William Shakespeare’s “1 Henry IV”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 3

— 5.3 —

The battle had started. In the battlefield between the two camps, Douglas encountered Sir Walter Blunt, who was dressed like King Henry IV and acting as a decoy.

Sir Walter Blunt asked, “What is your name, you who in the battle thus accosts me? What honor do you think you’ll gain by fighting me?”

“My name is Douglas, and I have been seeking you out in this battle because some people tell me that you are King Henry IV.”

“They have told you the truth,” Sir Walter Blunt lied.

“The Lord of Stafford has paid dearly today for assuming your likeness because of instead of ending your life, King Henry IV, my sword ended his life. My sword will also end your life, King, unless you surrender to me.”

“I was not born a quitter, proud Scot. I will not surrender; instead, you shall find in me a King who will get revenge for the death of Lord Stafford.”

They fought, and Douglas killed Sir Walter Blunt.

Hotspur ran up to Douglas and said, “If you had fought at Holmedon the way that you are fighting now, you and your Scottish army would have won the battle.”

“The battle we are fighting now is over, and we are victorious,” Douglas said. “Look! I have killed the King.”

“Where is he?” Hotspur asked.

“Here,” Douglas said, pointing at the corpse at his feet.

“No, Douglas,” Hotspur said. “I know this man’s face well. A gallant knight he was, and his name was Sir Walter Blunt. He is dressed as if he were the King.”

Douglas said to the corpse, “Wherever your soul goes, let it take with it the title of Fool. You borrowed the title of King, and it has cost you dearly. Why did you tell me that you were King Henry IV?”

“The King has many decoys,” Hotspur said. “Many of his noblemen are dressed like him and wearing his coats — vests embroidered with a coat of arms and worn over armor.”

“Then I will use my sword to kill all his coats,” Douglas said. “I will murder all his wardrobe, piece by piece, until I meet the real King.”

“Let’s return to the fighting!” Hotspur said. “The battle is going well for us.”

They left.

Falstaff walked onto the scene and stood near Sir Walter Blunt’s corpse.

He said, “In London, I could often escape paying what I owe by skipping out on the bill, but I am afraid that today I may have to pay the debt I owe to God, and that is a payment in full in which I lose my life.”

He noticed the corpse lying nearby: “But who is lying dead here? Sir Walter Blunt. Here is honor! This demonstrates what I said earlier about honor.”

He paused, and then he said, “I am as hot as molten lead, and as heavy as it, too. May God keep lead out of me! I need no more weight than my own intestines.”

He laughed at his own joke, and then he added, “I have led my company of ragamuffins to where they have been peppered with lead bullets. Not three of my hundred and fifty are left alive; and they are mutilated and will spend the rest of their lives at city gates with other beggars to seek alms.”

Falstaff heard a noise and said, “Who’s there?”

It was Prince Hal, who had been fighting hard and who had lost his sword in the confusion of battle. This was the day that he had promised himself and his father the King that he would redeem himself, and he was determined to do exactly that.

“Why are you standing here and doing nothing?” Prince Hal said when he saw Falstaff. “Lend me your sword. Many a nobleman lies stark and stiff and dead under the hoofs of horses that bear our boasting enemies. The lives of these dead patriots are not yet avenged. I beg you to lend me your sword.”

Falstaff lied, “Hal, please let me rest awhile and get back my breath. Not even Gregory XIII, that Pope and tyrant who encouraged the killing of many French Protestants in the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew, ever did such deeds in arms as I have done this day. I have killed Hotspur; I am sure of that.”

“I am just as sure that he is still alive and wants to kill you,” Prince Hal said. “Please, lend me your sword.”

“No,” Falstaff said. “If Hotspur is still alive, then I need my sword to defend myself. But you can have my pistol if you want it.”

“Give it to me,” Prince Hal said. “What! Is it still in your holster?”

“It is hot, Hal,” Falstaff said. “I have fired it so often that it became so hot that I had to put it back in its holster.”

He added, “Look in my holster and you will find something that will sack a city.”

Prince Hal looked and found a bottle of sack. He pulled it out and said, “Is this a time for jokes?” Then he threw the bottle of sack at Falstaff and ran off to find a weapon and start fighting again.

Falstaff said, “Well, if Hotspur Percy is still alive, I’ll pierce him. If he comes across me, so be it, but if he doesn’t, I have no intention of going out of my way to get in his way. If I were to be so stupid as to willingly seek him out, I would deserve for him to slice me up the way a butcher does a piece of meat to get it ready for broiling. I like not such grinning honor as the late Sir Walter Blunt has. I prefer life. If I can save my life, well and good. If I cannot save my life, then unlooked-for honor comes to me and that is the end of me.”

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