home contact

King Henry IV, Part II

Please see the bottom of the page for extensive explanatory notes and other helpful resources.

ACT II SCENE II London. Another street. 
PRINCE HENRYBefore God, I am exceeding weary.
POINSIs't come to that? I had thought weariness durst not
have attached one of so high blood.
PRINCE HENRYFaith, it does me; though it discolours the
complexion of my greatness to acknowledge it. Doth
it not show vilely in me to desire small beer?
POINSWhy, a prince should not be so loosely studied as
to remember so weak a composition.8
PRINCE HENRYBelike then my appetite was not princely got; for,
by my troth, I do now remember the poor creature,
small beer. But, indeed, these humble
considerations make me out of love with my
greatness. What a disgrace is it to me to remember
thy name! or to know thy face to-morrow! or to
take note how many pair of silk stockings thou
hast, viz. these, and those that were thy
peach-coloured ones! or to bear the inventory of thy
shirts, as, one for superfluity, and another for
use! But that the tennis-court-keeper knows better
than I; for it is a low ebb of linen with thee when
thou keepest not racket there; as thou hast not done
a great while, because the rest of thy low
countries have made a shift to eat up thy holland:21
and God knows, whether those that bawl out the ruins
of thy linen shall inherit his kingdom: but the
midwives say the children are not in the fault;
whereupon the world increases, and kindreds are
mightily strengthened.
POINSHow ill it follows, after you have laboured so hard,
you should talk so idly! Tell me, how many good
young princes would do so, their fathers being so
sick as yours at this time is?
PRINCE HENRYShall I tell thee one thing, Poins?
POINSYes, faith; and let it be an excellent good thing.
PRINCE HENRYIt shall serve among wits of no higher breeding than thine.
POINSGo to; I stand the push of your one thing that you
will tell.31
PRINCE HENRYMarry, I tell thee, it is not meet that I should be
sad, now my father is sick: albeit I could tell
thee, as to one it pleases me, for fault of a
better, to call my friend, I could be sad, and sad
indeed too.
POINSVery hardly upon such a subject.
PRINCE HENRYBy this hand thou thinkest me as far in the devil's
book as thou and Falstaff for obduracy and
persistency: let the end try the man. But I tell
thee, my heart bleeds inwardly that my father is so
sick: and keeping such vile company as thou art
hath in reason taken from me all ostentation of sorrow.42
POINSThe reason?
PRINCE HENRYWhat wouldst thou think of me, if I should weep?
POINSI would think thee a most princely hypocrite.
PRINCE HENRYIt would be every man's thought; and thou art a
blessed fellow to think as every man thinks: never
a man's thought in the world keeps the road-way
better than thine: every man would think me an
hypocrite indeed. And what accites your most
worshipful thought to think so?
POINSWhy, because you have been so lewd and so much
engraffed to Falstaff.
PRINCE HENRYAnd to thee.
POINSBy this light, I am well spoke on; I can hear it
with my own ears: the worst that they can say of
me is that I am a second brother and that I am a
proper fellow of my hands; and those two things, I
confess, I cannot help. By the mass, here comes Bardolph.
[Enter BARDOLPH and Page]
PRINCE HENRYAnd the boy that I gave Falstaff: a' had him from
me Christian; and look, if the fat villain have not
transformed him ape.61
BARDOLPHGod save your grace!
PRINCE HENRYAnd yours, most noble Bardolph!
BARDOLPHCome, you virtuous ass, you bashful fool, must you
be blushing? wherefore blush you now? What a
maidenly man-at-arms are you become! Is't such a
matter to get a pottle-pot's maidenhead?
PageA' calls me e'en now, my lord, through a red
lattice, and I could discern no part of his face
from the window: at last I spied his eyes, and
methought he had made two holes in the ale-wife's

