Last Updated on May 19, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 332
Context: King Henry IV, beset with political problems as rebellion breaks out in the north and in the west, is also plagued by what he assumes to be the utter dissipation of his son and heir apparent, Prince Hal. Actually, Hal perceives his role quite clearly; in anticipation of the time when he will ascend the throne, he is determined to mingle with all classes of people in order that his rule might be more efficient. Moreover, there can be no doubt of Hal's affection for his old companion in fun, Falstaff, that "huge bombard of wit." The group of Eastcheap rowdies with whom the Prince consorts plans to rob the king's retainers at Gads Hill. Secretly Hal and Poins have contrived an elaborate scheme to counter-rob the robbers in order to force Falstaff to display his true colors. Effecting the plan awaits now only the confirmation of the specific time the gold will be in transit. This information is to be secured by one of the prince's companions, Gadshill, who has an agreement with the chamberlain of the inn. In the early morning hours Gadshill mingles with the carriers both to gain their confidence and to pick up any information which might be useful to the robbers. But the carriers are a wary lot; quick with an evasive retort, they effectively parry Gadshill's leading questions:
Good morrow, carriers. What's a clock?
I think it be two a clock.
I prithee lend me thy lantern, to see my gelding in the stable.
Nay by God soft, I know a trick worth two of that, i' faith.
I pray thee lend me thine.
Ay when? Canst tell? Lend me thy lantern quotha? Marry I'll see thee hang'd first.
Sirrah carrier, what time do you mean to come to London?
Time enough to go to bed with a candle, I warrant thee. Come neighbor Mugs, we'll call up the gentlemen; they will along with company, for they have great charge.