Cast of Characters
Rumor, the Presenter
King, and Supporters of the King
King Henry IV
Henry, son of Henry IV; Prince of Wales; afterwards King Henry V; also known as Prince Hal and as the younger Harry
Prince Thomas of Clarence, son of Henry IV
Prince John of Lancaster, son of Henry IV
Prince Humphrey of Gloucester, son of Henry IV
Earl of Warwick
Earl of Westmoreland
Earl of Surrey
Sir John Blunt
Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench
A Servant of the Lord Chief Justice
Earl of Northumberland
Richard Scroop, the Archbishop of York
Sir John Colevile
Travers and Morton, retainers of the Earl of Northumberland
Male Eastcheap Characters
Sir John Falstaff
His Page, a boy
Other Male Characters
Robert Shallow, and Silence, country justices
Davy, Servant to Robert Shallow
Ralph Moldy, Simon Shadow, Thomas Wart, Francis Feeble, and Peter Bullcalf, recruits
Fang and Snare, sheriff’s officers
Lady Percy, widow of Hotspur, a rebel
Mistress Quickly, hostess of Boar’s Head Inn, a tavern in Eastcheap
Doll Tearsheet, prostitute
Lords and Attendants; Porter, Drawers, Beadles, Servants, Strewers of Rushes, etc.
A Dancer, speaker of the epilogue
Note: Shakespeare frequently collapses time in his history plays. For example, in 2 Henry IV, the incident at Gaultree Forest, the Battle of Bramham Moor, and the death of King Henry IV all occur very close in time.
In history, the incident in which the Archbishop of York was tricked occurred in 1405. He died on 8 June 1405.
In history, the Battle of Bramham Moor, in which Northumberland was defeated, occurred on 19 February 1408.
In history, the death of King Henry IV occurred on 20 March 1413.
At Warkworth, in front of the castle of the Earl of Northumberland, the figure of Rumor, dressed in a cloak on which were painted many tongues, appeared.
Rumor said, “Open your ears; for who of you will block the vent of hearing when loud Rumor speaks? I, from the Eastern orient to the West where the Sun droops and sets, making the wind my horse to make rumors travel widely and quickly from post to post, continually unfold and disclose and spread ‘news’ of the actions commenced on this ball called Earth. Slanders continually ride upon my tongues. In every language I pronounce these slanders, stuffing the ears of men with false reports. I speak of peace, while hidden hatred that disguises itself as smiling safety wounds the world.
“And who but Rumor — who but only I — causes gatherings of soldiers and preparations for defense because of fear when the pregnant year is thought to be with child by the stern tyrant war, although that is not true, and the year is swollen because of some other grief.
“Rumor is a pipe — a wind instrument — blown by surmises, jealousies, and conjectures. This pipe has well-defined holes with which to produce the musical notes, and it can be so easily played that the blunt monster with uncounted heads — the always discordant and wavering multitude of people — can play upon it.
“But why should I anatomize my well-known body to you? You know this already.
“So why is Rumor here? I run before King Henry IV’s victory. In a bloody field by Shrewsbury, the King and his army have beaten down the young rebel Hotspur and his troops, quenching the flame of bold rebellion with the rebels’ blood.
“But why am I telling you the truth right now, here at the beginning? My job is to spread misinformation. My job is to noise abroad the ‘news’ that Harry Monmouth — Prince Hal, heir to the throne — fell under the wrath of noble Hotspur’s sword, although in truth Prince Hal killed Hotspur at the Battle of Shrewsbury on 21 July 1403. My job is to noise abroad the ‘news’ that King Henry IV fell before the rage of the Scottish nobleman Archibald, Earl of Douglas. I am spreading the false news that the King’s anointed head stooped as low as death before the Douglas.
“These falsehoods I have rumored through the peasant towns that lie between that royal field of Shrewsbury and this worm-eaten hold of ragged stone at Warkworth, where Hotspur’s father, the aged Earl of Northumberland, lies crafty-sick — he feigns illness as an excuse for not bringing an army to the Battle of Shrewsbury, preferring to let others do the hard and dangerous work of fighting.
“Exhausted, the messengers come riding hard to bring him news, and not a man of them brings news other than what they have learned from me. From Rumor’s tongues — my tongues — they bring untrue good news. This false news raises hopes that will be dashed. Hearing false news of good things is worse than hearing true news of bad things — it is better to know the worst immediately than to have your hopes raised and then dashed.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved