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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act II. Scene IV.

The First Part of King Henry the Fourth

Eastcheap.A Room in the Boar’s Head Tavern.

Enter the PRINCE and POINS.

Prince.Ned, prithee, come out of that fat room, and lend me thy hand to laugh a little.

Poins.Where hast been, Hal?

Prince.With three or four loggerheads amongst three or four score hogsheads. I have sounded the very base string of humility. Sirrah, I am sworn brother to a leash of drawers, and can call them all by their christen names, as Tom, Dick, and Francis. They take it already upon their salvation, that though I be but Prince of Wales, yet I am the king of courtesy; and tell me flatly I am no proud Jack, like Falstaff, but a Corinthian, a lad of mettle, a good boy,—by the Lord, so they call me,—and when I am king of England, I shall command all the good lads in Eastcheap. They call drinking deep, dyeing scarlet; and when you breathe in your watering, they cry ‘hem!’ and bid you play it off. To conclude, I am so good a proficient in one quarter of an hour, that I can drink with any tinker in his own language during my life. I tell thee, Ned, thou hast lost much honour that thou wert not with me in this action. But, sweet Ned,—to sweeten which name of Ned, I give thee this pennyworth of sugar, clapped even now into my hand by an underskinker, one that never spake other English in his life than—‘Eight shillings and sixpence,’ and—‘You are welcome,’ with this shrill addition,—‘Anon, anon, sir! Score a pint of bastard in the Half-moon,’ or so. But, Ned, to drive away the time till Falstaff come, I prithee do thou stand in some by-room, while I question my puny drawer to what end he gave me the sugar; and do thou never leave calling ‘Francis!’ that his tale to me may be nothing but ‘Anon.’ Step aside, and I’ll show thee a precedent.


Prince.Thou art perfect.

Poins.Francis![Exit POINS.


Fran.Anon, anon, sir. Look down into the Pomgarnet, Ralph.

Prince.Come hither, Francis.

Fran.My lord.

Prince.How long hast thou to serve, Francis?

Fran.Forsooth, five years, and as much as to—


Fran.Anon, anon, sir.

Prince.Five years! by ’r lady a long lease for the clinking of pewter. But, Francis, darest thou be so valiant as to play the coward with thy indenture and show it a fair pair of heels and run from it?

Fran.O Lord, sir! I’ll be sworn upon all the books in England, I could find in my heart—


Fran.Anon, sir.

Prince.How old art thou, Francis?

Fran.Let me see—about Michaelmas next I shall be—


Fran.Anon, sir. Pray you, stay a little, my lord.

Prince.Nay, but hark you, Francis. For the sugar thou gavest me, ’twas a pennyworth, was ’t not?

Fran.O Lord, sir! I would it had been two.

Prince.I will give thee for it a thousand pound: ask me when thou wilt and thou shalt have it.


Fran.Anon, anon.

Prince.Anon, Francis? No, Francis; but to-morrow, Francis; or, Francis, o’ Thursday; or, indeed, Francis, when thou wilt. But, Francis!

Fran.My lord?

Prince.Wilt thou rob this leathern-jerkin, crystal-button, knot-pated, agate-ring, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish-pouch,—

Fran.O Lord, sir, who do you mean?

Prince.Why then, your brown bastard is your only drink; for, look you, Francis, your white canvas doublet will sully. In Barbary, sir, it cannot come to so much.

Fran.What, sir?


Prince.Away, you rogue! Dost thou not hear them call?[Here they both call him; the Drawer stands amazed, not knowing which way to go.


Vint.What! standest thou still, and hearest such a calling? Look to the guests within.[Exit FRANCIS.]My lord, old Sir John, with half a dozen more, are at the door: shall I let them in?

Prince.Let them alone awhile, and then open the door.[Exit VINTNER.]Poins!

Re-enter POINS.

Poins.Anon, anon, sir.

Prince.Sirrah, Falstaff and the rest of the thieves are at the door: shall we be merry?

