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Near Westminster Abbey, just outside of London, the newly crowned King Henry V and his attendants are coming from the king's coronation. Falstaff and his companions--Shallow, Pistol, Bardolph, and Falstaff's page--have ridden hard from Gloucestershire in order to arrive in time, and they place themselves along the street down which the king must walk so that they can greet him. Falstaff is full of happy anticipation of the warm welcome he will receive from the new king.
However, when he hails King Henry V (whom he still calls "Hal"), the king at first ignores him and then tells him that he does not know him. He goes on to say to the bewildered Falstaff that he remembers dreaming about a foolish old man such as Falstaff is--fat, obscene, ridiculous--but he has now woken up and despises his former dream. The king says that he has changed from the wild days when he was Prince Hal; he has put that identity behind him and will similarly put away from him the people he knew in those days. For that reason, he is banishing Falstaff and the rest--not from the country but from the king himself; none of them will ever be allowed to come within ten miles of him. He concludes by saying that Falstaff and his friends will be well provided for. He will give them an adequate income, so that poverty does not drive them back into crime, but none of them may ever come near him again, until and unless they reform themselves into virtuous, respectable people.
The king finishes his speech and sweeps onward without a backward look. Falstaff, astonished and confused, still retains some hope: he suggests to the others that this has been simply a formality that Hal was forced to put on in public and that Hal will call for his old friend Falstaff to come to him later, in private. But that hope is dashed when the Lord Chief Justice returns, accompanied by Prince John and several police officers. They have orders to take Falstaff and the others away to a prison, where they will be held until they can be sent away from London. Falstaff has no chance to get out more than a few words before he is silenced and taken to the prison.
Left alone onstage with the Lord Chief Justice, Prince John comments admiringly on the way in which his older brother, the new King Henry V, handled his former friends: offering them an income but keeping them far away from him. Prince John adds that he hears that the king has summoned his Parliament, and he expects that they will be discussing the possibility of an upcoming invasion of France. The Lord Chief Justice agrees and the two depart together toward the court.
The final scene is followed by an Epilogue that is typical of epilogues found in Elizabethan drama. Presumably meant to be spoken by the author or by a dancer (or to have only one part spoken at a time, by one or the other), it offers an exaggeratedly humble apology for the "badness" of the play and requests applause from the audience. This particular epilogue also includes a prayer for the Queen and promises the audience a sequel to the play they have just seen--one that will feature Falstaff as well as the lovely Katherine of France.Read a translation of Act V, Scene v & Epilogue →
From a certain perspective, Hal's rejection of Falstaff is both predictable and necessary. We know that Prince Hal has long been planning to turn himself into a responsible king; we can see this transformation taking place in passages like Hal's vows to his dying father (IV.v) and his adoption of the Lord Chief Justice as a role model (V.ii). (In fact, the groundwork for this psychological metamorphosis is laid as early as scene I.ii in Henry IV, Part 1, in which Hal tells us that he plans to give up his friends and his wild life in order to become a responsible king.)
Reading all of Shakespeare by April 2014. Just finished Henry IV, Part Two. I blog on the plays I finish. My take on H IV, Part 2 is at:
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Take a Study Break!