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 justifiable fears of others after the king’s death. Through magnanimity to the Chief Justice, severity toward Falstaff, and professed allegiance to his father’s memory, Hal convinces members of the court that he will become a worthy monarch.
Prince John, Hal’s younger brother. A man of few words, he is tough and ruthless. As commander of the king’s army, he convinces the rebel leaders to surrender and then sends their leaders to immediate execution.
Westmoreland, the king’s counselor and general. Resolute and strong-willed, he upholds the king’s position in a meeting with the rebels.
Warwick, the king’s cousin, an important counselor. He attempts to calm the king’s fears about rebel strength and reassures the king about Hal’s intentions. Among the courtiers, only Warwick believes that Hal will reform.
The Lord Chief Justice
The Lord Chief Justice, a fearless, upright man of justice. In two encounters with Falstaff, he parries the knight’s efforts to intimidate him. Having reason to fear the worst from Hal, he stoutly justifies to the new king his earlier role in sending him to prison. Hal rewards him by retaining him in office.
Scroop, the archbishop of York, an elderly, highly respected clergyman and a natural leader. He leads the rebels in northern England. Wise and eloquent, he elicits respect from both followers and adversaries. Professing to oppose the government on principle, he is motivated in large measure by a grudge against the king, who had executed his brother for treason. Tricked into an ambiguous truce, he is...
(The entire section is 768 words.)