Poins.As merry as crickets, my lad. But hark ye; what cunning match have you made with this jest of the drawer? come, what’s the issue?

Prince.I am now of all humours that have show’d themselves humours since the old days of goodman Adam to the pupil age of this present twelve o’clock at midnight.[FRANCIS crosses the stage, with wine.]What’s o’clock, Francis?

Fran.Anon, anon, sir.[Exit.

Prince.That ever this fellow should have fewer words than a parrot, and yet the son of a woman! His industry is up-stairs and downstairs; his eloquence the parcel of a reckoning. I am not yet of Percy’s mind, the Hotspur of the North; he that kills me some six or seven dozen of Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, ‘Fie upon this quiet life! I want work.’ ‘O my sweet Harry,’ says she, ‘how many hast thou killed to-day?’ ‘Give my roan horse a drench,’ says he, and answers, ‘Some fourteen,’ an hour after, ‘a trifle, a trifle.’ I prithee call in Falstaff: I’ll play Percy, and that damned brawn shall play Dame Mortimer his wife. ‘Rivo!’ says the drunkard. Call in ribs, call in tallow.


Poins.Welcome, Jack: where hast thou been?

Fal.A plague of all cowards, I say, and a vengeance too! marry, and amen! Give me a cup of sack, boy. Ere I lead this life long, I’ll sew nether-stocks and mend them and foot them too. A plague of all cowards! Give me a cup of sack, rogue.—Is there no virtue extant?[He drinks.

Prince.Didst thou never see Titan kiss a dish of butter—pitiful-hearted Titan, that melted at the sweet tale of the sun? if thou didst then behold that compound.

Fal.You rogue, here’s lime in this sack too: there is nothing but roguery to be found in villanous man: yet a coward is worse than a cup of sack with lime in it, a villanous coward! Go thy ways, old Jack; die when thou wilt. If manhood, good manhood, be not forgot upon the face of the earth, then am I a shotten herring. There live not three good men unhanged in England, and one of them is fat and grows old: God help the while! a bad world, I say. I would I were a weaver; I could sing psalms or anything. A plague of all cowards, I say still.

Prince.How now, wool-sack! what mutter you?

Fal.A king’s son! If I do not beat thee out of thy kingdom with a dagger of lath, and drive all thy subjects afore thee like a flock of wild geese, I’ll never wear hair on my face more. You Prince of Wales!

Prince.Why, you whoreson round man, what’s the matter?

Fal.Are you not a coward? answer me to that; and Poins there?

Poins.’Zounds! ye fat paunch, an ye call me coward, I’ll stab thee.

Fal.I call thee coward! I’ll see thee damned ere I call thee coward; but I would give a thousand pound I could run as fast as thou canst. You are straight enough in the shoulders; you care not who sees your back: call you that backing of your friends? A plague upon such backing! give me them that will face me. Give me a cup of sack: I am a rogue if I drunk to-day.

Prince.O villain! thy lips are scarce wiped since thou drunkest last.

Fal.All’s one for that.[He drinks.]A plague of all cowards, still say I.

Prince.What’s the matter?

Fal.What’s the matter? there be four of us here have ta’en a thousand pound this day morning.

Prince.Where is it, Jack? where is it?

Fal.Where is it! taken from us it is: a hundred upon poor four of us.

Prince.What, a hundred, man?

Fal.I am a rogue, if I were not at half-sword with a dozen of them two hours together. I have ’scap’d by miracle. I am eight times thrust through the doublet, four through the hose; my buckler cut through and through; my sword hacked like a hand-saw: ecce signum! I never dealt better since I was a man: all would not do. A plague of all cowards! Let them speak: if they speak more or less than truth, they are villains and the sons of darkness.

Prince.Speak, sirs; how was it?

Gads.We four set upon some dozen,—

Fal.Sixteen, at least, my lord.

Gads.And bound them.

Peto.No, no, they were not bound.

Fal.You rogue, they were bound, every man of them; or I am a Jew else, an Ebrew Jew.

