Henry IV, part one Synopsis and Scene Breakdown

Henry IV did not inherit the throne. While Henry was related to the royal family, King Richard II forced Henry’s family into exile. Richard enacted some unpopular laws and the led an unsuccessful war against Ireland. Henry returned from exile, won the support of the people, deposed Richard, had him killed and took the crown for himself. While Henry is now King, he does not enjoy great support from his nobles and is beset by uprisings in Scotland and Wales.

Act I, scene i — the King’s Court
King Henry IV meets with his court. Following news of a victory against Scottish rebels, he plans to win the support of the people and the church by leading a crusade to Jerusalem. News that one of his men, Mortimer, was captured and his army decimated in a battle with Welsh rebels, the King calls off the crusade. The King learns that Hotspur, a valiant knight captured many men in a battle against Scottish rebels and Hotspur now refuses to turn over the prisoners to the King. The King laments Hotspur’s heroic reputation compared to his own poorly regarded son Hal.

Act I, scene ii — the Prince’s Apartment
Price Hal awakens after a night of drinking in the company of an old fat knight, Sir John Falstaff. Their friend Poins enters with information about a plans for a robbery which they are plotting. Poins convinces the prince to help him with a jest in which he and the Hal will steal the loot which their friends have just stolen. Hal admits to himself that he plans to give up his wild ways when people least expect it.

Act I, scene iii — the King’s Court
Hotspur, his father Northumberland and his uncle Worcester come before the King to answer about the prisoners. The King dismisses Worcester and Hotspur claims to have done nothing wrong. The King refuses to pay the ransom for Mortimer (Hotspur’s brother-in-law) and demands his prisoners. After the King departs, Worcester brings Hotspur and Northumberland in on his plan to overthrow the King.

Act II, scene i — has been cut from this production

Act II, scene ii — near Gad’s Hill
Hal, Falstaff, Poins and the other robbers await the travelers they intend to rob. Hal and Poins slip away and put on disguises. The travelers are waylaid and their money taken. Before the thieves can enjoy it though, Hal and Poins rob them, and their friends run off without a fight.

Act II, scene iii — Hotspur’s Castle
Hotspur reads a letter from a nobleman who does not believe the rebels’ plan will work. His wife, Lady Percy knows he’s up to something and demands to know what. Domestic strife ensues.

Act II, scene iv — the Boar’s Head Tavern
Gadshill and Bardolph arrive with Falstaff who berates Hal for being a coward and running away during the robbery. Falstaff tells how he fought with a hundred men when he was robbed. After enjoying Falstaff’s lies, Hal owns up to what really happened. News comes that Worcester has fled; a war may be beginning and Hal is summoned to the court. Falstaff pretends to be the King so Hal can practice his answers, then Hal plays the King and Falstaff plays the prince. The sheriff arrives looking for the stolen money and Hal assures him all will be made right.

Act III, scene i — Glendower’s Castle in Wales
Worcester and Hotspur meet with Glendower (the leader of the Welsh rebels) and Mortimer, who after being captured has fallen in love and married Glendower’s daughter. They plan how the kingdom will be divided when King Henry is overthrown. Glendower’s daughter, who speaks only Welsh, cannot bear to part with Mortimer and sings him a love song. Lady Percy has her farewell with Hotspur before the men leave to fight the King.

Act III, scene ii — the King’s Court
The King chastises Hal for his wild living with his friends at the tavern, pointing out the grave dangers which he now faces. Hal promises that he will clear his name when he faces Hotspur and will prove in arms that he is worthy to be the Prince. The King gives him command of troops and sends him on toward the battlefield.

Act III, scene iii — the Boar’s Head Tavern
Mistress Quickly berates Falstaff for not paying his bills and he complains of having had his pocket picked in her tavern. Prince Hal tells Falstaff that they are all going to the war and Falstaff will lead infantry troops into battle.

Act IV, scene i —  the Rebel Camp
The rebels, joined by the famed Scots warrior Douglas, receive news that Northumberland is sick and will not join them for the battle, and that Glendower’s soldiers are not ready. Vernon, a rebel knight, tells that Prince Hal seems to be more than ready for battle. Hotspur remains ready to take them all on.

Act IV, scene ii — a Road
Falstaff has taken bribes from his best soldiers to escape fighting, leaving him with a ragtag mob of unfit soldiers. Westmoreland and Prince Hal urge him to hurry to the battlefield.

Act IV, scene iii — the Rebel Camp
The rebels argue whether they should attack at once. Sir Walter Blunt comes from the King to ask if the rebels will accept a peace offer from the King. Hotspur enumerates the King’s wrongs but agrees to consider the offer.

Act IV, scene iv — the Archbishop’s Palace
The Archbishop of York is also in league with the rebels. He entrusts a knight to deliver messages to the other rebel leaders.

Act V, scene i — the King’s Camp
Worcester and Vernon come to discuss the peace offer, but the discussion does not go well. Prince Hal offers to avoid bloodshed by fighting Hotspur in single combat. The King asks Worcester to deliver a peace offering to Hotspur.

Act V, scene ii — the Rebel Camp
Worcester decides not to tell Hotspur of the peace offer. The rebels prepare for battle.

Act V, scene iii — the Battlefield
War! Douglas fights Blunt who is dressed like the King, and kills him. Hotspur tells Douglas he’s killed the wrong man and the battle continues. Falstaff discovers the body of Blunt and contemplates “honor”.

Act V, scene iv — the Battlefield
More fighting ensues, in which Hal’s younger brother John proves himself a worthy warrior. Douglas fights the King, and is saved by Hal. Hotspur finds Hal and they fight. Douglas fights with Falstaff who appears to be killed. Hal kills Hotspur. Falstaff rises from his feigned death and claims to have killed Hotspur. The King’s forces win the battle.

Act V, scene v — the Battlefield
The captured Worcester and Vernon are brought before the King and he orders their deaths. Douglas has been captured but Hal frees him as he has proved himself such a worth combatant. The King sends Westmoreland and Prince John to fight Archbishop, while he and Hal take their troops to Wales to fight Glendower.

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