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Summary Act 3

ACT III

SCENE I. Bangor. The Archdeacon’s house.

Enter Hotspur, Worcester, Mortimer, and Glendower. The four have gathered to discuss strategy in their upcoming insurrection. Hotspur, acting arrogant and overconfident, treats the Glendower and the whole affair quite flippantly. Hotspur insults Glendower for his pagan beliefs in magic, omens, prophecies and the like, who claims that the earth shook with fear and that heaven was full of “fiery shapes” when he was born. Glendower claims that he can call spirits up from hell; Hotspur retorts by claiming that he can as well, and so can anyone, yet none will heed the calling. Mortimer is unpleased by Hotspur’s lack of politic in his conduct and unsuccessfully attempts to stop the argument.

By and by, after the argument runs cold, Glendower pulls out a map of Britain and the four state how the lands will be divided up among them. Glendower will get western England and all of Wales; Mortimer will get southeast England including London; and Hotspur will get the remainder—northern England, home to his family. Hotspur is displeased with a certain river that acts as a boundary between some of his and Glendower’s land; he claims that he will have the river straightened. However, Glendower protests that Hotspur must not. The two start to argue again, this time it is ended when Glendower gives up.

Glendower exits to get the wives of Mortimer and Hotspur so that they can bid their farewells before they must head off to the war; while he is gone Mortimer reproaches Hotspur for having boorish social mannerisms and treating Glendower rudely. Hotspur complains that he is tired of listening to Glendower’s numinous bosh. Mortimer reminds him of Glendower’s merits, and that he might possibly be dangerous and powerful magician, yet, in any case, ought to be treated with respect. Mortimer tells Hotspur that he should count himself lucky for Glendower’s tolerance. At this, Hotspur gives a rather disingenuous claim that he has learned his lesson.

Glendower reenters with the wives. Lady Mortimer (Glendower’s daughter) cannot speak English and Mortimer knows no Welsh; Glendower acts as a translator. Lady Mortimer weeps and speaks affectionate words to Mortimer; she lays Mortimer’s head on her lap and sings to him. Meanwhile, Hotspur is attempting to emulate this with his wife, though things between the two are tense.

The agreements have been drawn up and the four men sign a contract. Now Mortimer, Hotspur, and Worcester are to head off to Shrewsbury to meet up with Northumberland and their allies; Glendower, within two weeks, will prepare his army and lead them to England for the rebellion.

SCENE II. London. The palace.

Enter the King, Prince Henry and lords. Prince Henry has answered his father’s summons. The King dismisses the lords so he can speak privately to his son. He expresses his disappointment in Henry; he proclaims that he would prefer to forgive him, but that his recent behavior has been intolerable, and that if he continues he will never achieve any sort of greatness. King Henry tells Henry how his conduct that gained him the crown was never so lazy, that he never mingled with fools, nor, by association, inadvertently slandered his name.

In the middle of the Scene (which is in the middle of the act in the middle of the play, not by coincidence), Prince Henry tells his father that he “shall hereafter, my thrice gracious lord, / Be more [him]self.” King Henry continues his invective; he tells Henry that he is behaving like Richard II, whom had chosen fools for counselors and whom the common people detested. Moreover, he compares Henry to Hotspur and, while Henry is blood, he feels Hotspur is more fit to be king. The King believes that Prince Henry acts as he does because he hates him and he thinks that his son will soon defect to the side of the rebels

In response, Henry asserts that his father is wrong. He swears vengeance upon Hotspur and furthermore claims he will obtain all Hotspur’s honor by killing him. Henry promises that he will act in a more mannerly way suited to the throne and that he will carry out these promises or die in the attempt. More or less pleased by this rebuttal, The King assures his son command of some soldiers in the upcoming battle against the rebels so that he may prove himself.

Sir Walter Blunt enters bearing news that the rebels are convening at Shrewsbury and will soon be ready to attack. The King tells Blunt that he has already been informed of this and that he has sent Prince John, and the Earl of Westmoreland to meet them. He further tells him that they will all be meeting the rebels at Shrewsbury to battle in 12 days.

SCENE III. Eastcheap. The Boar’s-Head Tavern.

Enter Falstaff and Bardolph. Falstaff is complaining that he has gotten thin and his skin has gotten flabby. The two then have an amusing conversation. Mistress Quickly enters. She demands money from Falstaff, which he owes her for the food and drinks he has consumed and some shirts that she bought him. Falstaff tells her that his pockets, in which he claims he had a considerable sum of money and a valuable ring, were picked and accuses her of having done it. The hostess responds by accusing him of lying and attempting to finagle his way out of paying his dues.

Prince Henry and Peto enter to deliver the news of war, where they are greeted by a sardonic Falstaff playing his truncheon like a fife. Before they can deliver their news, Mistress Quickly complains to Henry that Falstaff owes her money. After some teasing of Quickly, Henry discloses that he was the one who picked Falstaff’s pockets and that, indeed, there was nothing of value but a pennyworth of candy. Falstaff then “forgives” the slow Mistress Quickly for her accusation, and thereby manages to get his way out of paying her.

Henry tells Falstaff that he has given back the money that they had stolen and that he has put him in charge of a battalion of soldiers. He sends Bardolph off to deliver some letters, he orders Peto to come with him on some errands, and tells Falstaff to meet him tomorrow at two in the afternoon for further instructions on his commission.  

William Shakespeare