Gads.As we were sharing, some six or seven fresh men set upon us,—

Fal.And unbound the rest, and then come in the other.

Prince.What, fought ye with them all?

Fal.All! I know not what ye call all; but if I fought not with fifty of them, I am a bunch of radish: if there were not two or three and fifty upon poor old Jack, then am I no two-legged creature.

Prince.Pray God you have not murdered some of them.

Fal.Nay, that’s past praying for: I have peppered two of them: two I am sure I have paid, two rogues in buckram suits. I tell thee what, Hal, if I tell thee a lie, spit in my face, call me horse. Thou knowest my old ward; here I lay, and thus I bore my point. Four rogues in buckram let drive at me,—

Prince.What, four? thou saidst but two even now.

Fal.Four, Hal; I told thee four.

Poins.Ay, ay, he said four.

Fal.These four came all a front, and mainly thrust at me. I made me no more ado but took all their seven points in my target, thus.

Prince.Seven? why, there were but four even now.

Fal.In buckram.

Poins.Ay, four, in buckram suits.

Fal.Seven, by these hilts, or I am a villain else.

Prince.Prithee, let him alone; we shall have more anon.

Fal.Dost thou hear me, Hal?

Prince.Ay, and mark thee too, Jack.

Fal.Do so, for it is worth the listening to. These nine in buckram that I told thee of,—

Prince.So, two more already.

Fal.Their points being broken,—

Poins.Down fell their hose.

Fal.Began to give me ground; but I followed me close, came in foot and hand and with a thought seven of the eleven I paid.

Prince.O monstrous! eleven buckram men grown out of two.

Fal.But, as the devil would have it, three misbegotten knaves in Kendal-green came at my back and let drive at me; for it was so dark, Hal, that thou couldst not see thy hand.

Prince.These lies are like the father that begets them; gross as a mountain, open; palpable. Why, thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson, obscene, greasy tallowketch,—

Fal.What, art thou mad? art thou mad? is not the truth the truth?

Prince.Why, how couldst thou know these men in Kendal-green, when it was so dark thou couldst not see thy hand? come, tell us your reason: what sayest thou to this?

Poins.Come, your reason, Jack, your reason.

Fal.What, upon compulsion? ’Zounds! an I were at the strappado, or all the racks in the world, I would not tell you on compulsion. Give you a reason on compulsion! if reasons were as plenty as blackberries I would give no man a reason upon compulsion, I.

Prince.I’ll be no longer guilty of this sin: this sanguine coward, this bed-presser, this horseback-breaker, this huge hill of flesh;—

Fal.’Sblood, you starveling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s pizzle, you stock-fish! O! for breath to utter what is like thee; you tailor’s yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing-tuck;—

Prince.Well, breathe awhile, and then to it again; and when thou hast tired thyself in base comparisons, hear me speak but this.

Poins.Mark, Jack.

Prince.We two saw you four set on four and you bound them, and were masters of their wealth. Mark now, how a plain tale shall put you down. Then did we two set on you four, and, with a word, out-faced you from your prize, and have it; yea, and can show it you here in the house. And, Falstaff, you carried your guts away as nimbly, with as quick dexterity, and roared for mercy, and still ran and roared, as ever I heard bull-calf. What a slave art thou, to hack thy sword as thou hast done, and then say it was in fight! What trick, what device, what starting-hole canst thou now find out to hide thee from this open and apparent shame?

Poins.Come, let’s hear, Jack; what trick hast thou now?

Fal.By the Lord, I knew ye as well as he that made ye. Why, hear you, my masters: was it for me to kill the heir-apparent? Should I turn upon the true prince? Why, thou knowest I am as valiant as Hercules; but beware instinct; the lion will not touch the true prince. Instinct is a great matter, I was a coward on instinct. I shall think the better of myself and thee during my life; I for a valiant lion, and thou for a true prince. But, by the Lord, lads, I am glad you have the money. Hostess, clap to the doors: watch to-night, pray to-morrow. Gallants, lads, boys, hearts of gold, all the titles of good fellowship come to you! What! shall we be merry? shall we have a play extempore?

