Henry IV Characters

Henry IV Part 1

King Henry IV: King Henry IV is King of England. He seized the throne from Richard II (in events recorded in Richard II), and his reign is marked by a series of civil wars. Henry IV is a ruthless, efficient leader, although the conflicts he is embroiled in have weighed him down with anxiety. He is also worried about his irresponsible son, Prince Hal. Henry IV’s ambition is to take an army to the Holy Land to reclaim it from the infidels, but he cannot do this until he has established peace at home.

Henry, Prince of Wales: Henry, Prince of Wales (also known as Hal), is the son of Henry IV and the heir to the throne. He leads a wild, irresponsible life, hanging around with thieves and drunkards, including Sir John Falstaff, at the Boar’s Head tavern in Eastcheap, London. But during the course of the play, Prince Hal reforms his behavior, promising the King that he will do himself justice in the coming battle. True to his word, he fulfils his duty at the battle of Shrewsbury, saving the King from being killed by Douglas, and then killing Hotspur. He becomes worthy of his status as heir to the throne.

Prince John of Lancaster: Prince John of Lancaster is the younger son of Henry IV, and brother of Prince Hal. He is the opposite of his wild brother, and is quick to take on responsibility in the King’s councils. At the battle of Shrewsbury, he fights valiantly.

Earl of Westmoreland: The Earl of Westmoreland is a loyal and trusted ally of King Henry IV.

Sir Walter Blunt: Sir Walter Blunt is a supporter of King Henry IV. He serves as intermediary between the king and the rebels before the battle of Shrewsbury. He is killed by Douglas in the battle.

Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester: Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, is the younger brother of Northumberland, and is Hotspur’s uncle. It is he who hatches the plot to oppose the king and works out the details of the alliance between the different rebel armies. Worcester plays a key role in the action when he deliberately fails to convey to Hotspur the King’s offer of a pardon for the rebels. During the battle, he is captured. The King sentences him to death.

Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland: Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland is a powerful nobleman who helped Henry IV seize the throne. He has now turned against Henry and is part of the plot against him. But he gets sick and is unable to take part in the battle at Shrewsbury.

Henry Percy (“Hotspur”): Hotspur is the son of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. He is a brave warrior and makes a name for himself by defeating Douglas the Scot and taking many Scottish prisoners. He then makes an alliance with the Scots and rebels against the King. Hotspur is excitable, impatient, impulsive and hot-tempered. He is quick to quarrel, but he is also full of exuberant life and humor, and these qualities make him an attractive character. He is eager to do battle with the Prince at Shrewsbury, and is not deterred by the absence of his father or of Glendower, or the fact that his army is outnumbered. Hotspur is killed by Prince Hal at the battle of Shrewsbury.

Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March: Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, is feared by Henry IV because he has a legitimate claim to the English throne. Mortimer is captured by Glendower, and Henry IV refuses to pay a ransom for him. This angers Hotspur, who is married to Mortimer’s sister, and is one of the causes of Hotspur’s rebellion against the King. Mortimer takes no part in the battle at Shrewsbury.

Richard Scroop, Archbishop of York: Richard Scroop, the Archbishop of York, supports Hotspur’s rebellion.

Archibald, Earl of Douglas: Archibald, Earl of Douglas, is a Scottish warrior. He is a former enemy of Hotspur who is now Hotspur’s ally. He takes part in the battle at Shrewsbury and almost manages to kill King Henry, but is put to flight by Prince Hal.

Owen Glendower: Owen Glendower is a boastful Welsh warrior and chieftain who captures Mortimer in battle. He then enters into an alliance with Hotspur to overthrow the King. But he cannot raise an army in time to take part in the battle at Shrewsbury.

Sir Richard Vernon: Sir Richard Vernon is one of the rebels, in alliance with Hotspur. He is captured at Shrewsbury and condemned to death by the King.

