Henry IV Part 1 abbreviated

We were told right at the end of Richard II that the recently crowned Henry IV had plans to visit the Holy Land.  He had said “I’ll make a voyage to the Holy Land to wash this blood off from my guilty hand,” distressed as he was with the news that his cousin Richard (the late Richard II) had been stabbed to death by a murderer hired by one of his well-meaning but misguided supporters. Richard was being held at the time as the lone prisoner at Pomfret Castle. But events in Wales and Scotland demanded that the young king focus his attention at home, and he never made that planned visit.  Of Richard’s murder he had said “Though I did wish him dead, I hate the murderer, love him murdered.”

This play opens when the king learns that Harry Percy, known as Hotspur, the son of the earl of Northumberland, has captured thousands of Scottish troops, the good news in a mixed set of reports of military adventures.  Northumberland, Hotspur’s father, had been a key ally in Henry IV’s successful effort to depose Richard II.  The king becomes furious when he learns that Hotspur is refusing to release his prisoners to him; kings generally having their instructions followed. (Envy, Act 1, Scene 1) This play is as much about the king’s young son (Prince Hal to his friends; Prince Harry to his father) and the young Harry Percy (Hotspur) as it is about Henry IV.   

We soon learn that the young and impetuous Prince Hal, the Prince of Wales, has reluctantly agreed to indirectly participate in a robbery at Gad’s Hill, his willingness mostly based on his hope to embarrass his friend John Falstaff.  Knowing he needs to reform his behavior, the young prince says to himself “When I throw off this loose behavior, I’ll imitate the sun, ever loyal to his earth-bound dependents.” (Introspection, Act 1, Scene 2)

We learn that after some discussions and negotiations that Hotspur is thinking about the possibility of releasing his prisoners to the king. But one of his conditions to the release of Scottish prisoners has been that the king in turn releases from prison his brother-in-law, Edmund Mortimer, the earl of March.  The king fears Mortimer as a threat to his crown, Richard II having suggested some time earlier that Mortimer be his successor.  Mortimer is Lionel’s grandson and Lionel was Edward III’s third son.  The king will have none or it, saying to Hotspur “Henceforth let me not hear you speak of Mortimer.” Henry IV is the son of Edward III’s fourth son and succession often depends on when you were born (or when your father or your grandfather was born), and it’s a sensitive subject.  Henry IV had sometime earlier said of Mortimer “On the barren mountains let him starve.” 

Later, Northumberland and his brother, Worcester, convince the spirited Hotspur to release all of his Scottish prisoners, except for Douglas.  Hotspur does.  Douglas, a young Scottish nobleman, known as the earl of Douglas, along with his buddy Hotspur, plans to defeat the king.  Both of these guys are aggressive and confident young men.  Also, separately and independently and importantly, Owen Glendower, the leader of the Welsh forces, releases Edmund Mortimer from prison.  Mortimer proceeds to marry Glendower’s daughter.  It’s also important to keep in mind that Edmund Mortimer’s sister is Hotspur’s wife, also known as Lady Percy or Kate.  Strong-willed Kate knows her husband, knows something is up and is frightened.  She lets her husband know how she feels. (Wife to Husband, Act 2, Scene 3)

Meanwhile, Prince Hal’s friends, Falstaff, Bardolph, Peto and Gadshill, rob the travelers at Gad’s Hill.  The instigator of the caper, Poins, along with Prince Hal, then robs Falstaff and the others, Falstaff being exposed for the coward he is. (Braggadocio, Act 2, Scene 4) The double-robbery succeeds.  But the Gad’s Hill travelers contact the sheriff, who seeks out the “thieves” at the Eastcheap tavern.  Prince Hal settles up with the court and in the doing makes a commitment to himself that in the future he will conduct himself in a more fitting manner, considering who he is. 

