The play begins in the aftermath of the Battle of Shrewsbury.  Rumor, acting as the chorus, says that he will spread an untruthful story involving the results of the battle, claiming that it was Hotspur, not Hal, who arose victorious. The scene then goes to Northumberland's castle, where he supposedly lies "crafty-sick."

Act 1, Scene 1 Setting: Northumberland's castle at Workworth

Lord Bardolph, an ally of the Earl of Northumberland, arrives at the earl's castle to deliver news of Shrewsbury. Bardolph tells the earl that the rebels have won a decisive victory over the king's army and that Prince Hal has been slain at the hands of Hotspur. Travers, however, arrives and tells a much different tale, claiming that the rebels suffered a crushing defeat. Bardolph attempts to argue against this, but the claim is solidified by Morton, who came directly from the battlefield and knows that the rebels failed in their attempt to depose the king, with Hotspur being killed in the process. Northumberland delivers a sad lament for his deceased son and vows revenge on the king and his party. To calm the enraged earl, the others remind him that they must remember that the Archbishop is still at large with a viable rebel force. Northumberland agrees the rebellion still has hope and once again vows revenge.

Act 1, Scene 2 Setting: A London street

In the play's first comic scene, Falstaff and his page (a boy assigned to him by Prince Hal) jokingly discuss various subjects such as Falstaff's urine analysis and his over-sized clothing. The Chief Justice than arrives to question Falstaff as to why he did not answer his summons pertaining to the robbery he and his friends committed. Falstaff continuously avoids the subject, while the Chief Justice criticizes him for being a bad influence on the prince. He claims that the only reason Falstaff is not being arrested is because he is needed in the civil wars, and he performed "valiant" deeds at Shrewsbury. Falstaff continues to mock the Chief Justice until he finally gets fed up and simply wishes Falstaff good luck on his military expeditions and departs (not before Falstaff asks to borrow money from him, and is denied). The scene ends with Falstaff giving his page various letters to send out, one to Mistress Ursala, who he promised to marry, and complains about his various ailments.

Act 1, Scene 3 Setting: The palace of the Archbishop of York

This scene shows the Archbishop of York meeting with Earl Marshal Thomas Mowbray, Lord Bardolph and Lord Hastings to discuss their chances of victory against the forces of the king. Their numbers total to 25,000 men, but they are still concerned about whether they can face the king without the help of Northumberland's forces. The men want to be careful so they do not suffer the same fate as Hotspur at Shrewsbury. It is revealed that the king has been forced to divide his forces into three: one against Glendower, one against the French, and the third against their own forces. The Archbishop agrees that the men should go ahead with the rebellion and delivers a speech telling of the wrongs committed by Henry.

Act 2, Scene 1 Setting: Outside an Eastcheap tavern

Mistress Quickly orders Fang and Snare, two country justices, to arrest Falstaff on the charge of not paying his bar tab (with several sexual accusations in addition). When Falstaff arrives, the justices attempt to arrest him, and he resists. The Chief Justice enters and is told of the charges against Falstaff (which also includes a promise from Falstaff to marry Mistress Quickly) and asks Falstaff to pay back his debt, in all ways. Gower, a messenger, arrives and announces that the king and prince are near at hand. Falstaff tells Mistress Quickly he will pay her at dinner that evening when he joins her and Doll Tearsheet. The Chief Justice departs after criticizing Falstaff for wasting his time in the tavern when he should be concentrating on his troops.

Act 2, Scene 2 Setting: London, Prince Henry's quarters

Prince Hal and Poins open the scene by talking in a jocular fashion (only partially so in Hal's case) about why the prince keeps such low company and continues to spend a lot of time in taverns when his father is sick. Bardolph and the page enter with a letter for Hal from Falstaff in which he tells Hal to stay away from Poins, who means for him to marry his sister Nel. They find out that Falstaff is in London, and will be dining at the tavern that evening, and they mean to play a joke on him while they are disguised as serving men. Hal pays Bardolph and the page for their silence, and they depart.

Act 2, Scene 3 Setting: Northumberland's castle

This scene consists of an argument between Northumberland and his wife and daughter-in-law, Lady Percy. The two women attempt to dissuade the earl from joining the rebellion of the Archbishop. At first, Northumberland brushes off the women, saying he has a responsibility. Ultimately, the earl is convinced by Lady Percy to flee to Scotland until the time is right, deserting the Archbishop in the process.

Act 2, Scene 4 Setting: An Eastcheap tavern

Francis and another drawer begin the scene with a comical discussion on the dessert apple-johns, which are compared to Falstaff himself, when a third drawer arrives to announce the prince's plan to fool Falstaff by dressing, along with Poins, as a serving man. Mistress Quickly and a drunken Doll Tearsheet arrive, followed shortly by Falstaff, and the three engage in a conversation filled with sexual innuendos. Ancient Pistol, a friend of Falstaff's, arrives and, against the requests of Mistress Quickly, is allowed to enter. Pistol, upon his arrival, immediately begins to anger the women by starting an extended (not to mention drunken and essentially nonsensical) argument until he is ultimately chased away by Falstaff who, in the process, injures him in the shoulder with his sword. At this point, the prince and Poins arrive dressed as serving men. Falstaff, not knowing he is in their presence, begins to badmouth the two men, who then play along. When Hal and Poins finally come forward, Falstaff admits he talked badly of them, but still makes an excuse for his doing so. After the fun is over, Peto arrives and informs both the prince and Falstaff that they are needed by their armies. They bid adieu to the ladies and depart.