new petticoat and so peeped through.70
PRINCE HENRYHas not the boy profited?
BARDOLPHAway, you whoreson upright rabbit, away!
PageAway, you rascally Althaea's dream, away!
PRINCE HENRYInstruct us, boy; what dream, boy?
PageMarry, my lord, Althaea dreamed she was delivered
of a fire-brand; and therefore I call him her dream.
PRINCE HENRYA crown's worth of good interpretation: there 'tis,
POINSO, that this good blossom could be kept from
cankers! Well, there is sixpence to preserve thee.80
BARDOLPHAn you do not make him hanged among you, the
gallows shall have wrong.
PRINCE HENRYAnd how doth thy master, Bardolph?
BARDOLPHWell, my lord. He heard of your grace's coming to
town: there's a letter for you.
POINSDelivered with good respect. And how doth the
martlemas, your master?
BARDOLPHIn bodily health, sir.
POINSMarry, the immortal part needs a physician; but
that moves not him: though that be sick, it dies90
PRINCE HENRYI do allow this wen to be as familiar with me as my
dog; and he holds his place; for look you how be writes.
POINS[Reads] 'John Falstaff, knight,'--every man must
know that, as oft as he has occasion to name
himself: even like those that are kin to the king;
for they never prick their finger but they say,
'There's some of the king's blood spilt.' 'How
comes that?' says he, that takes upon him not to
conceive. The answer is as ready as a borrower's
cap, 'I am the king's poor cousin, sir.'100
PRINCE HENRYNay, they will be kin to us, or they will fetch it
from Japhet. But to the letter.
POINS[Reads] 'Sir John Falstaff, knight, to the son of
the king, nearest his father, Harry Prince of
Wales, greeting.' Why, this is a certificate.
POINS[Reads] 'I will imitate the honourable Romans in
brevity:' he sure means brevity in breath,
short-winded. 'I commend me to thee, I commend
thee, and I leave thee. Be not too familiar with
Poins; for he misuses thy favours so much, that he
swears thou art to marry his sister Nell. Repent
at idle times as thou mayest; and so, farewell.112
Thine, by yea and no, which is as much as to
say, as thou usest him, JACK FALSTAFF with my
familiars, JOHN with my brothers and sisters,
and SIR JOHN with all Europe.'
My lord, I'll steep this letter in sack and make him eat it.
PRINCE HENRYThat's to make him eat twenty of his words. But do
you use me thus, Ned? must I marry your sister?
POINSGod send the wench no worse fortune! But I never said so.
PRINCE HENRYWell, thus we play the fools with the time, and the
spirits of the wise sit in the clouds and mock us.
Is your master here in London?
BARDOLPHYea, my lord.
PRINCE HENRYWhere sups he? doth the old boar feed in the old frank?
BARDOLPHAt the old place, my lord, in Eastcheap.
PRINCE HENRYWhat company?
PageEphesians, my lord, of the old church.130
PRINCE HENRYSup any women with him?
PageNone, my lord, but old Mistress Quickly and
Mistress Doll Tearsheet.
PRINCE HENRYWhat pagan may that be?
PageA proper gentlewoman, sir, and a kinswoman of my master's.
PRINCE HENRYEven such kin as the parish heifers are to the town
bull. Shall we steal upon them, Ned, at supper?
POINSI am your shadow, my lord; I'll follow you.
PRINCE HENRYSirrah, you boy, and Bardolph, no word to your
master that I am yet come to town: there's for
your silence.
BARDOLPHI have no tongue, sir.141
PageAnd for mine, sir, I will govern it.
PRINCE HENRYFare you well; go.
[Exeunt BARDOLPH and Page]
This Doll Tearsheet should be some road.
POINSI warrant you, as common as the way between Saint
Alban's and London.
PRINCE HENRYHow might we see Falstaff bestow himself to-night
in his true colours, and not ourselves be seen?
POINSPut on two leathern jerkins and aprons, and wait
upon him at his table as drawers.
PRINCE HENRYFrom a God to a bull? a heavy decension! it was
Jove's case. From a prince to a prentice? a low
transformation! that shall be mine; for in every
thing the purpose must weigh with the folly.
Follow me, Ned.

Continue to 2 Henry IV, Act 2, Scene 3


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 2
From King Henry the Fourth, second part. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.

3. attached, laid hands upon, arrested; 'attach' and 'attack' are doublets: blood, rank, birth.

4, 5. though it ... it, though it detracts from my greatness to own it; a humorous way of saying 'it makes me blush.'

7, 8. Why, a prince ... composition, well, to tell the truth, a prince's inclinations ought not to concern themselves with anything of so mean a nature as small beer; with a pun on studied, and on composition in its sense of a literary production.

9. Belike then ... got, probably then, though I myself am of princely origin, my appetite is derived from some less noble source.

12, 3. What a disgrace ... name! if it is unworthy of me to think of such a thing as small beer, how much more unworthy of me is it to concern myself with you in any way, even so far as to remember your name! Cp. K. J. i. 1. 187, "if his name be George, I'll call him Peter; For new-made honour doth forget men's names."

15. those that were ... ones, sc. but which from much wearing and often washing have long since lost their colour. This colour seems to have been a favourite one; cp. Jonson, E. M. I. H. H . iv. 4, "two pair of silk sockings ... a peach colour and another."

15, 6. to bear, sc. in memory, mind: for superfluity, as a change.

