Henry IV Part 2 Act 2, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis
New! Understand every line of Henry IV Part 2.Read our modern English translation of this scene.
In London, Prince Hal complains about being tired to Ned Poins, who replies that he thought princes were too well bred to get tired. Prince Hal reflects that it does indeed reflect poorly on his stature that he gets tired, as it does that he craves cheap beer. In fact, Hal goes on, his stature is diminished simply by knowing such a poor, badly dressed, whore-addicted lowlife as Poins. When Poins chides Hal for chattering on so light-heartedly while King Henry IV lies sick, Hal replies that it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to air his grief while hanging out in such “vile company,” but that his “heart bleeds inwardly.” Besides, Hal points out, everyone would think Hal was a hypocrite if he showed his grief, since he’s spent his life so publicly at odds with his father the king.
Hal’s discussion with Poins elaborates on the Right to the Throne theme by laying out Prince Hal’s conflicted relationship to his royal identity: though the prince is technically next in line to the throne, his high stature is debased by the company he keeps, by his own crass behavior, and by his lifelong antagonism towards his father the king.
Bardolph enters with Falstaff’s page, who has a letter for Prince Hal from Falstaff. In the letter, Falstaff pretentiously affects the language of a noble, calling himself a knight and warning Hal against Poins, whom Falstaff claims is trying to trick the prince into marrying his sister. Poins is infuriated. Hal contrives a plot for him and Poins to spy on Falstaff’s dinner with Doll Tearsheet that night by disguising themselves as drawers (waiters). The two of them make fun of Doll Tearsheet’s promiscuousness, and Prince Hal observes that his disguising himself like a waiter is just like Jove disguising himself as a bull.
Prince Hal and Poins plan to punish Falstaff’s lie—of pretending to be more noble than he is—with another lie, by disguising their identities. Comparing himself to the Greek god Jove, Hal alludes to the common contemporary belief that royalty was a divine right bestowed on a king and his progeny, as well as alluding to Jove’s tendency to sometimes disguise himself when he visited mortals. Hal seems, then, to be implying that his disguising of himself does not diminish his native royalty or greatness, it just hides it.