Characters Discussed

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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

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

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

Westmoreland, the king’s counselor and general. Resolute and strong-willed, he upholds the king’s position in a meeting with the rebels.

Warwick

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

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 beheaded on an order from Prince John.

Earl of Northumberland

Earl of Northumberland, a powerful nobleman, first a supporter, then an implacable opponent, of the king. Wild with grief over the death of his son Hotspur in battle against the king’s army, he vows revenge, but betrayed by his cowardly nature, he retreats into Scotland rather than join the rebels as he had promised. He eventually is defeated in battle by a force under the sheriff of Yorkshire.

Sir John Falstaff

Sir John Falstaff, a comical, corpulent knight, a companion of Prince Hal, often at the Boar’s Head Tavern. His moods vary from effervescent, contagious gaiety to...

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maudlin self-pity. A complete hedonist, Falstaff exists only for his own pleasure. He manages to intimidate others through bluster if he cannot outsmart them through his boundless wit. His hopes of favor when the prince becomes king are cruelly belied.

Pistol

Pistol, a companion of Falstaff, full of bluster, threats, and extravagant rhetoric.

Mistress Quickly

Mistress Quickly, the hostess and owner of the Boar’s Head Tavern. She creates conflict with Falstaff through attempting to collect money he owes her, but she surrenders to his wit and provides him with even more entertainment.

Doll Tearsheet

Doll Tearsheet, a prostitute at the Boar’s Head Tavern, a virago in speech with an explosive temper. She is sentimental about Falstaff.

Poins

Poins, a youthful companion of Prince Hal, given to witty pranks. His association with the prince arouses the envy of Falstaff. To Prince Hal, he is a sounding board for common opinion.