Henry IV Part 1

Henry IV Part 1 Summary and Analysis of Act 5

Act Five, Scene One

King Henry, surrounded by his assembled nobles, meets with Worcester. Worcester tells him that he would like to end this rebellion, but cannot since Henry broke his word by illegally seizing the throne. Hal steps forward and briefly praises Hotspur, after which he challenges Hotspur to a single combat. King Henry, knowing this would be dangerous but wishing the war could in fact end with only one man dying, says, "And, Prince of Wales, so dare we venture thee, / Albeit considerations infinite / Do make against it" (5.1.101-103). Henry then tells Worcester that he offers the rebels full pardon if they immediately decamp and return home.

Falstaff asks Hal to protect him in the battle. Hal tells him that it is impossible to protect someone as large as he, and that Falstaff "owest God a death" (5.1.126). Falstaff decides that dying for honor is a silly thing to do, and that he would rather live.

Act Five, Scene Two

Worcester tells Vernon that he will not tell Hotspur about the King's offer of pardon. He is afraid that, having been implicated as a traitor, Henry will destroy the rebels anyway at a later date. When Hotspur arrives, Worcester tells him that Henry is set on going to battle and that the king did not offer any mercy.

Worcester then tells Hotspur about Hal's offer to fight him in single combat. Vernon further informs Hotspur that Hal was very gracious and that he complimented Hotspur on his previous valor and success. Hotspur remarks that Vernon seems, "enamored," by Prince Harry.

Hotspur then delivers his speech to the troops as a way of rallying them, but comments that he is not gifted at making speeches. In the middle of his speech he is interrupted twice by messengers, one of whom informs the him that the king is approaching.

Act Five, Scene Three

Douglas and Blunt encounter each other on the battlefield. Blunt is dressed in the same clothes as King Henry, and pretends to be the king. Douglas remarks that the Lord of Stafford already was killed that day for also pretending to be the king, and after Blunt is killed, Hotspur arrives and identifies him as yet another counterfeiter. The men depart to continue fighting.

Falstaff arrives and comments on the fact that Blunt has already been killed. He wishes to run away from the battle, but Hal arrives and begs him to start fighting again. Falstaff refuses to draw his sword, and instead offers his pistol, which turns out to be a bottle of sack (liquor). Prince Harry says, "What, is it a time to jest and dally now?" (5.3.54) and throws the bottle at him.

Act Five, Scene Four

King Henry, Hal, John of Lancaster and Westmorland arrive and take a quick rest. Hal is wounded, but refuses to allow Lancaster to take him away from the battlefield. Lancaster and Westmorland depart to fight some more, leaving Prince Harry and Henry behind.

Douglas arrives at this moment and, seeing the king, says, "What art thou / That counterfeit'st the person of a king?" (5.4.26-27). Henry replies that he is the king himself, and that he will challenge Douglas directly. They start to fight, but Douglas still doubts that he is fighting the real king.

Prince Harry arrives and challenges Douglas in order to save his father, saying, "It is the Prince of Wales that threatens thee, / Who never promiseth but he means to pay" (5.4.41-42). Hal fights well enough that Douglas is forced to flee. King Henry comments that he was wrong to ever doubt his son, and leaves to find Nicholas Gawsey, one of his men.

Hal remains and Hotspur arrives to fight him. Prince Harry tells Hotspur that there is only room for one ruler of England, at which they start to fight. Falstaff sees them fighting and urges Hal on. However, Douglas returns and starts to battle with Falstaff, who falls down as if dead. Hal succeeds in killing Hotspur, who struggles to say some last words before dying.

He sees Falstaff, and laments the loss of his friend before leaving. Falstaff soon gets up and comments that he was forced to feign death in order to not be killed by Douglas. Spying Hotspur dead on the ground, he pulls out his sword and stabs the body. He then picks up Hotspur and starts to carry him away.

Hal and Lancaster arrive and see Falstaff leaving. Hal remarks that he killed Hotspur himself, but Falstaff immediately makes up a story about how both of them leapt to their feet the second Hal left the field. As proof, Falstaff points to the wound he made in Hotspur's thigh. Hal tells him that if lying is the way he wants to be rewarded, then he will not challenge him.

