Henry IV Part 1: Novel Summary: Act 5 scene 1

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At the King's camp, Worcester and Vernon arrive to explain the rebel's case against the King. Worcester, who is Northumberland's brother and Hotspur's uncle, repeats much of what Hotspur told Blunt in Act 4, scene 3. He emphasizes how the Percy family befriended him, and how he promised he would not seek the crown. But after their support had helped him grow popular and to wrest the crown from Richard, he forgot his supporters, turning against them and oppressing them. This is why they have had to raise an army against him, because he has violated the trust they placed in him.

The King replies that this is an argument they have put together to make rebellion against the crown seem legitimate in the eyes of the common people.

Prince Hal then offers words in praise of Hotspur, and offers to settle the matter in single combat with him.

The King tells Worcester that if the rebels accept the pardon he offers, there will be peace between them all again.

After Worcester and Vernon exit, the Prince predicts that the offer will not be accepted, because Hotspur and Douglas believe they will prevail in battle.

Everyone exits, except for the Prince and Falstaff. Falstaff asks that if the Prince sees him down in the battle, he should finish him off as an act of mercy. The Prince dismisses this remark with a joke and bids him say his prayers. He owes God a death, the Prince says.

Alone, Falstaff says that his death is not due yet. Then he satirizes the concept of honor. Honor, so prized by soldiers, is not much practical use to anyone. It cannot cure a wound. It is only a word. Moreover, it is a word that people attach to the dead, not to the living. He rejects the idea of honor as not worth anything.

Analysis
The generosity of the King in offering the rebels a pardon shows him in a positive light. There is no reason to doubt his sincerity. To the King, the rebels are just using any excuses they can find to stir up disorder in the land. Even Falstaff, who mocks Worcester's claim that he did not seek rebellion ("Rebellion lay in his way, and he found it," line 28), undermines the legitimacy of the rebels' position. Prince Hal speaks with grace and chivalry about his rival Hotspur, further winning the audience's sympathy for the King's cause. But then up steps Falstaff, in the final speech in the scene, to undermine the concept of honor that both sides think they are upholding. Not for the first time in the play, Falstaff wittily punctures the ideals that are generally accepted in his society.

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