Sir John Falstaff: Sir John Falstaff is the companion of Prince Hal. He is enormously fat, but he compensates for his bulk by a very nimble wit. He is a liar, a thief, a drunkard and a coward, but he has the gift of making light of everything. His easy-going good nature makes others willing to indulge his outrageous behavior, and he gets out of scrapes by using his wit and his ability to play on words. Falstaff cares nothing for authority and is cynical about martial ideals such as honor. He simply looks out for himself. Despite Falstaff’s outlandish behavior, Prince Hal finds him a lovable and entertaining companion, and his other friends, such as Poins and Bardolph, are also fond of him. Falstaff goes to the battle at Shrewsbury with a company of conscripted ragamuffins who are soon killed. Falstaff’s aim in the war is to stay alive and make a profit. He claims to have killed Hotspur, although in fact, when Prince Hal killed Hotspur, Falstaff was playing dead after being attacked by Douglas.

Sir Michael: Sir Michael is a friend of the Archbishop of York, who sends him with letters to the rebels.

Poins: Poins is a companion of Prince Hal and Falstaff. He persuades the Prince to play a joke on Falstaff and the others by robbing them after they have robbed the travelers at Gad’s Hill.

Gadshill: Gadshill is one of Falstaff’s companions at the tavern. He sets up the robbery at Gad’s Hill and it is in turn robbed by Falstaff and Prince Hal. When Prince Hal questions him about the incident, he backs up Falstaff’s version of events, even though he knows Falstaff is lying.

Peto: Peto is one of the tavern gang who takes part in the robbery at Gad’s Hill.

Bardolph: Bardolph is one of Falstaff’s disreputable pals. Falstaff calls him the “Knight of the Burning Lamp,” because of his red nose, caused by too much drinking.

Francis: Francis is a bartender mocked by Poins and Prince Hal.

Lady Percy: Lady Percy is Hotspur’s wife and Mortimer’s sister.

Mistress Quickly: Mistress Quickly is hostess of the Boar’s Head tavern on Eastcheap frequented by Falstaff and his friends.

Henry IV Part 2

Rumour:  Rumour appears in the Induction, to announce how false rumors about what happened at the battle of Shrewsbury have spread through all the small towns until they have reached Northumberland’s castle. The character appears, according to the stage directions, “painted full of tongues.”

King Henry IV:  King Henry IV is a man weighed down by the burdens of kingship. Although he personally fought in the battle of Shrewsbury, he takes no direct part in the fight against the rebels led by the Archbishop, delegating that responsibility to Prince John. The King is distressed that his reign has seen so many civil wars, which have thwarted his desire to journey to the Holy Land. But he knows this has happened because he seized the crown from Richard II rather than inherited it rightfully. Henry IV is also a sick man who knows that he does not have long to live. He is worried about his son Prince Henry, whom he believes is not worthy of inheriting the crown because of his irresponsible behavior. He fears for what will happen to England after his death. However, just before his death, Henry IV is reconciled to his son, who promises to rule the kingdom wisely.

Prince Henry:  Prince Henry, (also known as Harry or Hal), is the eldest son of Henry IV and the heir to the throne. Although he performed valiantly at the battle of Shrewsbury, killing the rebel leader, Hotspur, he still has a reputation for leading a wild, irresponsible life, hanging around with thieves and drunkards, including Sir John Falstaff, at the Boar’s Head tavern in Eastcheap, London. But he spends less and less time with Falstaff, and he promises his father, on his deathbed, that he will reform his life and do justice to the kingship he is about to inherit. When the King dies and Prince Henry is crowned Henry V, he surprises his brothers by promising to rule wisely and well. He makes his peace with the Lord Chief Justice and publicly rejects his former companions, especially Falstaff, whom he banishes from his presence.

Prince John of Lancaster:  Prince John of Lancaster, the third son of Henry IV, is put in charge of the campaign against the rebels. He is a cold, calculating man. Falstaff does not like him because he never laughs, and Falstaff attributes that to the fact that he does not drink. Prince John employs a Machiavellian political strategy to defeat the rebels. He offers them peace terms and promises to keep his word, but after the rebels have disbanded their army, he orders the arrest of the rebel leaders.

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester:  Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester is the youngest of Henry’s IV’s four sons. He plays only a small role in the events of the play.