Separately, with Owen Glendower as their leader, Northumberland, Worcester, Hotspur and Mortimer make plans to defeat the king.  As a side issue, the earl of Northumberland is the royal who early-on in the last play had been loyal to Richard II; then turned to Bolingbroke; then turned on Bolingbroke after he had become Henry IV.  During the meeting among the “rebels,” Hotspur is outspoken and defiantly criticizes Glendower.  Neither Glendower nor Hotspur’s father takes the criticism lightly.  Worcester takes his nephew (Hotspur) aside and lets him know that he has been out of line and that “he must learn to amend this fault.”  (Counsel, Act 3, Scene 1)

Meanwhile the king and Prince Harry have a serious father-son conversation, the king letting him know that he and the country expect more from the young prince in terms of conduct and decorum.  During a sensitive and historic talk with his father, Prince Harry promises to redeem himself and make his father proud.  And he does. (Father to Son, Act 3, Scene 2) (Son to Father, Act 3, Scene 2) Laying it on the line, the king lets his son know that he is counting on him to join the earl of Westmorland, (Ralph Neville) the king’s half-sister’s husband and his main aide, along with the prince’s younger brother, John of Lancaster, the three of them to lead his forces against the rebels at Shrewsbury; a group that will include Worcester, Douglas, and Hotspur.  Prince Harry enlists Falstaff as one of his captains.  Meanwhile at Shrewsbury, Hotspur learns that his father (Northumberland) is reported to be ill and won’t be able to join them.  He also learns that Owen Glendower has been delayed for two weeks and will not arrive at Shrewsbury in time to help.  Richard Vernon, a close Hotspur ally, arrives and warns Hotspur that the king, his sons and Westmorland are approaching.  Vernon also informs him that Worcester has just arrived and that his men and horses are exhausted.  Despite these ominous signs, Douglas and Hotspur press forward. 

Representing the king, Sir Walter Blunt enters the rebel’s camp. On behalf of the king, Blunt asks Hotspur to describe his grievances.  In telling Blunt of his displeasure with Henry IV, Hotspur gives us a good history of the events that have led to this moment. (History, Act 4, Scene 3)  On behalf of the king, Blunt offers Hotspur a pardon.  Hotspur tells Blunt that he will have an answer for the king in the morning.  Worcester and Vernon visit the king the next morning, telling him why they and others broke with Richard II, supporting him, Henry Bolingbroke, and now why they have turned on him as Henry IV. (History, Act 5, Scene 1) A gallant Prince Harry steps forward, offering a solution.  He offers to fight Hotspur in a one-on-one duel, an option “to save blood for both sides.” (Chivalry, Act 5, Scene 1) As a further concession, the king tells Worcester that he will pardon all the rebels, and that “every man shall be my friend again, and I’ll be his.”  But the king makes it clear: if Hotspur does not accept his offered pardon, then all bets are off and the battle will begin. 

Worcester and Vernon return to their camp.  But Worcester convinces Vernon that they dare not tell Hotspur of the pardon offer made by the king, arguing that if they accept the pardon, the king will in due course seek retribution for some other reason.  Worcester tells Hotspur that “the king will bid you battle presently.”  Hotspur then tells Douglas to visit the king and tell him that we “defy him,” which he does.  On his return to the rebel camp Douglas says “Arm, gentlemen, to arms, for I have thrown a brave defiance in King Henry’s teeth.”  It is at this point when Worcester tells Hotspur of the Prince’s one-on-one offer.  But Hotspur dismisses it as just so much talk.  Just before the fight is to begin, Shakespeare has Falstaff asking Prince Hal to treat him with special care. (Honor, Act 5, Scene 1) The battle of Shrewsbury is about to begin.  Hotspur boldly and beautifully encourages his men. (Inspiration, Act 5, Scene 2)

Blunt enters the battle disguised as the king.  He and Douglas fight and Blunt is killed.  Douglas reenters and engages the king in a fight, wounding him.  Prince Harry valiantly comes to his father’s aid.  Douglas flees.  Hotspur enters.  Prince Harry says to Hotspur “Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere, nor can one England brook a double reign of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales.”  The prince and Hotspur fight.  Hotspur is killed.  The battle of Shrewsbury ends.  Worcester and Vernon are captured.  The king has them executed.  Douglas is captured and released.  The king gathers his forces to think about what might be the most appropriate way to deal with Northumberland, Glendower and Mortimer.