King Henry IV
The ruling king of England at the beginning of the play. His health declines throughout the play, in part due to his anxiety about civil insurrection and the fate of his seemingly irresponsible son, Hal. He dies before the end of the play, never having fulfilled his dream of leading a company of soldiers to fight in the Crusades in Jerusalem.
Prince Hal (later King Henry V)
Only called "Hal" by Falstaff and his friends, the prince is also called Prince Henry, Harry, Prince Harry, Harry Monmouth, the Prince of Wales, and, after his father's death, King Henry V. He is the play's main protagonist. His transformation from a youthful hell-raiser into the dignified King Henry V is one of the major psychological developments of the play.
Son of King Henry IV and younger brothers of Prince Hal. Prince John using cunning (which some would call deception) to put down the rebellion.
Duke of Lancaster; Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester; and Thomas, Duke of Clarence
Sons of King Henry IV and younger brothers of Prince Hal.
The Lord Chief Justice
The most powerful official of the law in England. Level-headed, calm, perceptive, and intelligent, he is a close advisor to King Henry IV. He also becomes an advisor and father figure for young Prince Hal after Henry IV's death.
Earl of Warwick, Earl of Surrey, Earl of Westmoreland, Gower, Harcourt, Sir John Blunt
Noblemen; King Henry IV's allies and advisors.
Sir John Falstaff
Usually called Falstaff but sometimes called Jack. A fat, cheerful, witty, aging criminal, he has long been Prince Hal's mentor and close friend. He pretended to have killed Hotspur at the Battle of Shrewsbury, and Prince Hal—the actual killer—agreed to go along with the lie. For this reason, everyone gives Falstaff much more respect than he deserves.
A boy whom Prince Hal has assigned to serve Falstaff as his page. He carries Falstaff's sword and runs his errands.
Poins, Peto, Bardolph
Friends of Falstaff and Prince Hal. Formerly highwaymen and robbers, they have, like Falstaff, gained money and prestige since the Battle of Shrewsbury. Poins is the smartest of the bunch and the closest to Hal. Bardolph, an insatiable drinker, has a famously bright red nose.
An army ensign ("ancient" meant "ensign" in Elizabethan English), he serves under Falstaff and is extremely aggressive and prone to fighting.
Mouldy, Shadow, Wart, Feeble, and Bullcalf
Army recruits whom Falstaff inspects in Gloucestershire (Act 3, Scene 2). Only Shadow, Wart, and Feeble come with him to the war. The others bribe their way out.
Archbishop of York
A powerful northern clergyman who leads the rebellion against King Henry IV.
Mowbray and Hastings
Two lords who conspire with the Archbishop of York to overthrow King Henry IV.
Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland
Usually called Northumberland but sometimes called Percy. A powerful northern nobleman whose brother Worcester and son Hotspur have recently been killed in battle against King Henry IV.
Dead before the play begins, he is often referred to in its early scenes. He was Northumberland's son and a leader of the rebellion against the king. He was also called Percy or Harry Percy. Prince Hal killed him at the Battle of Shrewsbury, but everyone thinks that the killer was Falstaff.
An ally of Northumberland who brings him the false news of Hotspur's success in Act 1, Scene 1. (Not to be confused with Falstaff's friend Bardolph.)
A mysterious and influential leader of a group of rebel guerrilla fighters in Wales, his character never actually appears in the play.
Mistress Quickly (the Hostess)
Proprietor of the seedy Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap, London. She has a dim wit but a good heart.
Falstaff's favorite prostitute and a good friend of Mistress Quickly. She has a bottomless repertoire of insults and seems to be both fiercer and smarter than most of the law officers hanging around Eastcheap. She may be in love with Falstaff.
Fang and Snare
Incompetent officers of the law upon whom Mistress Quickly calls to arrest Falstaff in Act 2, Scene 1.
Justice Shallow and Justice Silence
Middle-class country landowners who are also justices of the peace (minor local law officers). They are cousins. Shallow is an old school friend of Falstaff's. The two both live up to their names: Justice Shallow talks endlessly about trivial topics, while Justice Silence barely ever opens his mouth—except to sing raunchy songs when he gets drunk.
An honest, industrious, and talkative household servant of Justice Shallow.