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Let’s Play: Falstaff and Prince Hal ‘practice an answer’ (Henry IV Part I A2S4)

Act Two Scene Four of Henry IV contains at least three significant scenes about the relationships between Henry IV, Prince Hal, and Falstaff: first Hal and Poins try to trap Falstaff into admitting his cowardice at Gadshill; second, Falstaff and Prince Hal pretend to be Henry IV and Prince Hal; and lastly; Prince Hal protects Falstaff from the Sheriff, his father’s law officer. We’re exploring the first two of those scenes.

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Falstaff leaves the scene after he has narrowly avoided being exposed as a coward, and comes back with news of the coming rebellion by Hotspur, Glendower and Worcester.

Thy father's beard has turned white at the news.

Thy father’s beard has turned white at the news.

 

This news is probably not welcome to Hal. He’s having fun with his pals at the Boar’s Head,  avoiding responsibility, and to be reminded of those responsibilities by the leader of those revels is probably not entirely welcome. Falstaff, of course, only thinks it is more fun to be had at Hal’s expense.

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Shall the son of England prove a thief and take purses?

Shall the son of England prove a thief and take purses?

Soon, the rebellion is forgotten about, and Hal and Falstaff start to ‘practice an answer’ for when Hal has to visit his father the next day. Falstaff plays Henry IV but, some jibes about Hal’s behaviour at the Boar’s Head apart:

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“Shall the son of England prove a thief and take purses?”

mostly he spends his time trying to make himself look good.  This is an obvious opportunity to play up the difference between the ‘public’ and the ‘private’ but it is an opportunity missed, so perhaps this is not the point of the scene.

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That villainous, abomnible misleader of youth, Falstaff.

That villainous, abomnible misleader of youth, Falstaff.

When Hal takes over the role of Henry IV, it quickly becomes clear  where he is coming from. His interrogation of his son, quickly turns into a diatribe of Falstaff’s faults: from a trunk of humours; to a swollen parcel of dropsies; a huge bombard of sack; a roasted Manningtree ox with a pudding in his belly; reaching a climax with:

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“Wherein villainous,but in all things? Wherein worthy, but in nothing.”

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A2S4 I do - I willFalstaff defends himself as well as he can, but Prince Hal seems to have convinced himself of Falstaff’s failings, or shows what he really thinks, and the scene ends with:

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FALSTAFF: Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.

HAL:            I do, I will.

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So is this scene about the ‘public’ and the ‘private’? It certainly could be with Falstaff and Hal play-acting  a scene between the King and his son, the Prince of Wales. However, it seems to me to be more about Hal’s conflict over taking responsibility.  He has come to the Boar’s Head to escape responsibility and have some fun, but his responsibility keeps intruding. Falstaff brings him news of the rebellion against his father, in which Hal will want to become involved. Their play-acting of the interview between the King and the Prince, leads Hal to see Falstaff through his father’s eyes, and he doesn’t like what he sees.

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In Act One Scene Two, in his soliloquy, he has already promised, ‘his loose behaviour to throw off’. In this scene he tells Falstaff – to his face – that when the time comes, he will banish Falstaff. Perhaps Falstaff doesn’t realise that, but he will find out soon enough at the end of Henry IV Part II.

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This scene is  worth playing  out loud. It needs four players, with Hal and Falstaff playing in “Parts and Cues” mode, and Poins  and Hostess (much smaller parts) reading in “Highlit Text” mode, so that one of them can prompt Hal or Falstaff if they get lost. Links to each player’s script are outlined below:

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All players need to scroll down to Falstaff’s second entrance in A2S4, and this scene starts with Prince Hal’s: “Here comes lean Jack, here comes bare-bone. How now my sweet Creature of Bombast, how long is’t ago, Jack, since thou saw’st thine own Knee?”

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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

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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.

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Let’s Play!!!

‘The Director’,
Players-Shakespeare.com
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