King Henry IV, Part I Summary provides a quick review
of the play's plot including every important action
in the play. King Henry IV, Part I Summary is divided
by the five acts of the play and is an ideal introduction
before reading the original text.
King Henry IV opens the play by explaining that the
recent civil war in England has left its mark on his
kingdom. He hopes a much-delayed religious crusade will
unite his people together once again.
Unfortunately King Henry IV learns of trouble in his
land. First we learn that Mortimer, The Earl of March
was captured in a battle with the irregular "Glendower,"
which resulted in a thousand deaths for Mortimer's
Next we learn that though Young Harry Percy (Hotspur)
protected Holmedon from the Earl of Douglas in the north
for the King, he has kept the prisoners for himself
rather than give them over to King Henry.
King Henry IV is saddened that his own son is not nearly
as capable as Hotspur and regrets that Mortimer's capture
and Hotspur's insolence will force a further postponement
of his religious crusade...
We are introduced to Prince Hal, or Prince Henry, or
as King Henry calls him, Harry, the son King Henry IV
wishes was more like the valiant Hotspur. Far from acting
as a Prince arguably should, Hal is keeping company
with petty thieves.
We are also introduced to Falstaff, one such thief
and Poins who is planning a robbery at Gadshill (A location).
Poins explains that he and Hal (both disguised) will
steal what their friends have already stolen from carriages
running along Gadshill and will enjoy a laugh at Falstaff's
In an important soliloquy, Hal reveals that though
he has been keeping bad company, he will soon show his
true colours at the right time...
Meanwhile King Henry punishes the Earl of Worcester,
The Earl of Northumberland and Hotspur (Northumberland's
son) for forgetting their obligations to King Henry.
Hotspur and his father offer the prisoners gladly,
arguing their refusal to do so was all a misunderstanding.
King Henry disagrees, believing Hotspur wanted to use
the prisoners to force King Henry to pay the ransom
of Lord Mortimer, his brother-in-law. King Henry will
not do this because Lord Mortimer betrayed his forces
by marrying the daughter of Glendower, his enemy on
the battlefield! Hotspur is ordered to hand over the
prisoners but refuses.
Worcester suggests a plan to deal with King Henry,
which involves Douglas, Glendower and the Archbishop
of York siding against King Henry. Hotspur hands over
the prisoners to buy time...
Early in the morning, a Chamberlain, informs Gadshill
at an Inn of a rich carriage heading their way, important
information for their upcoming robbery...
Hal and Poins meet for their robbery of their friend's
robbery takings. Poins explains that he has removed
Falstaff's horse. The thieves spilt into two groups,
Poins and Hal taking the low ground. Falstaff, Gadshill,
Bardolph and Peto successfully rob several passing travelers
and are then robbed themselves by a disguised Poins
and Hal. With their horses taken, Poins and Hal will
have to wait for their friends to meet them in London;
they will have to walk there empty handed!
Hotspur reads a letter confirming that a nobleman they
have approached will not join their cause against King
Henry IV angering Hotspur. Hotspur worries that this
nobleman will betray them, revealing their plans to
King Henry. Hotspur's wife resents being neglected by
Hal and Poins are at an inn waiting for their luckless
friends Falstaff, Gadshill, Bardolph, Peto to arrive
and looking forward to laughing at Falstaff's lies
as to how they allowed themselves to be robbed. In the
meanwhile, Poins and Hal give inn servant Francis the
run around and Hal reveals his disdain of royal title,
displaying a common touch.
Tellingly, he reveals his envy of Hotspur, suggesting
he wishes he was more like him... Falstaff and friends
arrive, Falstaff being exposed as a liar to much amusement.
Falstaff argues that he knew Hal was robbing him and
thus allowed himself to be robbed.
Hal learns that Owen Glendower, his son in law Mortimer,
Old Northumberland, his son Hotspur and Douglas have
turned against King Henry IV (The Percy revolt). Falstaff
is wanted for a robbery. Hal decides to pay back Falstaff's
robbery victims and to have Falstaff lead troops against
The rebels divide up England. Mortimer is to have the
south, Glendower the west and Hotspur who represents
the Percy family will have the north. Glendower and
Hotspur squabble over their territories but eventually
compromise. Hotspur's wife Kate is not so blindly
loving of her husband as is Mortimer's wife, Lady
King Henry criticizes Prince Hal for wasting time with
his life. He warns that Hotspur may have a greater claim
to be King of England by his actions than Hal will by
right alone if Hal continues to waste time while men
like Hotspur earn the people's admiration just
as King Henry himself did which helped him to replace
Richard II. Hal assures his father that he will defeat
Hotspur, overjoying King Henry.
We learn that Douglas and the English rebels have met
at Shrewsbury representing a very powerful force. Hal
and father set off to meet this threat.
