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PRINCE HAL AND FALSTAFF

From
HENRY IV, PART I

CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY
HENRY (hěn'rỉ), PRINCE OF WALES.
SIR JOHN FALSTAFF (föl'stăf).
POINS (poinz).
GADSHILL (gădz'hil).
BARDOLPH (bär'dôlf).
Hostess of the Boar's Head Tavern.
Sheriff.
Three Travelers.*
10 roles. *

SETTING: England.

TIME: 1402 A.D. Scene 1. In Boar's Head Tavern, London. Falstaff and the Prince of Wales. Poins.

Scene 2. The next night. The highway near Gadshill, scene of the
prospective robbery. The Prince and Poins. Falstaff, Gadshill,
Bardolph. The Travelers.
Scene 3. Later that night. The Tavern.

PROLOG-INTRODUCTION 1
The playlet is from Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1.2

Prince Hal was Shakespeare's favorite hero of the English kings. It was Prince Hal who, after he became Henry V, won the glorious victories from France. Prince Henry's name had a ring for the

* Cast reducible to 8 by doubling. The sheriff and hostess, disguised with long dark cloaks, may make two of the travelers.

1 Prolog-Introduction. The prolog lines may be taken by Poins.

2 Henry IV, Part I. Dr. Johnson in the latter half of the eighteenth century remarked that no plays were then read more than the first and

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Elizabethan ear that roused the vision of English dominion and supremacy.

However, while his father lived, the young prince spent a wild youth. Seeking convivial companions, he shunned the court and frequented taverns and places too common for his royal blood. Still it was no ordinary companionship he sought. The taverns were the meeting places of the wits. As a young actor-poet, Shakespeare himself had lived a Bohemian life in London not one, probably of debauchery, but one of thrills and overflowings of vivacious wit. The taverns were the scene, no doubt, of many a humorous encounter of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and other dramatists.

As a stage representative of this tavern wit, packed, crowded, jammed into one man, and yet eharacterized in the subtlest way into an individual of marked personality, Shakespeare presents Falstaff. In the opinion of the critics, Falstaff is the greatest comic character literature, of any

time. He is a fat, dissolute old knight, who sometime was a page to John of Gaunt, a member of the royal family. And now he is too old and almost too fat to walk. He lives at the tavern, by his wits and what the Prince gives him-and by thefts. He is given to lying, drinking, stealing, and every other vice. Yet he is fascinating in his wickedness. He lies without expecting to be believed; he steals though he cannot hope not to be identified; because both make additional demands upon the friendship of the Prince and his own wit.

The scene is the Boar's Head Tavern, in London, and the characters are the Prince, Falstaff, and their associates.

of any

Scene 1
In Boar's Head Tavern, London

Falstaff (R.) and Prince Hal (L.).
Falstaff. Sweet wag, when thou art king, let not us that are

squires of the night be called thieves. Let us be Diana's second parts of Henry IV, and that perhaps no author ever in two plays afforded so much delight. These are the true Falstaff plays. The Merry Wives of Windsor was written, someone has surmised, at the request of Queen Elizabeth, who wished to see the old knight in love. This throws him really out of his original character.

foresters, favorites of the moon; and let men say we be of good government, being governed, as the tide is, by the

moon. Prince. Thou sayest well as the tide is; for now in as low

an ebb as the foot of the ladder, and by and by in as high

a flow as the gallows. Falstaff. But shall there be gallows standing in England

when thou art king? Do not thou, when thou art king,

hang a thief. Prince. No; thou shalt. Falstaff. Shall I? O rare! I'll be a brave judge. Prince. Thou judgest false already. I mean thou shalt be

hangman. Falstaff. Well, Hal, well; and in some sort I like it – as

well as waiting in the court. But, Hal, I would thou and I knew where good names were to be bought. An old lord of the council rated me the other day in the street about you, sir, but I regarded him not; and yet he talked wisely,

and in the street too. Prince. Thou didst well; for wisdom cries out in the streets,

and no man regards it. Falstaff. O, thou hast curséd wit and art indeed able to

corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm upon me, , Hal; God forgive thee for it! Before I knew thee, Hal, I knew nothing; and now am I little better than one of the wicked. I must give over this life, and I will give it

If I do not, I am a villain. Prince. Where shall we steal a purse tomorrow, Jack? Falstaff. 'Zounds, where thou wilt, lad. Prince. I see a good change for the better in thee; from

praying to stealing.

1

over.

1 wisdom cries out in the streets. See Proverbs i, 20, 24.

2 Zounds (zounz). An interjection coined to avoid the oath “God's wounds."

Falstaff. Why, Hal, 'tis my vocation, Hal. 'Tis no sin for a man to labor in his vocation.

Poins arrives (L.).
Prince.
Good morrow,

Poins.
Poins. Good morrow, sweet Hal. Jack! how agrees the

devil and thee about thy soul, that thou soldest him on

Good Friday last for a cup of wine and a cold fowl? Prince. Sir John stands to his word; he will give the devil

his due. Poins. But, my lads, tomorrow morning, by four o'clock,

early at Gadshill! There are traders riding to London with

fat purses. Falstaff. Hal, wilt thou make one? Prince. Who? I rob? I a thief? Not I. Falstaff. There's neither honesty nor manhood in thee. Poins. Sir John, leave the Prince and me alone. I will lay him down such reasons that he shall go.

[Exit Falstaff R.] Now, my good sweet honey lord, ride with us tomorrow; I have a trick to play that I cannot manage alone. Falstaff, Bardolph, and Gadshill shall rob those men; yourself and I will not be there; and when they have the booty, if you

and I do not rob them! (Laughs.] Prince. Yea, but they will know us by our horses and by

our clothes to be ourselves Poins. Tut! our horses they shall not see; I'll tie them in

the wood; our masks we will change after we leave them; and I have suits of buckram for us two, to mask our other

clothes. Prince. Well, I'll go with thee. Provide us all things necessary and meet me there tomorrow night. Farewell.

(Exeunt Prince L., Poins R.] 1 Gadshill (gădz’hil): a hill on the highroad between London and Canterbury

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