The scene shifts to Prince Hal in London, who is with Falstaff, his rotund and pontificating drinking companion. They joke about the petty crimes they have committed, and reminisce about their alcoholic binges and the many women that they have wooed. Poins enters the tavern and tells them of a plan to commit highway robbery. Prince Hal is reluctant until Poins, after Falstaff leaves, suggests that they use the robbery to play a joke on Falstaff. They will agree to meet with Falstaff as planned, but when they arrive they will refuse to take part in the crime. Then, after Falstaff has by himself stolen the goods, Hal will steal them from Falstaff. Poins bids Hal farewell and when alone, the Prince makes clear in a soliloquy the true motivation behind his ignoble behaviour. Through this life of debauchery Hal prepares for his future as the next ruler of England. Falstaff and the others are teaching him about the common man -- a valuable lesson that he will remember well throughout his reign as Henry V.
Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2
From Henry IV, Part I. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark and Maynard.
(Line numbers have been altered.)
12. Time of day. To ask for the time of night would be
more fitting, Hal thinks.
15. That wandering knight, introduced by Falstaff for the
sake of the equivoque between knight and night.
21. Prologue, an allusion to grace before meat.
22. Roundly, in plain, blunt terms.
24. Squires of the night's body. The principal attendant
of a knight was called his squire.
25. Beauty, a pun upon booty.
36. Swearing lay by. Lay by was a highwayman's phrase,
meaning surrender. Crying bring in, crying to the waiter
to bring in wine.
41. Hybla, a hill in Sicily abounding in thyme, etc., and
famous for honey. Old lad of the castle. This is allusive to
the name Oldcastle, by which the Falstaff of this play was
originally designated. It is said that Queen Elizabeth requested Shakespeare to alter the name, as some of the family
of the Oldcastles were still remaining.
42. Durance was a strong and very durable kind of cloth.
It also denoted prison or imprisonment. The buff leather
jerkin, or doublet, commonly worn by a sergeant or sheriff's
officer was from its durability and its wearer's office called
sometimes a robe of durance.
53. Yea, and so used it. Falstaff here refers to credit in the
sense of character.
56. Resolution thus fobbed, shall boldness of spirit, or the
spirit of daring, be thus foiled or disappointed. The rusty
curb, the chains of imprisonment.
57. Antic denotes what is ancient or old-fashioned.
63. Jumps with, agrees with.
67. No lean wardrobe. The clothes of criminals were the
69. Gib cat.Gib is a contraction of Gilbert, as Tib is of Tibert. A gib cat was an old male cat. The melancholy look of an old cat, or that of a bear lugged about the streets with
a chain, is what Falstaff refers to.
72. A hare. Dr. Johnson says of the hare, "She is upon her
form always solitary, and, according to the physic of the
times, the flesh of it was supposed to generate melancholy."
73. Moor-ditch, part of the great moat formerly surrounding the city of London, and extending from Moorgate to
Bishopsgate. Its dull filthy stream, with the marshes on one side of it, and the wretched houses on the other, gave
rise to the term Moor-ditch melancholy.
75. Most comparative, most apt to use comparisons.
83. Wisdom cries out. Prov. 1: 20-24.
85. Iteration, mockery of one's words.
95. Zounds, God's wounds. An oath the meaning of which
the user never knew. Cf. 'Sblood, Marry, dear me.
96. Baffle originally meant to punish a recreant knight by
hanging him up by the heels and beating him.
101. If Gadshill have set a match. To set a match was to lay
a plan for a robbery. Gadshill, near Rochester, was much infested with highwaymen in Shakespeare's time.
134. Stand for ten shillings = stand for a royal. The royal
was a coin worth ten shillings.
143. This speech is in ridicule of the usual style of the Puritan preacher's prayer before sermon. In it Falstaff calls
robbing a recreation.
149. All-hallown summer. All-hallows, or All-saints day, is
November 1. The Prince likens Falstaff to a latter spring and an All-hallown summer, because of the youthful passions of his old age.
164. Habits, garments.
165. Appointment, equipment. There is here a quibbling
reference to the words of Poins, "appoint them a place of
169. The nonce. The n of then passing over to once, the nonce
is then once = this once. Noted, known.
179. Reproof, refutation, disproof.
185. Unyok'd, unrestrained.
192. To strangle him, to smother him. Cf. Macbeth, ii. 3,
"'T is day, and yet dark night strangles the traveling lamp."
200. Hopes, expectations.
204. Foil, a piece of gold or silver leaf placed under a transparent gem to set it off.
205. To make offence, as to make my offending a piece of
skillful conduct. "This speech," says Johnson, "is very artfully introduced to keep the prince from appearing vile in the opinion of the audience; it prepares them for his future reformation; and, what is yet more valuable, exhibits a natural picture of a great mind offering excuses to itself, and palliating those follies which it can neither justify nor forsake."
How to cite the introduction:
Mabillard, Amanda. Introduction to King Henry IV, Part 1 (1.2). Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/1kh4_1_2.html >.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. King Henry IV, Part 1. Ed. Brainerd Kellogg. New York: Clark and Maynard, 1885. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/1kh4_1_2.html >.