SCENE I. The rebel camp near Shrewsbury.
Enter Hotspur, Worcester and Archibald, Earl of Douglas. Hotspur and Douglas are having a discussion when a messenger enters with some bad news. Northumberland is very sick and will not be able to join in the battle; moreover, for some reason, he has not arranged for a substitute to lead his troops and has thus withdrawn them as well. Hotspur is considerably troubled by this new, since the deficiency of men will both greatly weaken their chances and will also arouse suspicion that the rebels are amongst themselves divided; However, Hotspur manages to reconcile this fact and comforts himself through rather absurd rationalizations.
Another messenger, Sir Richard Vernon, arrives bearing two more articles of bad news. First, he informs them that a partition of the King’s forces is marching towards them seven-thousand strong. Moreover, the King and his son are marching separately with still more men. He relates how magnificent Prince Henry looks in his armor: “Glittering in golden coats… / As full of spirit as the month of May, / And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer.” His second piece of bad news is that Glendower did not manage to assemble his troops within the fourteen days allotted and will not be able to join in the battle. This is very distressing to Douglas and Worcester since the battle will clearly happen before Glendower will be able to arrive; Hotspur, on the other hand, refuses to believe that this is a seriously compromising impediment, and claims that if they must die, they will die merrily. Douglas claims that he does not fear death, and they continue with their plans.
SCENE II. A public road near Coventry.
Enter Falstaff and Bardolph. Falstaff sends Bardolph on a booze run. Alone, Falstaff talks to himself about the men he has conscripted. His foot soldiers consist mostly of wealthy merchants, farmers, and the like who’ve bribed Falstaff in order to get out of the service. Consequently, Falstaff has made a good deal of money, and the remainder of his troops comprise mostly tattered ragamuffins, vagabonds, bankrupt servants, and the like, who Falstaff later proclaims will at least make good cannon fodder. Unsurprisingly, Falstaff is a terribly corrupt military leader. Prince Henry and Westmoreland enter. The two accost Falstaff; Westmoreland expresses the dubiousness of Falstaff’s men. Henry informs him that they are to head off to Bridgnorth, near Shrewsbury, that night.
SCENE III. The rebel camp near Shrewsbury.
Enter Hotspur, Worcester, Douglas, and Vernon. Hotspur wants to start the battle tonight; the Worcester and Vernon disagree. Hotspur’s argues that the Kings forces are presently split, and taking them in two separate doses increases their chances of success. Vernon reminds Hotspur that theirs are too. Additionally, Worcester’s cavalry has only arrived that day and thus his horses are tired.
Sir Walter Blunt then arrives with a peace offering. He tells them that they may state their grievances, and that if they hold their attack, the King will attend to them and grant full pardon to the rebels. Hotspur delivers an impassioned speech about how the Percy’s had given critical aid to Henry so that he could become the king. Since, he has been negligent in recognizing their significance and remiss in gratitude; he would not pay the ransom for Mortimer. Blunt inquires if he should take Hotspur's words as a declaration of war. Hotspur responds that Blunt should return to Henry and await their decision; he may decide to accept the offer after all. This is rather surprising given Hotspur’s past behaviors.
SCENE IV. York. The Archbishops palace.
Enter the Archbishop of York and Sir Michael. The Archbishop is allied to the rebels and has played a significant role in the conspiracy against Henry. He gives Sir Michael important letters which he is to bring to the Lord Marshal and the Archbishop’s cousin Scroop. He informs Michael of their importance and bids him make haste, stating that “the fortune of ten-thousand men” depends upon the outcome of the battle at Shrewsbury.
He expresses his concern, citing the powerful men on Henry’s side. Michael attempts to console him by reminding him of the powerful men on the side of the rebellion. The Archbishop contests that Henry still has all the finest warriors. He reminds Michael to make hast again. It seems as if the Archbishop has made backup plans in case the battle is lost. This plot development will not be revisited until King Henry IV Part 2.