Henry IV, Part I

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The better part of valour is discretion.


Henry Bolingbroke has ascended the throne in troubled times after deposing King Richard II. With lingering guilt about his deposition of the former King, Henry IV must nonetheless focus on troubles at hand. His son, Hal, is behaving outrageously in the company of Sir John Falstaff and other miscreants. Dissension is also brewing among the King's supporters, led by Hotspur, son of the Earl of Northumberland and a man renowned for being both courageous and impulsive. A loosely knit rebellion—which includes Hotspur, York, Northumberland, Douglas, Mortimer, and the Welsh leader Glendower—seems doomed before it begins when Hotspur's rash attitude undermines the group, Northumberland takes ill, and Glendower is delayed in Wales.

As the rebellion frays, Henry IV is able to gain some ground by persuading his son to give up his reckless life to support his father. When the opposing forces finally meet, Hal and Hotspur face one another. Hal kills Hotspur, but credit is claimed by the unlikely hero, Falstaff. For the moment, the rebellion is averted.