At the Boar's Head Tavern, Falstaff is told to
pay his bills by an angry Mistress Quickly. Falstaff
complains that he has no money, his pocket was picked,
cursing Hal in the process. Hal arrives, explaining
that he repaid those Falstaff stole from and that he
was the one who picked Falstaff's pocket. Falstaff
is placed in command of some men, reluctantly becoming
a soldier. Hal organizes preparations for the upcoming
At the rebel camp, the rebels learn that they will
be fighting weaker than expected; Hotspur's father,
Henry Percy, The Earl of Northhumberland cannot join
them, owing to illness. Hotspur though disheartened
quickly regains his enthusiasm.
Vernon arrives, announcing that not only do King Henry's
forces number thirty thousand, but also Glendower's
forces are unlikely to be available either since they
need another two weeks time to be gathered. Hotspur
now facing certain defeat, looks death in the eye, determined
to win no matter what the odds...
Falstaff ashamedly leads his ragtag troops towards
Coventry, pretending that he is not ashamed of them.
Hal meets him, laughing at Falstaff's expense about
his troops. Falstaff, Hal and Westmoreland head off
together for Shrewsbury to meet the rebels in battle...
The rebels disagree on strategy. Douglas and Hotspur
want to attack the King Henry's troops immediately
at night, reasoning that these troops will be tired
from their travels. Vernon and Worcester disagree, advising
caution as their own troops are not yet fully gathered
and King Henry's forces presently outnumbers them.
Sir Walter Blunt arrives, offering a compromise from
King Henry that could prevent war. Hotspur says no but
adds that in the morning Hotspur's uncle (Worcester)
shall meet King Henry to discuss matters further...
The Archbishop of York makes plans, making it quite
clear that he knows Hotspur faces King Henry's
forces without the help of Northhumberland and Glendower.
Sir Michael though, is confident of victory even when
it is learned that Mortimer's forces will not be
there either. The rebel forces will only number those
men under Hotspur's, Douglas' Mordake's,
Vernon's, and Worcester's control. The Archbishop
knows the stakes are high should their rebellion fail...
Worcester and Vernon speak with the King on behalf
of the rebels. Worcester airs their grievances that
King Henry has forgotten that they helped him achieve
power and that King Henry has taken more than he originally
King Henry offers a pardon to all the rebels to avoid
a bloody war.
Hal shows his wisdom by predicting that Douglas and
Hotspur confident of victory will not accept the pardon.
Falstaff is reluctant to die, questioning the value
of honour from battle...
Worcester decides not to tell Hotspur of King Henry's
generous pardon offer, arguing that if they accept,
they will never be trusted. Vernon disagrees. Douglas
and Hotspur arrive, Worcester lying to the two men that
King Henry is merciless and also by not telling them
of King Henry's pardon offer.
Worcester tells us that Hal has challenged Hotspur
to single combat and both Vernon and Worcester sing
Hal's praises showing just how far Hal has come
since his days of stealing with Falstaff and company.
Hotspur faces certain defeat but bravely starts battle...
The battle rages. Douglas kills Sir Walter Blunt, believing
him to be King Henry. We learn that the King has several
such impersonators on the battlefield to protect him.
Douglas explains to Hotspur that he has only killed
Sir Walter Blunt.
Falstaff is a worried man, barely three of his one
hundred and fifty men have survived the bloodbath, Falstaff
questioning again the value of honour if dies in war.
Falstaff tells Hal that he has killed Hotspur. Hal does
not believe him. Falstaff pledges to kill Hotspur but
to save himself first...
King Henry IV tells his son to leave the battlefield.
Hal does not want to, arguing that a scratch should
not warrant his leaving the battle. Douglas fights King
Henry, King Henry losing. Hal saves King Henry, Douglas
running away. This redeems Hal in King Henry's
Hotspur and Hal at last fight, Hal first showing his
respect for Hotspur. Falstaff cheers Hal on but Douglas
returns, fighting Falstaff who falls to the ground,
Hal kills Hotspur and mourns Falstaff's death.
Falstaff rises, explaining that he faked his death to
avoid a real one at the hands of Douglas.
Falstaff, fearing Hotspur is faking his death, stabs
him and claims that he killed Hotspur, expecting to
be made an Earl or a Duke. He explains that though he
was on the ground like Hotspur, both rose up and Falstaff
then killed Hotspur. The battle over, a general stand
down in announced...
The rebellion defeated, King Henry reminds prisoner
Worcester that he did offer the rebels a pardon to avoid
war. Worcester and Vernon are to be killed, while King
Henry decides the fate of the other prisoners.
King Henry allows Hal to set Douglas free. Attention
now turns to the next battle to be fought, against Northhumberland
and Archbishop Scroop, who are arming themselves for