Act V, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis
Back in France, in the English camp, Fluellen is seen wearing a leek in his cap. Questioned by Gower, he says he means to force-feed this pungent object to “the rascally, scald, beggarly, lousy, pragging knave Pistol,” who had earlier insulted his heritage by making wisecracks about the leek, which happens to be the Welsh national emblem.
When Pistol enters, Fluellen makes good his intention by thrashing him soundly with a cudgel, or short, heavy club. Though he eats the leek, Pistol is unrepentant, and once the other has left he mutters, “All hell shall stir for this.”
When Gower, too, exits, the rogue reflects on his current status. Word has reached him that his wife Hostess Quickly has died of “a malady of France—that is, syphilis. Now alone, beaten, and penniless, he resolves to go home and resume a life of crime when he says“to England I’ll steal, and there I’ll steal.”
The business about the leek allows Shakespeare to bring the two major comic characters, Pistol and Fluellen, back for a final bow, and also to establish a light-hearted tone for the last act. Fluellen has perhaps his funniest moments in juxtaposing elaborate politeness with scathing insults. “Aunchient Pistol, you scurvy, lousy knave, God pless you.” The scene also continues the theme of unification, as Gower tells Pistol, “You thought because he could not speak English in the native garb, he could not therefore handle an English cudgel. . . . [L]et a Welsh correction teach you a good English condition.” Pistol remains in character, however, blaming Fortune for his problems.