Prince.Content; and the argument shall be thy running away.

Fal.Ah! no more of that, Hal, an thou lovest me!


Quick.O Jesu! my lord the prince!

Prince.How now, my lady the hostess! what sayest thou to me?

Quick.Marry, my lord, there is a nobleman of the court at door would speak with you: he says he comes from your father.

Prince.Give him as much as will make him a royal man, and send him back again to my mother.

Fal.What manner of man is he?

Quick.An old man.

Fal.What doth gravity out of his bed at midnight? Shall I give him his answer?

Prince.Prithee, do, Jack.

Fal.Faith, and I’ll send him packing.[Exit.

Prince.Now, sirs: by ’r lady, you fought fair; so did you, Peto; so did you, Bardolph: you are lions too, you ran away upon instinct, you will not touch the true prince; no, fie!

Bard.Faith, I ran when I saw others run.

Prince.Faith, tell me now in earnest, how came Falstaff’s sword so hacked?

Peto.Why he hacked it with his dagger, and said he would swear truth out of England but he would make you believe it was done in fight, and persuaded us to do the like.

Bard.Yea, and to tickle our noses with spear-grass to make them bleed, and then to beslubber our garments with it and swear it was the blood of true men. I did that I did not this seven year before; I blushed to hear his monstrous devices.

Prince.O villain! thou stolest a cup of sack eighteen years ago, and wert taken with the manner, and ever since thou hast blushed extempore. Thou hadst fire and sword on thy side, and yet thou rannest away. What instinct hadst thou for it?

Bard.[Pointing to his face.]My lord, do you see these meteors? do you behold these exhalations?

Prince.I do.

Bard.What think you they portend?

Prince.Hot livers and cold purses.

Bard.Choler, my lord, if rightly taken.

Prince.No, if rightly taken, halter.—

Re-enter FALSTAFF.

Here comes lean Jack, here comes bare-bone.—How now, my sweet creature of bombast! How long is ’t ago, Jack, since thou sawest thine own knee?

Fal.My own knee! when I was about thy years, Hal, I was not an eagle’s talon in the waist; I could have crept into any alderman’s thumb-ring. A plague of sighing and grief! it blows a man up like a bladder. There’s villanous news abroad: here was Sir John Bracy from your father: you must to the court in the morning. That same mad fellow of the north, Percy, and he of Wales, that gave Amaimon the bastinado and made Lucifer cuckold, and swore the devil his true liegeman upon the cross of a Welsh hook—what a plague call you him?

Poins.Owen Glendower.

Fal.Owen, Owen, the same; and his son-in-law Mortimer and old Northumberland; and that sprightly Scot of Scots, Douglas, that runs o’ horseback up a hill perpendicular.

Prince.He that rides at high speed and with his pistol kills a sparrow flying.

Fal.You have hit it.

Prince.So did he never the sparrow.

Fal.Well, that rascal hath good mettle in him; he will not run.

Prince.Why, what a rascal art thou then to praise him so for running!

Fal.O’ horseback, ye cuckoo! but, afoot he will not budge a foot.

Prince.Yes, Jack, upon instinct.

Fal.I grant ye, upon instinct. Well, he is there too, and one Mordake, and a thousand blue-caps more. Worcester is stolen away to-night; thy father’s beard is turned white with the news: you may buy land now as cheap as stinking mackerel.

Prince.Why then, it is like, if there come a hot June and this civil buffeting hold, we shall buy maidenheads as they buy hob-nails, by the hundreds.

Fal.By the mass, lad, thou sayest true; it is like we shall have good trading that way. But tell me, Hal, art thou not horribly afeard? thou being heir apparent, could the world pick thee out three such enemies again as that fiend Douglas, that spirit Percy, and that devil Glendower? Art thou not horribly afraid? doth not thy blood thrill at it?

