, and doesn't give anything back. Furthermore, Falstaff sees honor as a mere "scutcheon"--an ornamented shield--essentially, a fancy word to cover up the harsh realities of greed, ambition, and violence.

Falstaff's speech seems pretty reasonable by modern standards: the old English code of honor (which compelled thousands of men to fight in silly wars and brutally lose their lives) doesn't hold much currency anymore. Of course, it's also important to note that Falstaff is really only criticizing the concept of honor because he's frightened of fighting. Falstaff is "wrong but right"--honor may be a sham, but Falstaff is still a hypocrite for boasting of his bravery and then fearing to fight.

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Sir John Falstaff Character Timeline in Henry IV Part 1

The timeline below shows where the character Sir John Falstaff appears in Henry IV Part 1. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
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The Right to be King Theme Icon
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Elsewhere in the London palace, Prince Hal and Falstaff banter in one of the prince’s rooms. Falstaff asks the time and the prince protests... (full context)
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Falstaff calls Prince Hal “the most comparative, rascalliest, sweet young prince.” Then he declares he wishes... (full context)
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Prince Hal and Falstaff discuss stealing a purse the next day. Ned Poins enters and he and Falstaff berate... (full context)
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As soon as Falstaff exits, Points lets Prince Hal in on his real plan: he and Prince Hal will... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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...with Bardolph and Peto following a bit behind. Poins tells Prince Hal that he’s hidden Falstaff’s horse and thrown Falstaff into a rage. Prince Hal and Poins conceal themselves. Falstaff enters... (full context)
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...towards the royal exchequer. Prince Hal orders the men into position to ambush travelers. When Falstaff worries that they might themselves get robbed, Prince Hal calls him a coward. Falstaff replies... (full context)
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The travellers enter and Falstaff, Gadshill, Bardolph, and Peto stop them, demanding money. They drive the travellers offstage. Prince Hal... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
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...to know on a first-name basis and befriended. They think him “no proud Jack, like Falstaff….but a lad of mettle.” Prince Hal boasts that he’s such a good, perceptive observer of... (full context)
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Vintner enters and announces that Falstaff and others are at the door. Prince Hal and Poins are giddy in anticipation. Falstaff,... (full context)
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Falstaff describes being ambushed by thieves and robbed of the loot they’d stolen from the travelers... (full context)
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Prince Hal gleefully declares Falstaff a shameful coward, but Falstaff immediately retorts that the truth of the story only further... (full context)
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Falstaff reenters and tells Prince Hal that King Henry has requested his presence at court next... (full context)
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Falstaff suggests they practice Prince Hal’s impending meeting with King Henry. Falstaff pretends to be the... (full context)
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Prince Hal demands they change places on the grounds that Falstaff doesn’t sound like King Henry. Playing the king, the prince sternly berates Falstaff. Playing Prince... (full context)
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As son as the Sheriff leaves, Prince Hal calls out for his friends. Falstaff has fallen asleep in his hiding place and snores loudly. Hal and Peto go through... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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At a room in the Boarshead Tavern in Eastcheap, Falstaff and Bardolph banter. Falstaff insists he is getting thin, and Bardolph insists he has stayed... (full context)
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Hostess Quickly enters and Falstaff asks whether she’s found out yet who picked his pockets. Hostess Quickly replies that there... (full context)
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Prince Hal and Poins enter. Hostess Quickly and Falstaff fight for the prince’s attention, Falstaff complaining about being pick-pocketed and Hostess Quickly insisting that... (full context)
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The Right to be King Theme Icon
Prince Hal asks Falstaff if he was really berating him and Falstaff replies, “Hal, thou know’st, as thou art... (full context)
The Right to be King Theme Icon
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Falstaff asks Prince Hal about the robbery and is dismayed to hear that Hal has returned... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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On a public road near Coventry, Falstaff nags Bardolph to go buy him some wine. Bardolph exits. Falstaff reflects that he should... (full context)
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Prince Hal and Westmoreland enter and Falstaff is surprised to see them, since he thought they’d already ridden off to the battlefield.... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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...King Henry’s camp near Shrewsbury, King Henry, Prince Hal, Prince John, Sir Walter Blunt, and Falstaff observe the dawn. The king says the blood-red sun looks angry at the day. Prince... (full context)
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Falstaff asks Prince Hal to protect him in battle, but Hal tells Falstaff to “say thy... (full context)
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Alone on stage, Falstaff muses on the nature of honor: what, he wonders, is the good of the honor... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
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Falstaff enters and stumbles on Sir Walter Blunt’s corpse and says “there’s honor for you!” He... (full context)
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Prince Hal enters and, disgusted that Falstaff is still waddling around in safety when many noblemen have been killed in battle, tells... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
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...Hal promises that all of Hotspur’s “budding honors” will soon belong to him. They fight. Falstaff enters and cheers Hal on. Douglas enters and fights Falstaff until Falstaff falls. Douglas exits. (full context)
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Prince Hal notices Falstaff’s corpse and laments his friend’s death, saying that he “could have better spared a better... (full context)
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Alone on stage, Falstaff rises and declares that he faked his death in order to escape being killed by... (full context)
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Noticing Hotspur on the ground, Falstaff is frightened, and stabs the body to make sure Hotspur is really dead. Satisfied, Falstaff... (full context)
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Prince Hal and Prince John enter. At first they’re shocked to see Falstaff standing and think he might be a ghost. But, hearing Falstaff speak, the princes realize... (full context)
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...and Prince John exit to go see how many of their soldiers are still living. Falstaff follows them, saying that, if he is rewarded for Hotspur’s corpse, he’ll lose weight, give... (full context)