Act 3, Scene 1 Setting: King Henry's palace

King Henry starts the scene by delivering a soliloquy, telling of the difficulties of running a kingdom. Warwick and several other lords arrive and assure Henry that Northumberland will soon be stopped. The king is upset that Northumberland has turned on him, just as he had done to Richard. Warwick comforts him by saying that Northumberland is a deceitful man and needs to be betraying someone. Henry accepts this answer and claims he has heard that the rebels are 50,000 strong. Warwick assures the king that they have no more than half of that number and also announces that Glendower has died. The king feels slightly better and says they will journey to the Holy Land as soon as the civil wars are over.

Act 3, Scene 2 Setting: Before Shallow's house in Gloucestershire

Shallow and Silence, two country justices, reminisce about their youths and how many of their old friends are now deceased. Bardolph arrives, followed shortly by Falstaff, who would like to know if Shallow has procured the men that he needs. A comical muster then follows where Falstaff jokes at the names of the soldiers and picks all of them to join his army. When Falstaff and the justices momentarily leave, several of the men bribe Bardolph to prevent themselves from being sent off to the wars. Bardolph wholeheartedly accepts the money. When Falsaff returns, he picks several of the men and sends the others home. The scene ends with Falstaff delivering a long soliloquy about old men being liars.

Act 4, Scene 1 Setting: Within Gaultree Forest

The rebels gather with their army to encounter the king's forces. They have discovered that Northumberland has fled to Scotland and deserted their cause. The Earl of Westmorland arrives and asks why the Archbishop, a man of God, has decided to rebel against the king. Scrope tells the earl that Henry has wronged the people both by having Richard, the rightful king, killed, and by ignoring all of their grievances. Westmorland claims that their grievances were never denied and that it is the warlike time, not the king himself, that holds the problem. Mowbray continues the argument by telling of how his father, the Duke of Norfolk, was wrongfully accused by Henry (seen in Richard II) and died in exile. The earl retorts by saying the people loved Henry more than Norfolk and that Mowbray received his rightful inheritance. Furthermore, Westmorland tells the rebels that the king's offer of peace with them comes out of mercy, not fear, claiming that the king has the bigger and more experienced army and ends by saying that he will bring their articles to the army's general, Prince John, so that they may hopefully end the rebellion without any bloodshed. After Westmorland departs, Mowbray is skeptical of the proffered peace, while Hastings and the Archbishop are more optimistic, claiming that the king, at this point, has exhausted his resources and would do anything to end the civil wars going on. Westmorland returns and says Prince John will meet will the rebels to discuss the terms of agreement, and they depart.

Act 4, Scene 2 Setting: Unknown, most likely close to Gaultree Forest

Prince John greets the rebels kindly but chides the Archbishop for, as a man of peace, starting a rebellion against the king. Scrope answers that he is not rebelling against the king personally, but against the times, a suggestion Westmorland made in the previous act. The other rebels claim if their demands are not considered, they are prepared to fight. John says he has looked over their grievances and agrees that his father has been unjust. He tells the rebels to send away their army, and he will send away his and the men will drink together as a sign of peace. The rebels send away their army, but John's army will not leave without his direct order. As soon as word arrives that the rebel army has been departed, the Archbishop, Mowbray and Hastings are all arrested on the charge of capital treason. When questioned on whether his proceedings are just, John claims he only promised to consider their grievances, which he will do. But, they, as rebels, will pay for their crimes. John orders for the rebel soldiers to be followed and properly punished and for the three leaders to be executed as traitors.

Act 4, Scene 3 Setting: The battlefield

Falstaff encounters Sir John Coleville, a rebel soldier, on the battlefield and demands his surrender under threat of death. Coleville claims he will surrender but seems not to take Falstaff seriously. Prince John arrives, announces the rebellion has ended and reprimands Falstaff for not appearing until the danger was past. Falstaff tells the prince that he forced Coleville to surrender to him, and John claims it was probably more out of courtesy than fear. Falstaff, of course, demands some kind of reward. John sends Coleville off to be executed with the other rebels and says they must now go to the court to see the king, who is increasingly sick. Falstaff asks John to speak well of him, and John says he will, even though he does not deserve it. Falstaff then delivers a long soliloquy telling of how men such as John are not good because they do not drink. He says the fact that Hal drinks is the only reason he is the man that he is. Bardolph arrives and announces the army was discharged. Falstaff departs for Shallow's house.