18, 9. for it is ... there, for things must be at a very low ebb with you in regard to changes of linen when you are not found amusing yourself there, i.e. as long as you have a decent shirt to wear you are sure to be wasting your time at the tennis court; with a pun on racket in the sense of noisy amusement and that of the bat used in playing tennis.

20, 1. the rest ... holland, i.e. because you have been obliged to use the holland of your shirts to make you breeches; with a pun on the Low Countries, or Netherlands, and Holland, and a further pun on shift = (1) contrivance, (2) a change of clothes, (3) a shirt, especially the underlinen of women.

22. laboured so hard, i.e. in war.

28. shall serve, will do, will be quite good enough, for, etc.

30. I stand the push, I am ready to meet the thrust; cp. Pt. I. iii. 2. 66, "To laugh at gibing boys and stand the push Of every beardless vain comparative."

32. meet, fitting, proper.

33. albeit, although; properly a phrase all(though) it be.

36. Very hardly ... subject, you would find it a very hard task to be really sad at your father's illness, i.e. you would be only too glad if your father were sick unto death.

37, 8. as far ... persistency, as utterly without feeling, and as thorough a villain as yourself and FalstafF.

40, 2. and keeping ... sorrow, and (yet) from associating with such scum as you, I am naturally disinclined to make any show of my sorrow.

48. keeps the road-way, follows the beaten track of men in general.

50. accites, incites, provokes; properly, summons.

51. lewd, profane, debauched: engraffed, closely bound to; the old word was 'graff,' our form 'graft' being really the passive participle, 'graffed' used as though it were an infinitive. Shakespeare employs both forms. To 'graft' is to insert the bud of one species of a plant in the stem of another in order to improve it, the bud thus inserted being tied with string, matting, etc., to the stem, and in time becoming one with it. Cp. W. T. iv. 4. 92-4, "We ... make conceive a bark of baser kind By bad of nobler race."

54. By this light. A petty form of oath, corrupted from "by God's light," an oath which we often find in the form "'slight": spoke, for the contracted form of past participles, see Abb. 343.

56. a second brother, one as dear to my friends as another brother.

56, 7. a proper ... hands, like "a tall fellow of thy hands," W. T. v. 2. 178, a well-built, handy, fellow: I cannot help, as though he were confessing to some depreciatory estimation of himself.

58. the mass, the sacrament of the Eucharist, or Lord's Supper.

59, 60. a' had him ... Christian, when I gave him to Falstaff, he was still a human being and a Christian.

60, 1. transformed him ape, turned him into an ape, by the fantastic livery put upon him.

65, 6. a maidenly man-at-arms, more like a blushing miss than the personal attendant on such a warrior as your master.

67, 8. A' calls me ... window, he called to me a minute ago through the window of a tavern and I could not distinguish his face from the red panes of glass in it: the windows of ale-houses were furnished with lattices of various colours, but especially red, and a "red lattice" became synonymous with a tavern; cp. Marston, i. Antonio and Mellida, v. 1. 224, "I am not as well known by my wit as an alehouse by a red lattice" -, so in M. W. ii. 2. 28, "your red lattice phrases," i.e. your tavern talk.

68-70. at last ... through, at last I caught sight of his eyes which seemed to be peeping out from two holes cut in the Hostess's new scarlet petticoat; these petticoats of scarlet were common formerly. For another description of Bardolph's scarlet face, see Pt. I. iii. 3. 27-59.

71. Has not ... profited? sc. from his intercourse with Falstaff. you ... rabbit, you young scamp, more like a rabbit on its hind legs than anything else in the world.

75, 6. Althaea ... fire-brand. Johnson points out that Shakespeare has mixed up Althaea's brand, which was real, with Hecuba's dream of a brand that was to consume Troy; but possibly, as Clarke suggests, the mistake was intentional in order to mark the Page's smattering of know edge picked up from the Prince, Falstaff, and the rest.

77. A crown's worth ... interpretation, your interpretation deserves a reward of a crown; which coin the Prince then gives the boy.

80. cankers, worms that prey upon the blossoms of flowers; the word is a doublet of "cancer," Lat. cancer, a crab, from the disease eating into the flesh like a crab with its claws.

81, 2. An you do ... wrong, if with the teaching he gets among you he does not come to be hanged, then all I can say is that the gallows will have been cheated of its due a proverbial saying of a guilty man escaping punishment.

