Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
King Henry IV
King Henry IV, the first Lancastrian monarch. Weighed down by the troubles of high office, he is despondent over having deposed his predecessor Richard II and profoundly pessimistic about prospects for the nation when Prince Hal, his successor, becomes king. Beset by rebellions from two quarters, he is inclined to credit exaggerated reports of rebel strength. Following assurances from wise counselors that he will prevail, the king reaffirms his intention to lead a crusade to the Holy Land after peace has been restored. Illness cuts short his plan. As he lies dying, he is reassured by Prince Hal that his counselors will be retained and heeded. He advises Hal to involve the nation in a foreign war to promote domestic unity.
Prince Henry, often called Prince Hal, the prince of Wales and later King Henry V in the drama. After being dismissed from the king’s council for striking the Chief Justice in court, the witty Hal turns his attentions to enjoying himself with Falstaff and his companions at the Boar’s Head Tavern. When he hears of the king’s illness, he conceals his grief because, he thinks, people would regard sadness on his part as hypocritical. Visiting his father before his death, Hal takes away the crown and must explain to the king’s satisfaction why he did something seemingly so callous. Although his response restores the king’s confidence, he is compelled to quiet the...
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Falstaff (Sir John Falstaff)
In Henry IV, Part One, Falstaff—the "fat knight''—is a dishonest but charismatic friend and father figure to Prince Hal. In Henry IV, Part Two, he has gained enough respectability from his so-called ''good service'' as an officer at the battle of Shrewsbury and from the commission he now holds from Prince John (I.ii.60-62) that the chief justice refrains from arresting him for a robbery he committed before the wars. (Falstaff's involvement in the Gadshill robbery and the battle of Shrewsbury forms part of the action in Henry IV, Part One.) In II.iv, he presides as usual at the Boar's Head Tavern, where he becomes the butt of one Prince Hal's jokes. In III.ii, he travels to Gloucester to recruit soldiers and, as he did in Henry IV, Part One, he collects bribes rather than competent troops.
In spite of these similarities, critics note that there is a change in tone with regard to the Falstaff of Henry IV, Part Two which corresponds to the play's more somber theme of aging and disease or decay. Toward the end of a comic scene at the Boar's Head Tavern, for example (II.iv.271, 277), Falstaff admits that he is old and asserts that Doll Tearsheet will forget him when he is gone—not specifying whether he means gone to war or his grave. Critics have also observed that Falstaff becomes less likeable in Henry IV, Part Two—probably to make his rejection by Hal more...
(The entire section is 444 words.)
Henry (King Henry IV of England, formerly known as Bullingbrook)
Formerly known as Henry Bullingbrook, Henry IV is the king of England, the father of Prince Hal, and the title character of the play. He became king after the usurpation and murder of his predecessor, Richard II. (King Richard's fall from power and Henry's accession to the throne is the subject of Shakespeare's Richard I; for the beginning of the troubles which plague Henry IV's reign, see Henry IV, Part One.)
In Henry IV, Part Two, King Henry has long been ill and is now close to death. He first appears in III.i, dressed for sleep but tormented by insomnia. In a famous speech, he envies the poorest of his subjects who can sleep even in squalor while he is kept awake all night by worries, despite his wealth and the physical comforts it affords. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," he concludes (III.i.31).
The king seems haunted by memories of Richard II, who prophesied rebellion and destruction under Henry's rule. Henry's remorse for his predecessor's fate is indicated by his repeated attempts to pay penance by going on crusade to Jerusalem (see IV.iv.1-10 and note to,5-7). Closely connected to this is the king's overwhelming concern for the condition of his kingdom and the behavior of his heir. He is profoundly upset that Hal still wastes his time in "headstrong riot" with Falstaff at the Boar's Head Tavern (IV.iv.62). Shortly after hearing that Hal has dispensed with...
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Henry (Prince Henry of Wales, also known as Prince Hal or Harry Monmouth, afterwards King Henry V of England)
He is King Henry IV's son and heir. In Henry IV, Part One, Hal is criticized for being dissolute and "madcap," but he redeems himself by the end of the play when he defeats the rebel Hotspur.
In his first appearance in Henry IV, Part Two, Hal seems to have gone back to his old ways, complaining of boredom to his crony Poins and dreaming up practical jokes to play on his old friend, Falstaff (II.ii). But in II.iv.361-66, when Peto seeks him out at the Boar's Head Tavern with news that rebellion is brewing once more, the prince blames himself for "profan[ing] the precious time'' and hurries away to resume his place as Henry's heir. Later, in IV.v, after King Henry rebukes his son for disappearing with his crown, the prince begs his forgiveness, swearing that he did not wish his father dead, and promises to be a good king and an honorable successor to the throne.
Critics have suggested that Hal never really falls back into dissolution, but is instead biding his time, learning from his followers before he casts them off, as the earl of Warwick insists in FV.iv.67- 78. It has also been argued that Hal's "hot blood" and "lavish manners" are largely projections of his father's anxious imagination (IV.iv.63,.64).
One of the most famous incidents in Henry IV, Part Two occurs when Hal, newly crowned as King Henry V, rejects Falstaff with his devastating remark—" I know...
(The entire section is 369 words.)
Percy (Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland)
Henry Percy, or Northumberland as he is often called, is an opponent of Henry IV and the father of Hotspur. In Henry IV, Part One, Hotspur was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury while Northumberland lay "crafty-sick" (Ind.37) and failed to send his son reinforcements. (Northumberland's absence from the Battle of Shrewsbury and Hotspur's defeat are part of the action in Henry IV, Part One.)
Northumberland had been one of the king's staunchest allies when Henry IV, then known as Henry Bullingbrook, usurped King Richard II (Richard's usurpation and Henry's rise to power are the subject of Shakespeare's Richard II.) But he rebels against King Henry's policies in Henry IV, Part One. The earl's distinguishing characteristic in both Henry IV, Part One and Henry IV, Part Two is that he does not deliver military aid to his fellow rebels when it is needed.
Northumberland's first appearance in Henry IV, Part Two occurs in I.i as he tries to sift truth from rumor concerning the fate of his son. Upon hearing that Hotspur is in fact dead, he vows to go to battle, calls himself "enrag'd Northumberland" (I.i. 152), and considers joining with the Archbishop Scroop against the king. However, his resolution weakens in II.iii as his wife and daughter-in-law convince him to flee to Scotland rather than fight. In IV.i.7-16 the archbishop reads letters...
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Archbishop of York (Scroop, the Archbishop of York)
The attendants and servants have small or no speaking parts. They appear in various scenes of the play, attending to the needs of the nobility.
Bardolph was Falstaff's friend in Henry IV, Part One; in Henry IV, Part Two, England is still at war with rebels, and Bardolph has become Falstaff's corporal as well as his friend. In II.i.39, he is described as an arrant malmsey-nose[d] knave'' since his nose is red from too much wine. As corporal, he spends much of his time running errands for Falstaff. In III.ii, in a satire on the corrupt recruiting practices of Elizabethan England, Bardolph accepts bribes to exempt the able-bodied Bullcalf and Mouldy from military service. Bardolph should not be confused with Lord Bardolph (see entry below), who is a rebel and a supporter of the earl of Northumberland.
Bardolph (Lord Bardolph)
He is an opponent of Henry IV. He delivers rumor rather than fact to Northumberland when he tells him that the king's forces have been defeated and that Northumberland's son, Hotspur, is still alive. So certain is Lord Bardolph that his information is accurate that he refuses to believe the bad news delivered by Northumberland's servant Travers. Lord Bardolph must accept the truth...
(The entire section is 4744 words.)