Henry IV Part 2 abbreviated

Henry IV’s forces won a decisive victory at Shrewsbury over the “rebels” at the end of Part 1.  Yet the king remained concerned with the continuing threat posed to his regime by the Welsh-led rebels, knowing they had re-formed following the deaths of Hotspur, Worcester and Vernon at Shrewsbury.  He also worried how Hotspur’s death late in the last play at the hands of his son would play out with the Welsh, now that the rebels were under new management, so to speak, now being led by a Richard Scroop, the powerful Archbishop of York, whose brother Stephen had been executed by him (as Henry Bolingbroke) back in Richard II.  His worries were real but his adversaries turned out not to be as frightening as he feared. 

This play opens when Lord Bardolph, an early leader in the rebellion against Henry IV, having himself been misled by faulty intelligence, tells Northumberland, Hotspur’s father, that during the battle of Shrewsbury his son had slain Prince Harry and that Scotland’s Douglas had slain the king.  But Morton, another leader of the insurgents, soon enters and delicately tells Northumberland that his son Hotspur was in fact killed by the prince, that the king lives, and that Douglas was captured, but was released and has returned to Scotland.  He tells Northumberland that “Hotspur’s loss cost us the war” and that “the sum of all is that the king hath won and hath sent out a power to encounter you.”  (Acceptance, Act 1, Scene 1) Invigorated by the challenge, Northumberland decides to once again become active with the insurgency.  We also learn that Richard Scroop has not only joined the insurgents’ cause in a leading role, but has turned the cause into a religious crusade, drawing wide-spread support.  The fresh set of rebels that has formed since the battle of Shrewsbury now includes a group led by the Archbishop along with Mowbray, Hastings and Morton.  We now learn that Northumberland, upset with his son and fearing the worst, had back in Part 1 pleaded illness as an excuse not to join his son and his brother Worcester for the battle at Shrewsbury. 

As an aside, at about this point, the Chief Justice corners Falstaff, telling him among other things that “Truth is, Sir John, you live in infamy” and that “you have the manner of wrenching the true cause the false way.” (Pleading, Act 1, Scene 2) (Counsel, Act 1, Scene 2)

Meanwhile, the reconstituted group of rebels meets to make plans to overthrow the king; a less stressful meeting than the emotional, personal and counter-productive meeting in Part 1 that had included Hotspur; the raucous meeting that had caused both Northumberland and Glendower to skip the battle at Shrewsbury. (Insight, Act 1, Scene 3) Separately, Lady Percy, Hotspur’s widow, persuasively begs her father-in-law (the earl of Northumberland) to “Go not to wars.  The others are strong.  Let them alone.”  She wins.  He says “I will resolve for Scotland.”  To the king’s benefit, Northumberland retires, not to be heard from again. (Disillusionment, Act 2, Scene 3)

About this time Prince Harry discloses to his good friend Poins that his father is seriously ill.  On the stage alone, in his nightgown, the king famously says “O gentle sleep, Nature’s soft nurse” and “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” (Introspection, Act 3, Scene 1) Warwick soon enters, Warwick being a good friend of the king’s, and offers the king wise and soothing counsel, as the king then reflects with compassion on the late Richard II, saying he “knew not that greatness and I were compelled to kiss.” (Reflection, Act 3, Scene 1) Warwick later adds, “To comfort you more, I have received a certain instance that Glendower is dead,” Owen Glendower, the Welsh leader of the rebels in Part 1. 

Meanwhile, the insurgents have reached the location where they plan to collectively submit their grievances to the earl of Westmorland, a half-first-cousin to the king and one of the king’s key aides.  This is where they plan to fight the king’s troops, if that’s what it takes to have their grievances accepted.  The Archbishop says “What is this forest called?”  Hastings replies “The Gaultree Forest.”  Westmorland enters and greets the rebels.  After a pleasant discussion, the Archbishop hands Westmorland a paper saying “This contains our general grievances.”  Westmorland responds, “This will I show the General,” the General being Prince John, the king’s third son.

Prince John, the duke of Lancaster, soon enters, chastising the Archbishop, saying “It better showed when your assembled flock circled you to hear your exposition on the holy text than see you now here, an iron man talking, cheering rebels on, turning thee word to sword, life to death.”  Prince John, referring to the paper identifying their grievances says “These griefs shall be with speed redressed.”  (Reflection, Act 4, Scene 1) The Archbishop responds “I take your princely word for these redresses.”  Hastings says “Go captain, and deliver to the army this news of peace.  Let them have pay, and part.”  John of Lancaster says to Westmorland “Go, my lord, and let our army be discharged too.”  When the captain of the rebels returns, Hastings says to the Archbishop “My lord, our army is dispersed already.”  Westmorland returns, saying to Prince John “The army will not go off until they hear you speak.”  John of Lancaster says “They know their duties.”  Westmorland proceeds to arrest Hastings, the Archbishop and Mowbray as traitors.  The Archbishop cries “Will you this break your faith?”  Prince John responds “I promised you redress of these same grievances, which, I will perform with a most Christian care.  Guards, these traitors to the block of death.” 

Preoccupied with his father’s health, Prince John, eager to get back to the palace, leaves Gaultree Forest quickly, but is interrupted by Falstaff, who asks for a special privilege, causing Prince John to be a little short with him. (Humor, Act 4, Scene 2)

Back at the palace, the ill king talks of death and of hope with two of his sons, Humphrey and Thomas, encouraging them to help their brother, the Prince of Wales, govern the country. (Father to Son, Act 4, Scene 3.1) Warwick says to the king “The prince will cast off his followers, turning past evils to advantages.”  The king is carried to a bed, requesting that his crown be placed on the pillow next to him.  Prince Harry enters.  The others exit, the prince saying “I will sit and watch here by the king.” The king falls asleep. (Introspection, Act 4, Scene 3) Harry puts on the crown and walks into the next room to see how he looks in the mirror.  The king wakens, saying “Why did you leave me here alone, my lords?”  Warwick enters and finds the young prince in the next room with the crown.  The king asks “But wherefore did he take away the crown?”  Harry enters, saying “I never thought to hear you speak again.” (Father to Son, Act 4, Scene 3.2) The king replies “The wish was father, Harry, to that thought.” (Son to Father, Act 4, Scene 3) The king and prince proceed to have another one of literature’s great father-son conversations.  Promises are made and kept. (Father to Son, Act 4, Scene 3.3) The king dies.  The year is 1413.  Harry is quietly crowned king as Henry V.  The Chief Justice, having had a rocky relationship with the prince, says to the new king “Peace be with us, lest we be heavier.”  Their relationship blossoms, the young king saying “You shall be as a father to my youth.” (Counsel, Act 5, Scene 2) A better checks and balances political system evolves. 

Later, as the king and his train pass over the stage, the irrepressible Falstaff cries out “King Hal, my royal Hal.  God save thee, my sweet boy.”  Falstaff is soon sent to the Fleet, a prison, not to be heard from again. (Counsel, Act 5, Scene 5)  John of Lancaster ends the play with a forecast, saying “I will lay odds that, ere this year expires, we bear our civil swords and native fire as far as France.”