1 Henry IV Reading Questions

Act I:

1. How much time has elapsed between the end of Richard II and the beginning of this play?

2. King Henry opens the play in anticipation of peace at home and war in the Holy Land (as we remember from the end of Richard II). What happens to foil his plans to go on a crusade? Why is there no peace at home?

3. We have the first reference in the play to the King’s son, Prince Hal at l. 85 (note that Hal and Harry are both nicknames for Henry). Why would the King rather have as his son Northumberland’s Harry (Henry Percy, Hotspur) rather than his own Harry? Looking back at Richard II, Whom is King Henry asking after at the beginning of 5.3? What impression do we get of this person?

4. In the first scene between Hal and Falstaff, Falstaff keeps referring (and anxiously) to an event in the future. What is it?

5. Look at Prince Hal’s speech at 1.2.173 ff. What is he saying in these lines? What does this make us think about his behavior in act two of the play?

6. Who is Mortimer? What relation is he to Hotspur and Northumberland? Why is he so important to Hotspur (see especially lines 1.3.128-135)?

7. What grudge does the Archbishop of York hold against King Henry (1.3.264)? How does he fit into the “plot” Hotspur, Worcester, and Northumberland are hatching at the end of Act I? Look back, too, at Worcester’s lines at 1.3.186, where he says he is opening “a secret book,” a figurative book that discloses this “plot.”

The action of act II is a little confusing, but I hope this plot summary will help:

In 1.2, Poins convinced Falstaff and Hal to take part in the robbery of the pilgrims going to Canterbury at Gadshill. He then convinces Hal to join him in robbing the robbers. We see this plan in action in two short scenes, 2.2 and 2.3. In 2.5 we hear Falstaff’s inflated account of this event upon his entry (103) and up through 207, ending with Hal’s “These lies are like their father that begets them –gross as a mountain, open, palpable.” Hal then proceeds to give his own account of the event, 234-244. In other words, the play gives us (1) the plotting of the robbery, (2) the robbery’s actual occurrence, (3) Falstaff’s narration of the robbery and (4) Hal’s account of it. Why do you suppose this history play should give us so many versions of this event?

Acts III and IV:

1. We learn in act IV that two of Hotspur’s allies are backing out of the rebellion. Who are they and why have they abandoned Hotspur?

2. How does Hotspur characterize Glyndwr at 3.1.144-160? What does Mortimer think of Glyndwr?

3. We haven’t seen all that many women in the History plays so far, but at the end of 3.1, we have two. How are they characterized here? What effect has Glyndwr’s daughter had on Mortimer?

4. The King finally has his talk with Prince Hal in 3.2. To whom does the King compare Hal? What promise does Hal make to his father? (notice the word “redeem” in Hal’s speech at l.132).

5. In 3.3, Falstaff is inquiring about who picked his pockets. Whom does he believe was responsible? Who really did it? What does he say his pockets contained? What was actually in them? Who sets his story straight?

6. Prince Hal tells Falstaff at 3.3.171, “I have procured thee, Jack, a charge of foot.” What does he mean by this? Where is Falstaff going?

7. Finally, in 4.2, we find out how Falstaff has raised soldiers for his army. What are his tactics? What kind of soldiers has he recruited?

8. Go back and look at the complaints Hotspur voices to the rule of the King at 4.3.54-107. What are his objections? Do these remind you of anything?

Act V:

1. What is the “liberal and kind offer” Worcester refers to at 5.2.2? Why doesn’t he want Hotspur (his “nephew”) to know of it?

2. We have looked at playing and falsehood in this play, and we see the most amazing example of it here in act five. What disguise is Sir Walter Blunt wearing at the beginning of 5.3? Why?

3. “Lord, Lord, how this world is given to lying.” Who speaks this line in 5.5? What is he talking about?

4. Review the promises that Prince Hal made to his father (and the audience) in 1.2 and 3.2. Does Hal fulfill his promise in the final act? What evidence would you point to (for or against)?

5. Do you think Henry IV’s reign is more secure at the end of this play than it was at the beginning? Why or why not?