Henry IV Part 2


William Shakespeare

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Henry IV Part 2: Act 4, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Battle trumpets sound. Falstaff and the rebel Coleville enter and meet one another. Falstaff pronounces that Coleville will soon be imprisoned. As soon as Coleville realizes he’s facing Sir John Falstaff, he surrenders. Lancaster, Westmoreland, and Blunt enter and Lancaster accuses Falstaff of dragging his heels to avoid action as usual. Falstaff protests that he’s been moving as quickly as his old body allows him, then rambles on pompously about his courage and heroic acts, pointing to his prisoner Coleville as evidence and comparing himself to Julius Caesar. Lancaster ignores Falstaff and sends Coleville off to be executed. All exit but Falstaff.
Falstaff’s deceptions—pretending to be a grand war hero, making up excuses to avoid fighting—are immoral, but they nevertheless possess a charm and warmth that Lancaster’s cold morality in the prior scene lacked. Again, the play offers a complicated portrait of the contradictions between morality and selfishness, corruption, and pleasure.
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Alone on stage, Falstaff gives a speech about wine: Lancaster is too serious and doesn’t like him, but it’s no wonder because the young prince doesn’t drink wine. Boys who don’t drink wine always turn out anemic, girlish, foolish, and cowardly. Boys who do drink wine grow valiant and strong, like Prince Hal who owes his courage to wine consumption (not to his father King Henry IV, who is, Falstaff claims, a coward). If Falstaff has sons, he resolves, he’ll make sure they “addict themselves to sack.” Falstaff exits, planning to stop off at Shallow’s to swindle him out of some money before heading home.
Falstaff’s perverse reasoning links the themes of Lies and Disease by attributing Prince Hal’s robust health to an unhealthy drinking habit.
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