Henry V Act II, Scene 3 Summary and Analysis

William Shakespeare

Act II, Scene 3 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Back in London, outside a tavern, Hostess Quickly tells her husband Pistol that she would like to go with him to the town of Staines, en route to his joining the English army at Southampton. He refuses, saying, “For Falstaff is dead, and we must earn therefore [i.e., grieve for him].” This sets him, Nym, Bardolph, and the boy to reminiscing about their former comrade, with much punning and several bawdy jokes. The short scene ends with Pistol exhorting the others to join him as a camp-follower in France, saying they will make a fortune by living off the misfortune of others.

Analysis
Shakespeare probably inserted this scene as a final farewell to Falstaff, an immensely popular character whom, had he lived, the audience would be expecting to see. No poetry is inspired by his passing, however—a reflection not so much on the author as on these shallow, self-absorbed survivors.

The animal imagery reinforces this impression and, as before, shows the moral state of Pistol, Bardolph, and Nym. (“Nym,” incidentally, was Elizabethan slang for pilferer, or thief.) Now their degeneration has progressed beyond dogs to leeches, as Pistol invites the others to join in his parasitic enterprise by saying “Yoke-fellows in arms, let us to France, like horse-leeches, my boys, to suck, to suck, the very blood to suck.” The three will indeed exploit the miseries of war through extortion and theft—and more than one will pay for his misdeeds with his life.