Henry IV, Part I "Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor"
by William Shakespeare

Henry IV, Part I book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Henry IV, Part I Study Guide

Subscribe Now

"Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Our present-day bit of philosophy is a recasting of the words of Falstaff. Prince Hal and Hotspur are finally met on the battlefield. Falstaff stands and watches them fight. At this moment Douglas enters and fights with Falstaff, who falls down as if dead. Hal kills Hotspur and then exits after having looked at Falstaff and thought him dead. Falstaff, Shakespeare's greatest comic creation, then rises and comments on his philosophy of life.


FALSTAFF
. . . I am no counterfeit; to die is to be a counterfeit, for he is but the counterfeit of a man, who hath not the life of a man; but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed. The better part of valour is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life. . . .