Prince.Not a whit, i’ faith; I lack some of thy instinct.

Fal.Well, thou wilt be horribly chid to-morrow when thou comest to thy father: if thou love me, practise an answer.

Prince.Do thou stand for my father, and examine me upon the particulars of my life.

Fal.Shall I? content: this chair shall be my state, this dagger my sceptre, and this cushion my crown.

Prince.Thy state is taken for a joint-stool, thy golden sceptre for a leaden dagger, and thy precious rich crown for a pitiful bald crown!

Fal.Well, an the fire of grace be not quite out of thee, now shalt thou be moved. Give me a cup of sack to make mine eyes look red, that it may be thought I have wept; for I must speak in passion, and I will do it in King Cambyses’ vein.[Drinks.

Prince.Well, here is my leg.[Makes a bow.

Fal.And here is my speech. Stand aside, nobility.

Quick.O Jesu! This is excellent sport, i’ faith!

Fal.Weep not, sweet queen, for trickling tears are vain.

Quick.O, the father! how he holds his countenance.

Fal.For God’s sake, lords, convey my tristful queen,

For tears do stop the flood-gates of her eyes.

Quick.O Jesu! he doth it as like one of these harlotry players as ever I see!

Fal.Peace, good pint-pot! peace, good tickle-brain! Harry, I do not only marvel where thou spendest thy time, but also how thou art accompanied: for though the camomile, the more it is trodden on the faster it grows, yet youth, the more it is wasted the sooner it wears. That thou art my son, I have partly thy mother’s word, partly my own opinion; but chiefly, a villanous trick of thine eye and a foolish hanging of thy nether lip, that doth warrant me. If then thou be son to me, here lies the point; why, being son to me, art thou so pointed at? Shall the blessed sun of heaven prove a micher and eat blackberries? a question not to be asked. Shall the son of England prove a thief and take purses? a question to be asked. There is a thing, Harry, which thou hast often heard of, and it is known to many in our land by the name of pitch: this pitch, as ancient writers do report, doth defile; so doth the company thou keepest; for, Harry, now I do not speak to thee in drink, but in tears, not in pleasure but in passion, not in words only, but in woes also. And yet there is a virtuous man whom I have often noted in thy company, but I know not his name.

Prince.What manner of man, an it like your majesty?

Fal.A goodly portly man, i’ faith, and a corpulent; of a cheerful look, a pleasing eye, and a most noble carriage; and, as I think, his age some fifty, or by ’r lady, inclining to threescore; and now I remember me, his name is Falstaff: if that man should be lewdly given, he deceiveth me; for, Harry, I see virtue in his looks. If then the tree may be known by the fruit, as the fruit by the tree, then, peremptorily I speak it, there is virtue in that Falstaff: him keep with, the rest banish. And tell me now, thou naughty varlet, tell me, where hast thou been this month?

Prince.Dost thou speak like a king? Do thou stand for me, and I’ll play my father.

Fal.Depose me? if thou dost it half so gravely, so majestically, both in word and matter, hang me up by the heels for a rabbit-sucker or a poulter’s hare.

Prince.Well, here I am set.

Fal.And here I stand. Judge, my masters.

Prince.Now, Harry! whence come you?

Fal.My noble lord, from Eastcheap.

Prince.The complaints I hear of thee are grievous.

Fal.’Sblood, my lord, they are false: nay, I’ll tickle ye for a young prince, i’ faith.

Prince.Swearest thou, ungracious boy? henceforth ne’er look on me. Thou art violently carried away from grace: there is a devil haunts thee in the likeness of a fat old man; a tun of man is thy companion. Why dost thou converse with that trunk of humours, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swoln parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that grey iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years? Wherein is he good but to taste sack and drink it? wherein neat and cleanly but to carve a capon and eat it? wherein cunning but in craft? wherein crafty but in villany? wherein villanous but in all things? wherein worthy but in nothing?

