SYNOPSIS  (Back to Henry IV Program)

Plot Summary

King Henry IV, having usurped the throne from Richard II, faces a rebellion against him led by the Earl of Northumberland, his brother the Earl of Worcester and his son Henry Percy, called Hotspur. They join forces with Edmund Mortimer, a strong claimant to the throne though his relation to Richard II, and the Welsh rebel Owen Glendower.

Meanwhile, Henry’s wastrel son Prince Henry, called Hal, neglects his royal duties and carouses with the dissolute knight Sir John Falstaff in the ramshackle Boar’s Head tavern in Eastcheap. Falstaff, Hal and his friend Ned Poins plot to rob a treasure train in the woods at night, though Poins and Hal further conspire against Falstaff, successfully steal the loot back from him, and return it after delighting in his exaggerated recounting of the ambush. When the rebellion against his father calls Hal back into royal service, he vows to defeat Hotspur in battle and gives Falstaff a commission to hire a company of soldiers. Falstaff instead pockets the money and recruits a gaggle of criminals and the impoverished.

The royalists and rebels meet in battle at Shrewsbury: Hal prevails against Hotspur in single combat, while Falstaff feigns a mortal injury, rises from the “grave” and claims Hotspur as his own kill by stabbing the body in the leg, which Hal allows. The royal army is victorious against the rebels, though King Henry falls gravely ill and dies after a reconciliation with his son, who is crowned King Henry V. Falstaff arrives at the coronation, expecting to be lavished with gifts and honors by his newly empowered friend, but Hal rebuffs and denies him.