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Summary Act 4


Although Northumberland has sent word that he will not be joining the rebel forces, the rebel forces have deployed and are on the verge of doing battle with the king’s forces when Westmorland, an earl in the king’s service, demands a conference. Welcomed, Westmorland proceeds to chide the man of peace Archbishop of York for not only taking up arms, but taking up arms on behalf of a dishonorable cause. However, the Archbishop, citing a disease of sorts which had caused King Richard’s death and which is presently feeding on men’s minds as to give them no peace, justifies his taking up of arms which Mowbray seconds. In fact, Mowbray goes so far as to attribute the disease to King Henry IV, and boasts that had his father been allowed to engage the king’s younger self one-on-one that England would presently be at peace, compelling Westmorland to assure Mowbray that the victor, had they fought, could’ve been anyone and that the present king’s popularity was such back then that had Mowbray’s father triumphed he couldn’t have capitalized politically. Subsequently, Westmorland steers the conversation to the matter at hand; namely, the king’s offer to address the rebels’ demands which Prince John is fully authorized to negotiate. Mowbray is against negotiating, but the Archbishop is willing to and hands Westmorland the terms of an agreement which if the king will grant them the rebels will lay down their arms. As Westmorland leaves to deliver the rebels’ terms of peace, Mowbray continues to object to negotiating only to be persuaded otherwise by the Archbishop and Hastings who argue that their demands if met should satisfy every rebel, and moreover that the king is so spent in trying to consolidate his kingdom that his offer to grant the rebels redress can’t be a matter of policy which will be repealed when convenient, but an act of desperation to bring about peace to the island which hasn’t known peace for the entire duration of his reign. Presently, heralded by Westmorland, Prince John arrives. Again the Archbishop is taken to task for taking up arms, but again the Archbishop justifies the taking up of arms which is seconded by Mowbray and Hastings. At Westmorland’s behest, Prince John informs the rebels of his decision to agree to all the terms of the rebels’ demand, effectively creating a state of peace between the adversaries. Consequently, they share a drink, and Prince John proposes that the respective armies be dispersed. The rebels agree and it isn’t long before Hastings informs Prince John that the rebel forces have completely disbanded. The king's army, however , has stayed put and upon this advantage Prince John has Mowbray, Hastings, and the Archbishop of York arrested for high treason.


Confronting Coleville, a knight in the service of the rebel forces, Falstaff upbraids and challenges him. But Coleville, who is more docile than combative, gives himself up. Presently, Prince John arrives on the scene and chides Falstaff for always arriving on the battle scene after the fact. Falstaff objects, arguing that he has traveled many miles, and that despite fatigue he has bravely apprehended a formidable foe. Prince John rebuts Falstaff’s claim by asserting that Coleville had capitulated, but Falstaff persists to indulge in self-aggrandizement, claiming that he will memorialize his exploits in a ballad if the Prince fails to properly reward Falstaff for his exploits. By and by, Prince John commands Blunt to take custody of Coleville who is to be taken to York to be executed, and orders Westmorland to lead the way to the king who is bed-ridden and who therefore will be eager for good news. Assuring Falstaff that he will be spoken of more highly than he deserves, Prince John leaves. Alone, Falstaff discourses on the value of sweet white wine; of how it gives vitality to one who has none; of how it confers courage and limberness to the cowardly and sluggish; and of how it has singlehandedly made Prince Harry, who was initially a lean and a spiritless boy, a valiant and fiery young man. Presently, Falstaff decides to go Gloucestershire where he plans to call on and take advantage of Justice Robert Shallow.


When realizing that Clarence isn’t with Harry, King Henry encourages Clarence to be very attentive to his older brother. Citing, Harry’s attributes, which includes generosity and compassion which are inextricably linked with his temper and mood swings, King Henry reminds Clarence that when Harry is king, Clarence can serve an important role if he proves himself Harry’s loyal ally. However, when apprised of Harry’s current likely location with Poins and other friends, King Henry laments England’s fate, arguing that Harry’s England will likely be governed by unrestrained riot, which compels Warwick to argue that when the time comes Prince Harry will be the model of regal conduct, and that he is only preparing himself for his role by getting all his base inclinations out of his system. Presently, Westmorland arrives to deliver news of Mowbry, Hastings, and the Archbishop of York’s defeat, buoying up the king’s spirits. There’s more good news as Harcourt arrives shortly thereafter to report the defeat of Northumberland and Lord Bardolph. But the good news overwhelms the king to the extent he is taken to bed for rest. Presently, Prince Harry arrives only to find his father asleep. Harry decides to stay with his father while the others retire to another room. When King Henry awakes, he is startled to find himself alone and his crown missing. He summons the others. They inform the king that Prince Harry was with him a moment ago which explains the missing crown. By and by, Prince Harry is summoned to his father, and the king roundly proceeds to chastise his son for coveting the crown. Full of remorse, Harry explains that he took the crown to confront the enemy that had for all intents and purposes taken his father’s life. He adds that if he had at any moment coveted the crown at his father’s expense, then let God deny him his legacy, even his life. Convinced of his son’s true heart, King Henry counsels Prince Harry that when he is King that the way to avoid civil broils and possible attempts at his crown is to engage the nation in wars in foreign lands. King Henry assures his son, however, that once Harry is king and the father dead and buried all the ill feelings associated with King Richard’s deposition and death shouldn’t be a factor. Presently, Prince John arrives, and the king, assured that his kingdom is in able hands, retires, welcoming death should it claim him now.

William Shakespeare