Act 4, Scene 4 Setting: Within King Henry's palace

The scene switches to the royal palace, where Henry still speaks of sending an army to the Holy Land after the rebellion is over. He asks where Hal is and is told by his son Humphrey that he is hunting. The king tells Clarence, yet another of his sons, one whom he believed was with Hal, to look after and support his brother when he ascends to the throne. Clarence agrees to do so but announces, when questioned, that Hal is not hunting but dining in the London taverns with his friends. Henry is sad to hear this but is comforted by Warwick who says the prince will ultimately cast these men off and only associates with them so he may learn the language of the common man. Westomorland enters and announces that the Archbishop, Mowbray and Hastings have been arrested, effectively ending the rebellion. Still further, Harcourt arrives and announces that Northumberland and Bardolph have been defeated in Yorkshire. Despite this good news, Henry swoons in an apoplectic fit. His sons and the other lords present discuss the king's health concernedly, and when Henry recovers, he demands to be taken into another chamber.

Act 4, Scene 5 Setting: Within King Henry's Palace

King Henry is on his deathbed and demands his sons and faithful lords to make no noise. Prince Hal arrives, finds his father is dying and asks to be left alone with him. While alone, Prince Hal laments on the troubles a king must face. He then mistakes his father's deep sleep for death and sadly takes the crown. The king immediately wakes up and reacts frantically to the missing crown. Warwick goes to retrieve Hal, while Henry speaks of how deceitful sons can be. When Warwick returns he claims he found Hal sobbing, and the lords leave the king and Hal alone to talk. Henry severely reprimands his son for taking something that did not yet belong to him and warns him of the consequences of such actions. Hal quickly explains to his father that he suspected him to be dead and would never have taken his rightful inheritance otherwise. This seems to be a sufficient answer to the king, who then advises Hal on several topics: He tells of the wrongful way that he came to the throne, of how his succession will be much more peaceful, and how he much distract the minds of his lords with foreign wars to keep them from rebellion at home. Hal responds that he will do whatever it takes to uphold the offices of the crown his father won for him. Prince John and Warwick arrive and tell the king the room he was in was known as the Jerusalem chamber. Henry, who remembered a prophecy that he should die in the Holy Land, now more clearly understands its meaning.

Act 5, Scene 1 Setting: Shallow's house in Gloucestershire

Shallow pleads with Falstaff not to leave his house and then engages in an argument with Davy, one of his servants, over several trivial events, and seems to come out on the losing end. Davy departs, and Shallow convinces Falstaff to stay. Sir John then delivers yet another soliloquy, this time criticizing Shallow for being pushed around by his own servants.

Act 5, Scene 2 Setting: The royal court

Warwick and the Chief Justice discuss how King Henry has died and that Prince Hal is now king. The Chief Justice is worried that he will be treated poorly for his past treatment of Hal and his friends. Princes John, Humphrey and Thomas arrive to greet the others, and Clarence warns that the Chief Justice will now have to treat men such as Falstaff kindly. The Justice claims he was only doing his duty when he arrested the prince and reprimanded the others and does not regret his actions. The newly crowned King Henry V enters and tells his brothers not to be sad. He turns his attention to the Chief Justice, who said he has done nothing wrong. The king says he has not forgotten the poor treatment he had been given in the past by him, and the Justice claims he only did his duty under the former king and hopes to be forgiven for his offenses by the new one. Surprisingly, the king agrees with the Justice and commends him for his just actions. He then reassures all that, now that he is king, his actions will suit such a high position.

Act 5, Scene 3 Setting: Within Shallow's orchard

Falstaff, Shallow and the others engage in drunken song and conversation, when Pistol arrives with news from court. He tells all that King Henry IV has died and that King Henry V now reigns. Falstaff, of course, is thrilled to hear this and believes that he and all his friends shall be duly rewarded for being acquaintances of Hal. The ensemble heads towards the court.

Act 5, Scene 4 Setting: A London street

Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet are being arrested for their part in supposedly killing a man in the tavern. Doll claims that she is pregnant and, therefore, cannot be executed. In the end, the women reluctantly go with the beadle.

Act 5, Scene 5 Setting: Before Westminster Abbey

The play's final scene begins with Falstaff bragging to his friends that he shall have great power during the reign of his good friend Prince Hal. When Falstaff attempts to speak with the king, he is reprimanded by the Chief Justice. The king then delivers a speech in which he casts off all of his old friends, tells them that he must act as a king must act and promises them they shall have advancement if they change their ways. He then departs. Falstaff is stunned by the king's words but still insists that he will be called to meet with the king in private to be given his advancement. Shallow does not believe this and demands half of the thousand pounds that Falstaff bet him in a wager where Falstaff promised everyone advancement. The king's former friends are then led off by some officers. Prince John praises the king for taking care of his former friends and prophesizes that England shall invade France before the end of the year.


A dancer apologizes to the audience for the unhappy ending of the play and begs their forgiveness. He ends the play by saying the story, involving Falstaff, will continue and tells of how John Oldcastle (the historical figure Falstaff was supposedly based upon) died a martyr. Finally, he asks all to prey for the Queen (Elizabeth), and the play ends.

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