Fal.I would your Grace would take me with you: whom means your Grace?

Prince.That villanous abominable misleader of youth, Falstaff, that old white-bearded Satan.

Fal.My lord, the man I know.

Prince.I know thou dost.

Fal.But to say I know more harm in him than in myself were to say more than I know. That he is old, the more the pity, his white hairs do witness it; but that he is, saving your reverence, a whoremaster, that I utterly deny. If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the wicked! If to be old and merry be a sin, then many an old host that I know is damned: if to be fat be to be hated, then Pharaoh’s lean kine are to be loved. No, my good lord; banish Peto, banish Bardolph, banish Poins; but for sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant, being, as he is, old Jack Falstaff, banish not him thy Harry’s company: banish not him thy Harry’s company: banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.

Prince.I do, I will.[A knocking heard.Exeunt MISTRESS QUICKLY, FRANCIS, and BARDOLPH.

Re-enter BARDOLPH, running.

Bard.O! my lord, my lord, the sheriff with a most monstrous watch is at the door.

Fal.Out, ye rogue! Play out the play: I have much to say in the behalf of that Falstaff.


Quick.O Jesu! my lord, my lord!

Prince.Heigh, heigh! the devil rides upon a fiddle-stick: what’s the matter?

Quick.The sheriff and all the watch are at the door: they are come to search the house. Shall I let them in?

Fal.Dost thou hear, Hal? never call a true piece of gold a counterfeit: thou art essentially mad without seeming so.

Prince.And thou a natural coward without instinct.

Fal.I deny your major. If you will deny the sheriff, so; if not, let him enter: if I become not a cart as well as another man, a plague on my bringing up! I hope I shall as soon be strangled with a halter as another.

Prince.Go, hide thee behind the arras: the rest walk up above. Now, my masters, for a true face and good conscience.

Fal.Both which I have had; but their date is out, and therefore I’ll hide me.[Exeunt all but the PRINCE and PETO.

Prince.Call in the sheriff.

Enter Sheriff and Carrier.

Now, master sheriff, what’s your will with me?

Sher.First, pardon me, my lord. A hue and cry

Hath follow’d certain men unto this house.

Prince.What men?

Sher.One of them is well known, my gracious lord,

A gross fat man.

Car.As fat as butter.

Prince.The man, I do assure you, is not here,

For I myself at this time have employ’d him.

And, sheriff, I will engage my word to thee,

That I will, by to-morrow dinner-time,

Send him to answer thee, or any man,

For anything he shall be charg’d withal:

And so let me entreat you leave the house.

Sher.I will, my lord. There are two gentlemen

Have in this robbery lost three hundred marks.

Prince.It may be so: if he have robb’d these men,

He shall be answerable; and so farewell.

Sher.Good night, my noble lord.

Prince.I think it is good morrow, is it not?

Sher.Indeed, my lord, I think it be two o’clock.[Exeunt Sheriff and Carrier.

Prince.This oily rascal is known as well as Paul’s.

Go, call him forth.

Peto.Falstaff! fast asleep behind the arras, and snorting like a horse.

Prince.Hark, how hard he fetches breath. Search his pockets.[He searcheth his pockets, and findeth certain papers.]What hast thou found?

Peto.Nothing but papers, my lord.

Prince.Let’s see what they be: read them.


  • Item, A capon2s. 2d.
  • Item, Sauce4d.
  • Item, Sack, two gallons5s. 8d.
  • Item, Anchovies and sack after supper2s. 6d.
  • Item, Breadob.
  • Prince.O monstrous! but one half-penny-worth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack! What there is else, keep close; we’ll read it at more advantage. There let him sleep till day. I’ll to the court in the morning. We must all to the wars, and thy place shall be honourable. I’ll procure this fat rogue a charge of foot; and, I know, his death will be a march of twelve-score. The money shall be paid back again with advantage. Be with me betimes in the morning; and so good morrow, Peto.

    Peto.Good morrow, good my lord.[Exeunt.