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Summary Act 5

SCENE 1

Having dropped by Shallow’s residence, Falstaff pretends to leave only to be urged to stay for the night by Shallow who presently summons his servant Davy to make accommodations. Davy has other concerns, however, concerns such as the planting of spring wheat and an unpaid blacksmith’s bill which he communicates to Shallow while seeing to Falstaff’s accommodations at the same time. Of especial concern to Davy is a court battle between Davy’s good friend William Visor and Clement Perks. Shallow promises to offer his services on behalf of William Visor, and presently beckons Falstaff to follow him. Meanwhile, Falstaff, having ordered Bardolph to attend to their horses, ruminates on how he’ll make Prince Harry laugh with his accounts of how he had taken advantage of Master Shallow when Master Shallow again bids Falstaff to follow him.

SCENE 2

With the death of King Henry IV, the Lord Chief Justice is in an uneasy state of mind which he is reminded of by Warwick, Prince John, and the Dukes of Gloucester and Clarence. Still, asserting that he was only doing his duty to the king, the Lord Chief Justice resolves to meet his fate come what may. Presently, the Lord Chief Justice’s fate arrives in the guise of the newly crowned Henry V who admits that he isn’t yet accustomed to wearing a king’s rich garb. Sensing a reticence among his subjects, King Henry seeks out the cause and discovers that the root of it is the Lord Chief Justice whose fate hangs in the balance as it was he who had imprisoned King Henry when he was but a prince for his riotous conduct that included armed robbery. But as before, the Lord Chief Justice asserts that he was only doing his duty owed the king, and urges King Henry V, before passing judgment on the Lord Chief Justice, to ask himself what he would do if his own son proved to be unruly and riotous. To everyone’s surprise, King Henry commends the Lord Chief Justice. Indeed, urging the Lord Chief Justice to continue upholding his high standards, King Henry V promotes the Lord Chief Justice as a trusted counselor. The king then announces his intent to go to Parliament and there surround himself with the most able men with whom he will build a nation as well-governed as any.

SCENE 3

Shallow welcomes Falstaff and his associates to his orchard where they will presently make merry with wine and song. The latter is provided by Master Silence who proves to be an able singer, surprising Falstaff. Shallow apologizes for the lack of meat, but he assures Falstaff and his associates that there’s plenty of wine to make up for the lack. They are thus making merry, Bardolph promising Davy that they will drink together when Davy visits London for the first time when there’s a knocking at the door. It is Pistol who has important news for Falstaff. But in divulging it Pistol goes about it in such a roundabout manner that he tries everyone’s patience. Eventually, Pistol tells Falstaff that as King Henry IV has died, Prince Harry is now the king. Excited, Falstaff orders his horses to be saddled and urges Master Justice to put on his boots and follow. They will go to meet the new king and reap the benefits of their inveterate friendship which should virtually put all of England’s resources at Falstaff’s disposal, Falstaff is certain. He is also certain that the Lord Chief Justice will get his comeuppance for daring to apply the strong arm of the law on the king’s most dear friend.

SCENE 4

A number of beadles take Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet into custody as a man who had been beaten by Pistol in their company has died. However, Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet object, scratching, clawing, and cursing their would be correction officers.

SCENE 5

As Falstaff and his followers gather to watch King Henry V’s procession, Falstaff tells Shallow to observe as he—Falstaff—will address the king and the response the king will reciprocate with. With Pistol by his side to assure him, Falstaff persuades himself that his regard for Harry has always been of the highest and that it will presently pay rich dividends. Alas, when the knight addresses the king, the king confronts Falstaff and makes it clear that they no longer have anything in common, and that Falstaff and his associates are forever banned from the king’s graces. The king tells Falstaff, however, that he and his associates will be provided for to carry on a decent living lest their needs compel them to more crimes. But the king assures them that if they do not reform their ways that they will be dealt with by the strong arm of the law. Subsequently, Falstaff assures Shallow that the king’s words were for mere show, and that in private the king will prove himself to be as a good a friend to Falstaff as he ever was. Shallow doubts this, however, and his suspicion proves to have merit as the Lord Chief Justice has Falstaff and all his associates taken into temporary custody. Prince John approves, and presently he and the Lord Chief Justice retire for the day.

A figure representing the play’s Epilogue appears to deliver the final words. It apologizes in case the audience found the play lacking and promises that they will do better the next time.

William Shakespeare