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On the battlefield at Shrewsbury, the fight is on between the army of King Henry and the forces of the Percy rebellion. The Douglas, the fearless leader of the Scotsmen, searches the battlefield for Henry himself. He meets Sir Walter Blunt, dressed like the king and acting as a decoy. The two fight, and the Douglas kills Blunt. Hotspur enters and identifies the dead Blunt as an impostor.
The two leave in search of the real Henry, and Falstaff appears, trying to avoid the heat of the battle. He encounters a breathless Harry, who has lost his sword. Harry asks Falstaff if he can borrow his. The cowardly Falstaff declines to give it up—if Hotspur is still alive, Falstaff does not want to be unarmed. Disgusted, Harry leaves, and Falstaff goes off in a different direction.Read a translation of Act V, scene iii →
Harry reenters, now accompanied by his father, brother John, and Westmoreland. Harry is wounded but refuses to stop fighting and seek medical attention. He heads off with John and Westmoreland to fight, leaving Henry alone. The Douglas reenters, still seeking the king. Henry bravely meets the Douglas in single combat, although he knows that he can hardly hope to win: he is an old man, while the Douglas is a deadly fighter in the prime of his life. Harry reappears, and, seeing his father in danger, challenges the Douglas, whom he beats back so ferociously that the Douglas flees the field. Henry thanks his son with warmth and pride, saying he has at last regained his father’s respect, and Harry heads back into battle.
Hotspur enters and finds Harry alone. They identify one another, and both agree that it is time they fought to the death. In the heat of their battle, Falstaff wanders back in. The fighters do not notice him, but Falstaff cheers Harry on. The Douglas returns once again and attacks Falstaff. Falstaff falls down, pretending to be dead, and the Douglas leaves him where he lies.
Harry, meanwhile, has critically wounded Hotspur, who dies. Spying Falstaff lying on the ground as if dead, Harry eulogizes both and, vowing to come back and bury them, leaves. As soon as Harry is gone, Falstaff springs up and stabs the dead Hotspur in the leg. When Harry and John reenter, Falstaff, in his typical manner, claims that he fought a bloody battle with the wounded Hotspur after Harry left and finally finished him off. John and the dumbfounded Harry decide to settle the matter later. They hear the trumpets sounding retreat, and all return together to the base camp.Read a translation of Act V, scene iv →
The battle is over, and Henry’s forces have won decisively. The rebel leaders are all dead or captured. Henry, who has discovered that the battle was triggered, in part, by Worcester’s intentional failure to deliver his offer of peace to Hotspur, orders Worcester and Vernon to be executed.
I think it should have been called Sir Jack, First Part, as Falstaff towers over everybody else in King Henry IV, Part 1. See my blog on the play:
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Most Shakespeare plays have a jester, who is able to perceive certain things better than the "noble" person. There are other elements that make Falstaff more interesting, such as the juxtaposition of "fortune," class, or perhaps simply initiative.
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No "strong current of magic runs throughout the play". It's in one or two scenes in part 1.
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