The first time we meet Falstaff, and Prince Hal, is in Act 1 Scene 2 of Henry IV Part I, and it tells us a lot about both men, and their relationship, both in the ‘public’ and ‘private’ spheres. The scene starts with good-hearted banter between the Prince of Wales and Falstaff, with Hal leaving us in no doubt as to the low opinion, if affectionate, that he holds of Falstaff.
Falstaff responds, by making it quite clear that he lives in expectations, that when Hal becomes king, he will have licence to rob and behave badly, as ‘Gentlemen of the Shade’. Hal prevaricates in his reply, but after some more light-hearted banter, Falstaff returns to the issue:
“shall there be Gallows standing in England when thou art King?”
Again Hal prevaricates, distracting Falstaff with the promise that he, Falstaff shall do the hanging, as Judge… or Hangman.
Poins arrives and attention turns to planning ‘the taking of purses’. The Prince is careful to avoid committing himself to thievery until Poins gets rid of Falstaff so that he can explain the trick he plans to play on Falstaff. The Prince tests Poins to make sure that he will not be directly involved in the theft before he finally commits to coming to the exploit. After this is agreed, and Poins leaves, Hal reveals himself in his soliloquy. He enjoys the fun and humour of his relationship with Falstaff and the rest, but it is only preparatory to him showing his more serious side, when he will ‘throw off’ ‘this loose behaviour’ and, until then:
“I’ll so offend, to make offence a skill,
Redeeming time, when men think least I will.”
Where does ‘public’ and ‘private’ fit into this? It seems to be quite complex. Hal’s father Henry IV is king, and doesn’t offer his son the love and affection that sons deserve, though he does offer him advice on kingship – the ‘public’ side of his coming life. Falstaff offers what looks like love and fun to Hal, much like a son might hope from his father in ‘private’, though of course it is sullied by Falstaff’s awareness and expectations of Hal’s expectations – the ‘public’ side of Hal.
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Of course, it’s all a lot more complicated than this, which is why it’s worth playing this scene out loud. It needs three players, with Hal and Falstaff playing in “Parts and Cues” mode, and Poins (the smallest part) reading in “Highlit Text” mode, so that he can prompt Hal or Falstaff if they get lost. Links to each player’s script are outlined below:
- Player 1: Falstaff – Parts and Cues
- Player 2: Prince Hal – Parts and Cues
- Player 3: Poins – Highlit Text
If you don’t know about “Part’s and Cues”, “Highlit Text”, or “Standard Script”, we’ve written an article which brings you up-to-speed with that and other aspects of MFFEV5. You can find it at: Let’s explore ‘Parts and Cues’, ‘Highlit Text’, and Standard Script
This extract is one of a series of five which explore the relationship of Henry IV, Hal, and Falstaff. If you want to explore further, you could have a look at Let’s Play: Falstaff, Prince Hal, and Henry IV which gives an overview, and provides links to the four other articles. You’ll also find links to the different scenes in the Index, in the Let’s Play section.
If you’ve got a few friends together to read these extracts, you’ll also find extracts from other plays that we’ve put into “Let’s Play” format. You can find them at the following links:
“Let’s Play” extracts for 2 players
“Let’s Play” extracts for 3 players
“Let’s Play” extracts for 4 players
“Let’s Play” Complete plays for 10 players
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