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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT II, SCENE 2
At Southampton, the port of embarkation for France, King Henry has discovered that the three commissioners he sent to France have been bribed by French gold to murder him. He calls them into his presence and using deft political strategizing allows them to commit themselves to death because of their treacherous natures. Immediately, he sets sail for France leaving a loyal and united country behind him.
In this scene once again, the king is seen as a just and astute leader, who knows much about human behavior. Aware of the plot against his life, Henry uses an interesting technique of allowing the traitors to set their own punishment by asking them what punishment a particular offender of the king should get. When all three unanimously say Death, he gets the conspirators to convict themselves by their own mouths. It is a most suitable use of dramatic irony. The conspirators are confounded when they are most assured of success and believe themselves to be least suspected. When the three conspirators demand the man's punishment, they are attempting to show concern for the king but instead their deception is accentuated.
It is at this moment that the King hands them their commissions, which prove to be a statement of charges against them. They confess their crime and appeal for mercy. They are not entitled to mercy since they denied the same mercy to the unfortunate wretch.
This scene is most notable for Henry's deft handling of the traitors as well as his ability to put personal loyalties aside and act as a ruler. That he had the men commit themselves to death absolves him of sentencing them to death. Because they were friends, he is deeply hurt yet frames their treachery within a political rather than personal cause. For such a just king it is difficult to send them to their deaths yet he does so for the welfare of the nation.
ACT II, SCENE 3
The scene brings together again Pistol, Dame Quickly, Nym, Bardolph and others who are all lamenting the death of Falstaff. The manner of his death is described by Dame Quickly. A little before death he seemed to be groping in his senses and cried "God" three or four times. Bardolph especially regrets the passing away of Falstaff who always kept him well supplied with wine. They are now preparing to leave for France. Pistol talks to Dame Quickly and begs her to look after his "chattels" and his "movables" and behave cautiously.
A pathetic interest attaches to the scene because of the death of Sir John Falstaff, a boon companion of King Henry in his wilder days, and forgotten since the latter's accession. The audience does not know how he took his banishment from the court. However, he was certainly brokenhearted.
Shakespeare does not bring Falstaff before the audience yet his death is symbolic of the death of Henry's fun-loving and carefree days and that this scene follows the heels of one of serious political intrigues reveals that Henry has moved beyond his beer-swilling days and is now a political tactician with great responsibilities. Falstaff himself seems to have repented for his folly when he cries out for God on his deathbed.