86. Delivered ... respect. Poins jeers at Bardolph's courtesy in delivering the letter to the Prince.

86, 7. martlemas. A corruption of "Martinmas," the feast of St. Martin on the 11th of November, in sarcasm of the youthful frivolity of one so far on in years; cp. Pt. I. i. 2. 177, 8, "Farewell, thou latter spring! farewell, All-hallow summer!"

90. it dies not, it is as vigorous as ever in evil thoughts.

91. this wen, this wretched excrescence upon my greatness, like a wen, a tumour, on a man's body.

92. holds his place, behaves as though he were a part of myself, asserts his intimacy with me.

94, 5. every man ... himself, he is determined that every one should know he is a knight, for he never speaks of himself without dragging in that fact.

98, 9. takes ... conceive, pretends not to understand, in order to please the speaker by giving him the opportunity of explaining: a borrower's cap, which the borrower is always so ready to take off to any one who he hopes will lend him money.

101, 2. Nay, they will ... Japhet, yes, assuredly they will prove their kinship to us, even if they have to go as far back as the flood to prove it: nay is elliptical, nay, there is no mistake about that.

104. nearest his father, i.e. eldest son; an affectation of Falstaff's.

107. Romans. Some editors follow Warburton in reading Roman, supposing the allusion to be to Julius Caesar's brief missive to the Senate after defeating Pharnaces, king of Pontus, B.C. 47, Veni, vidi, vici, "I came, I saw, I overcame," as Rosalind renders it, A. Y. L. v. 2. 35, and the sentence, "I commend ... leave thee" gives some colour to the supposition.

109. I commend me to thee, I recommend myself to you, I greet you with all good wishes: I commend thee, I offer you my words of praise on your exploits.

112. at idle times, when you have nothing better to do,

113. by yea and no, i.e. yours if you use me well, not yours if you use me badly.

117. steep, soak; Poins feeling sure that Falstaff would be ready enough to devour it for the sake of the sack with it.

118. That's to make ... words. To make a man eat his word is figuratively to make him recall them, abjure them, and the Prince here says that Poins will be punishing him dreadfully by making him eat not one but a large number of his words; twenty, for an indefinite number. Steevens compares the old play of Sir John Oldcastle; "The Sumner. I'll eat my word. Harpoole. I mean you shall eat more than your own word, I'll make you eat all the words in the process."

122. play the fools. We should now say 'play the fool,' taking the phrase as a compound verb, 'play-the-fool.'

126, 7. doth the old ... frank. The Prince likens Falstaff to an old boar for his voracity, and alludes to the Boar's Head tavern in Eastcheap, Falstaff's common resort; frank, an enclosure in which animals, generally boars, were fattened for the table; Cotgrave gives "Engraisser, To feed, franke, fatten." Ford also, The Broken Heart, iii. 2. 147, uses the word as a verb, "one that franks his lust In swine-security."

130. Ephesians. A cant name for a boon-companion, toper; apparently from the words of the old church an allusion to the admonishment of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians against drunkenness; so Corinthian was a term for a loose liver, probably with allusion to the sins denounced by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, though the Corinthians were notorious from early times for their debauchery: of the old church, of the old sort, his usual companions; so Middleton, The Phoenix, i. 4. 41, says of a set of rogues, "they belong all to one church."

134. pagan. The word originally meant nothing more than a villager, Lat. pagus, a village, thence, like heathen, a dweller on a heath, one unconverted, because people living in remote districts were not converted so early as those in towns; here for a loose woman.

135. proper, decent, respectable, honest.

142. govern it, put a curb upon it, restrain it.

144. bestow himself, show himself, behave: in his true colours, not such as he put on when in the Prince's company: and not ... seen, without being seen.

148. From a god ... bull, referring to Jupiter's transformation into a bull when seeking Europa's love: descension, descent; not otherwhere found; the folios give "declension."

150. the purpose ... folly, the object in view must be weighed with the folly employed and be an excuse for it.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. King Henry IV, second part. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1911. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

Related Articles

 Henry IV Overview (with theme analysis)
 Introduction to Prince Hal
 Introduction to Falstaff
 Introduction to Hotspur
 Introduction to Owen Glendower

 Henry IV Play History
 Shakespeare's History Plays: The Ultimate Quiz
 Henry IV Plot Summary
 Henry IV: Q & A

 Sources for Henry IV
 Essay Topics for Henry IV
 Famous Quotations from 1 Henry IV
 Shakespeare's Falstaff and the Queen

 Characteristics of Elizabethan Drama
 Shakespeare's Reputation in Elizabethan England
 Shakespeare's Impact on Other Writers
 Shakespeare's Writing Style

 Words Shakespeare Coined
 Quotations About William Shakespeare

 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Boss: The Master of Revels