Henry IV Part 1


William Shakespeare

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Henry IV Part 1: Act 2, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
At an inn-yard in Rochester, Carrier 1 and Carrier 2 gripe about packing up and caring for horses and about getting flea-bitten. They discuss the goods they’re packing up for their masters journeys: bacon, ginger, turkeys.
As with the scenes at Boarshead Tavern, Shakespeare’s choice to give lines to the two carriers introduces another type of speech—the English of servants—into the play.
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Gadshill enters and asks the two carriers to lend him a lantern to check on his horse, but the carriers are suspicious of Gadshill and refuse. They exit to go wake up their masters, who will want to travel together for safety since they are carrying riches.
The carriers rightly see through Gadshill’s appearance of innocence and don’t trust his claims to be harmless.
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Gadshill calls for the chamberlain and they joke about being thieves. The chamberlain repeats the message he told Gadshill the night before: one of the men staying at the inn will be traveling this morning with 300 gold marks. Gadshill swears to rob the man and he and the chamberlain joke about being hung. Gadshill pretends to be a noble man, one with those who “pray continually to…the Commonwealth; or, rather,…prey on her, for they ride up and down on her, and make her their boots.” The two part genially, Gadshill promising to give the chamberlain a share of the loot he plans to steal.
As with Falstaff and Prince Hal’s conversation, Gadshill’s banter with the chamberlain uses witty, punning language to upend conventional values and invert an image of honorability: by punning on the word “pray,” Gadshill’s sentence turns a description of honorable upright citizens into corrupt criminals.
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