Thomas, Duke of Clarence:  Thomas, Duke of Clarence is the second of Henry’s IV’s four sons. He is close to Prince Henry, and their father, Henry IV, tells Clarence to stay close to Henry and learn how to manage his difficult personality when he becomes king. If Clarence can do this, the King says, he will be able to keep the peace between all the brothers.

Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland:  Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland is part of the rebellion against the King, but he is persuaded by his family to stay away from the battle. He takes refuge in Scotland. It is later reported that he and the Scots have been defeated in Yorkshire.

Archbishop of York:  The Archbishop of York is the principal leader in the rebellion against the King. He is persuaded by his advisors to go ahead with battle plans, even though Northumberland’s forces will be absent. When challenged by Westmoreland, he defends the righteousness of his cause. But the Archbishop is tricked by Prince John’s offer of peace in Gaultree Forest, and along with the other rebel leaders he is executed.

Lord Mowbray:  Lord Mowbray is one of the rebel leaders. His motivation for joining the rebellion may be personal, since he repeatedly alludes to the fact that his father was banished for life by Richard II following a dispute with Bolingbroke (who later became Henry IV). Mowbray is arrested, along with the other leaders, at Gaultree Forest, and sent to execution.

Lord Hastings:  Lord Hastings is one of the rebel leaders. At a meeting of the rebels at the Archbishop of York’s palace, his advice is to proceed to battle, since he believes the rebels have sufficient forces to prevail, even without Northumberland. He trusts Prince John to keep his word in the negotiations at Gaultree Forests, and disbands his army. But then Westmoreland arrests him, and he is sent for execution.

Lord Bardolph:  Lord Bardolph is one of the rebel leaders, an associate of Northumberland. Bardolph is cautious, and advises the Archbishop and Hastings to wait until Northumberland’s forces arrive before committing themselves to battle. Later it is reported that he and Northumberland have been defeated in Yorkshire.

Travers:  Travers is Northumberland’s servant. He brings the news that Hotspur, Northumberland’s son, was killed in the battle at Shrewsbury.

Morton:  Morton is an associate of Northumberland who reports all the details of the battle of Shrewsbury to Northumberland.

Sir John Coleville:  Sir John Coleville is a member of the rebel army who yields without a fight to Falstaff. He is sent away to be executed.

Earl of Warwick:  The Earl of Warwick is one of the King’s trusted advisors who is always optimistic about the political situation. He reassures the King that they have adequate forces to easily defeat the rebels. He conveys to the King the news that Glendower, the Welsh leader who had been rebelling against the crown, is dead. He also reassures the doubtful King that Prince Henry will cast off his disreputable companions when the time comes.

Earl of Westmoreland:  The Earl of Westmoreland is one of the commanders of the King’s army. He meets with the rebels in Gaultree Forest, where he reproaches the Archbishop of York for his part in the rebellion, but announces that Prince John is prepared to hear their grievances and grant redress if their complaints are justified. After the rebels have met with Prince John and dissolved their army, Westmoreland, acting on the orders of Prince John arrests the leaders for treason.

Gower:  Gower is one of the King’s men. He brings news of the King’s troop movements to the crowd at the Boar’s Head.

Harcourt:  Harcourt is one of the King’s men. He brings news of the defeat of Northumberland and the Scots.

The Lord Chief Justice:  The Lord Chief Justice is Falstaff’s chief antagonist, and he orders Falstaff to pay Hostess Quickly what he owes her. When Prince Henry becomes King, the Chief Justice is worried about his own position, since he once committed the Prince to prison. But the new King Henry V makes it clear that he wishes the law to be upheld in his kingdom, and he appreciates the Lord Chief Justice’s commitment to law and order. The Chief Justice triumphs over his adversary Falstaff when the King asks him to ensure that the conditions of Falstaff’s banishment are met. The Chief Justice also conveys Falstaff to the Fleet prison for temporary incarceration.

Poins:  Poins is a friend of Prince Henry who joins with him in all his escapades. It is Poins who comes up with the idea that they disguise themselves as drawers in order to spy on Falstaff at the Boar’s Head.