Act Five, Scene Five

King Henry, having won the battle, leads his prisoners onstage. He orders Vernon and Worcester put to death for failing to deliver his message of pardon to Hotspur. Prince Harry is given the right to deal with Douglas as he sees fit, at which point he pardons Douglas and gives him to his brother John of Lancaster's keeping. King Henry then divides his army into two parts, one part of which will march on York and attack the Archbishop, the other half of which will attack Wales.


The fundamental difference between Hal and Hotspur emerges when Hotspur tries to rally his troops. The speech is a disaster, with Hotspur even admitting his inability to speak, "That I, that have not well the gift of tongue" (5.2.77). Not only are his words poorly chosen, but he is interrupted twice by messengers, making the speech a complete disaster with news of King Henry's imminent arrival.

The relationship between Falstaff and Hal comes to a breaking point while on the battlefield. Hal orders Falstaff to draw his sword and fight, an order which Falstaff refuses to obey. He instead pulls out a bottle of sack, at which Hal cries out, "What, is it a time to jest and dally now?" (5.3.54). The inability of Falstaff to realize the serious of the situation is marked by Hal throwing the bottle at his former friend.

Previously Hal was able to imitate Hotspur, an ability that emerges even more strongly when he kills Hotspur. Hotspur, mortally wounded, says "No Percy, thou art dust, / And food for -..." Trailing off, Prince Harry picks the very words out of Hotspur's mouth, saying, "For worms, brave Percy" (5.4.85-86). This can be understood in the sense that Hal has taken the best qualities of Hotspur for himself, and thus has been able to defeat Hotspur. It is further telling because of the relationship between the words "worms" and "words." Hotspur is left as food for worms, but he has died because he lacked words, which are Hal's strongest asset.

Douglas asks Henry, "What art thou / That counterfeit'st the person of a king?" (5.4.26-27). This question alludes to the fact that King Henry IV resorts to trickery and duplicity at the Battle of Shrewsbury in order to win the battle. His technique is remarkably similar to that of Henry VII in Richard III, when he too uses his noblemen as decoys to avoid getting killed himself. However, the use of multiple Henrys also indicates a fact about the play: the King can be multiplied and played by other characters.

The concept of using multiple kings shows up in Richard III, and as in that play is says a great deal about the character being imitated. Henry IV has now become impersonatable, meaning that he is no longer the only man who can be King of England. His position as a figure of rule and authority is severely undermined by the ability of other men to pretend to be him.

This is a problem which Hal does not have. As the young prince shows numerous times, he is able to be many people, but virtually no one is able to become him. This talent of his, allowing him to act out several parts, will make him a great king in the Machiavellian sense. This is a talent which Henry IV clearly lacks, since rather than defend himself by pretending to be someone else, he is forced to make others pretend to be him.

This use of multiple characters also ties into images of doubling. Characters who are doubled end up struggling to establish their own identity, as seen in the Comedy of Errors and in A Midsummer Night's Dream. This becomes relevant in the final words of the play, where Henry says "we divide our power." This line is not only literally true, i.e. he is splitting his army in half, but also figuratively. Henry has already split himself into many kings in order to win the battle, and his challenge will be to find a way of reunifying himself.

There is a frequent correlation in Shakespearian plays between the state of the king and the state of the country. Indeed, not only is England split but so is Henry. His final act of splitting the army into two parts is almost a symbolic recognition of England's divided nature. The psychological divide within Henry is that fact that he strives to attain the goal of a peaceful England, yet realizes that warfare is the only way to achieve this goal.

Hal's pardon of Douglas at the end of the play marks a shift in the way he will rule as king versus how Henry rules. Henry orders Vernon and Worcester to be put to death for their crimes, Hal instead chooses to take a risk and pardon his enemy. This relates to the fact that Hal is a redeemer of England, a role he can only play by creating peace. In pardoning Douglas, Hal shows not only great statesmanship, but also confidence in his own abilities to win Douglas' support in the future.