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MonkeyNotes-Henry IV, Part 2 by William Shakespeare
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Major Characters

Henry IV

The title character of Henry IV, Part 2 does not make his appearance until late in the play. When he finally appears in Act III he is in his “nightgown.” Ailing and exhausted, he is in a very miserable position. He is completely worn out by the troubles and confusions of ruling England, a country torn by civil wars. In a remarkable, powerful, and heart-felt soliloquy he laments how sweet, gentle “sleep” is denied him. He is weary and sick throughout the play. Henry makes his strongest appeal as a grief-stricken father to his son and heir whom he believes to be ungrateful and undisciplined.

Prince Henry (Hal)

Prince Henry is a young, energetic, and gifted man. He mainly appears in the comic scenes. As a prince, he shows no immediate desire for the crown or to take his father’s place. Hal knows that he will soon have the unbelievable responsibility of being King, so if he is to have fun in life, it must come while his father is still alive. He insists that he feels genuine sorrow at his father’s sickness (“my heart bleeds inwardly”), but explains that he would be thought a hypocrite if he made a display of grief. Many have argued that Hal is the protagonist of all three plays of the Henriad (Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V).

Sir John Falstaff

He is a corrupt but lovable military officer whose brilliant wit and high spirits makes us ignore his vices. He cannot be dismissed as a buffoon for he has a great resource of knowledge. He is portrayed as the privileged jester of the Prince. In his spontaneous discourses he shows close familiarity with the Bible, literature, logic, music and all things related to the upper class society in Elizabethan England. Queen Elizabeth likes Falstaff so much that she asks Shakespeare to write another play about him, which he does, The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Prince John, Duke of Lancaster

Prince John is the third son of Henry IV and is a determined warrior and devoted to public duty. He is not warm or humane like his brother, Prince Hal.

The Earl of Westmoreland

Westmoreland functions as the voice of political orthodoxy. He carries out the orders of his superior, and it is he who places the rebels under arrest for treason at the end.


The second Duke of Norfolk is a courageous warrior. He is a wise and mature man who is not easily carried away by Westmoreland’s peace treaty. He is a contrast to the unrealistic Lord Hastings and optimistic Archbishop who reject his wise counsel. He is a cautious, skeptical leader among the rebels.

The Earl of Northumberland

The elder Henry Percy is determined to take revenge upon Henry IV after the defeat at Shrewsbury and the death of his son. But, he is more concerned about his own welfare and safety and did not join his brother and son in the battle of Shrewsbury. On the advice of his wife, Lady Northumberland, he decides to go to Scotland and remain there until he knows the further developments of the war.

The Archbishop of York

Richard Scroop is the leading spirit among the rebels and the clergy. He is powerful enough in raising a large army and is a determined leader of the rebel forces. He can never forget that Henry IV was the one who ordered the execution of his brother. He says that he is a man of good will and is very keen to bring about a just settlement of issues, which have led him to rebel against the King.

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MonkeyNotes-Henry IV, Part 2 by William Shakespeare


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