Sir John Falstaff:  Sir John Falstaff is the leader of a group of disreputable characters who hang out at the Boar’s Head tavern in Eastcheap. Falstaff is also a companion of Prince Henry. Falstaff is a liar, a thief, a drunkard and a coward, but in spite of all this he wins the affection of his friends. He is extremely fat, but he compensates for his bulk by a nimble wit. His good nature makes others willing to forgive his outrageous and unscrupulous behavior, and he gets out of scrapes by using his wit and his ability to play on words. Falstaff also appears in Henry IV, Part 1, where he takes the credit for killing Hotspur in battle (Hotspur was in fact killed by Prince Henry). In Henry IV Part 2, Falstaff continues to be an amusing character, although his conduct is even more outrageous than in the earlier play. He exploits Mistress Quickly’s generosity and affection for him by refusing to pay his debts and then getting even more money out of her when she is almost bankrupt; he allows recruits to bribe their way out of military service; he despises Shallow, the country justice, and borrows a thousand pounds from him, which he does not repay; he captures Sir John Coleville in battle only because Coleville gives up without a fight (no doubt convinced by the myth that it was Falstaff who killed Hotspur). When Prince Henry becomes King, Falstaff expects to be able to do exactly as he pleases, but he gets a rude awakening when the new King publicly rejects him.

Bardolph:  Bardolph is one of Falstaff’s cronies. He is endlessly teased about his red nose, which is caused by too much drinking.

Pistol:  Pistol is an associate of Falstaff. He is a boaster and a bully, and Quickly dislikes him, calling him a swaggerer. Falstaff helps to drive him out of the tavern after Pistol draws his sword and becomes aggressive during an argument with Doll Tearsheet.

Peto:  Peto is an associate of Falstaff.

Falstaff’s Page:  Falstaff’s Page, assigned to him by Prince Henry, is very small, prompting Falstaff to joke about the difference in size between his page and himself.

Robert Shallow:  Robert Shallow is a thin, old country Justice of the Peace, who lives in the county of Gloucestershire. He often recalls his wild days as a youth, but Falstaff thinks he is lying. Shallow is flattered by Falstaff’s visits and is foolish enough to lend the knight some money, which Falstaff does not return.

Silence:  Silence, like Shallow, is a country Justice of the Peace. As his name implies, he says little, but when he is drunk he cannot stop singing.

Davy:  Davy is Justice Shallow’s servant.

Ralph Mouldy:  Ralph Mouldy is one of the men recruited from Shallow’s village by Falstaff to serve in the army. But he pays Bardolph a bribe and is let off.

Simon Shadow:  Simon Shadow is a villager recruited by Falstaff to serve in the army.

Thomas Wart:  Thomas Wart is a villager recruited by Falstaff to serve in the army.

Francis Feeble:  Francis Feeble is a villager selected for military service by Falstaff. Unlike the other recruits from Shallow’s village, he goes willingly.

Peter Bullcalf:  Peter Bullcalf is a villager selected for military service by Falstaff, but like Mouldy, he pays a bribe and is released from his obligation.

Lady Northumberland:  Lady Northumberland is the wife of Northumberland. She joins with her daughter-in-law to persuade her husband not to join the rebel army but to flee to Scotland instead.

Lady Percy:  Lady Percy is the widow of Hotspur, the rebel leader who was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury. She helps to persuade her father-in-law, Northumberland, not to join the rebellion until the rebels have first proved themselves in a battle with the King.

Hostess Quickly:  Hostess Quickly is the owner of the Boar’s Head tavern in Eastcheap, London, which is frequented by Falstaff and his friends. Quickly tries to have Falstaff arrested for nonpayment of debts, but Falstaff uses his charm on her and she agrees to pawn her belongings to raise more money for him. She is genuinely fond of the fat old knight.

Doll Tearsheet:  Doll Tearsheet is a prostitute and friend of Quickly’s who hangs out at the Boar’s Head. She is also a friend of Falstaff, but she cannot stand Falstaff’s pal, Pistol. Doll is carted off near the end of the play by the beadles for a whipping.