The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s History Plays

Synopsis: Henry IV Part 2

Short Synopsis
In the aftermath of the Battle of Shrewsbury, NORTHUMBERLAND learns of the death of his son. THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE attempts, on behalf of the increasingly frail King, to separate FALSTAFF from PRINCE HAL. The rebels continue to plot insurrection. FALSTAFF is sent to recruit soldiers and takes his leave of his mistress, DOLL TEARSHEET. The rebel forces are overcome. This brings comfort to the dying King, who is finally reconciled to his son. FALSTAFF rushes to HAL’s coronation with expectations of high office.

NORTHUMBERLAND is played by Alun Armstrong, LORD CHIEF JUSTICE by Geoffrey Palmer, KING HENRY by Jeremy Irons, FALSTAFF by Simon Russell Beale, PRINCE HAL by Tom Hiddleston and DOLL TEARSHEET by Maxine Peake.

Long Synopsis
NORTHUMBERLAND (Alun Armstrong) is at home anxiously awaiting news from the battle between the rebel forces, led by his son HOTSPUR, and the Royal forces led by KING HENRY IV (JEREMY IRONS). LORD COLEVILLE (Dominic Rowan) arrives with news, albeit based on rumour, that the King has been severely wounded and the King’s son, HAL (Tom Hiddleston), is dead. At that moment, LORD HASTINGS (Adam Kotz) enters with a very different account verified by his own eyes: it is NORTUMBERLAND’S son who has been killed and whose soldiers have fled from the battlefield. KING HENRY has won. NORTHUMBERLAND is consumed by grief and vows revenge but COLEVILLE gently reminds him that they knew of the danger they faced when they ignited the fight. He adds that the ARCHBISHOP OF YORK (Nicholas Jones), one of their allies, is still alive and can yet help them. NORTHUMBERLAND, for now, composes himself.

In London, FALSTAFF (Simon Russell Beale) has a chance meeting with the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE (Geoffrey Palmer) who reminds FALSTAFF that he failed to present himself at court to explain his involvement in a highway robbery. However, the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE says he is prepared to overlook the incident in light of FALSTAFF’s victory at the battle of SHREWSBURY (where HAL has continued to let FALSTAFF take the credit for killing HOTSPUR). The LORD CHIEF JUSTICE mentions FALSTAFF’s dreaded next quest – he and the King’s second son, LORD JOHN OF LANCASTER (Henry Faber), are being sent to fight NORTHUMBERLAND and the ARCHBISHOP OF YORK.

Tom Hiddleston as Henry IV

Tom Hiddleston as Henry IV

In the crypt of the York Minister, the ARCHBISHOP is gathered with LORD MOWBRAY (Pip Torrens), HASTINGS and COLEVILLE. Aware that NORTHUMBERLAND is also looking to challenge the King, they consider joining forces with him and his some 25,000 strong soldiers. HASTINGS points out that the King’s army will be weak – they’re already split from fighting the French and GLENDOWER’s (Robert Pugh) rebel forces. The group decide that they are ready to publicly announce their cause.

KING HENRY, meanwhile, has become very sick. Accompanied by SIR JOHN BRACY (Conrad Asquith), he walks towards the throne but sits down at a table next to his younger sons. The King asks his second son, LANCASTER, as to why he is not with his elder brother, HAL. LANCASTER replies that HAL is in London with POINS (David Dawson) and their other friends. This is disturbing news for the King who is worried that HAL will be led astray again by his companions. The EARL OF WARWICK (Iain Glen) tries to reassure KING HENRY that HAL will break off the friendship in time but the King is unconvinced.

MISTRESS QUICKLY (Julie Walters) leads two policemen, FANG (Justin Edwards) and SNARE (Richard Frame), through a busy market towards the Boar’s Head Tavern, as FANG explains they need to arrest FALSTAFF at MISTRESS QUICKLY’s request. As they approach the Tavern, they find FALSTAFF with his young PAGE (Billy Matthews) and BARDOLPH (Tom Georgeson). FANG and SNARE step forward to arrest FALSTAFF but are met with great resistance. MISTRESS QUICKLY starts attacking FALSTAFF whilst his PAGE also jumps into the fray. The LORD CHIEF JUSTICE hears the disturbance and goes over to the group to call for peace. MISTRESS QUICKLY asks for help in making FALSTAFF, pay her what he owes for all the food and drink he has consumed in the Tavern. FALSTAFF, as ever, protests but the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE demands that he pays MISTRESS QUICKLY for what she is owed. His young lawyer, GOWER (Pip Carter), appears with a message for the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE. The King’s army has been sent with LANCASTER to fight against the ARCHBISHOP and NORTHUMBERLAND. FALSTAFF, now having persuaded MISTRESS QUICKLY to pawn her silver plates in order to lend him money, and arranged to have dinner with DOLL TEARSHEET (Maxine Peake), invites GOWER to join them in the Tavern. The LORD CHIEF JUSTICE again reminds FALSTAFF that he should be taking his troops to the north to join the battle.

Inside a London bath house, HAL tells POINS how weary he is feeling with his new found responsibility. Worried about his father’s ill health, HAL says he cannot show it for fear of being called a hypocrite. BARDOLPH arrives to give HAL a letter from FALSTAFF which, in his typical humour, says little more than hello and goodbye. HAL suggests to POINS that they should enter the tavern in disguise and surprise FALSTAFF at dinner that evening.

NORTHUMBERLAND is preparing to leave his castle and asks for his wife, LADY NORTHUMBERLAND (Niamh Cusack), and his daughter-in-law, KATE PERCY (Michelle Dockery), to support his cause against the King. Consumed with grief, KATE begs him not to go to war. LADY NORTHUMBERLAND suggests that he goes to Scotland instead to join forces with the rebels there. NORTHUMBERLAND agrees and leaves for the north.

Back in the Boar’s Head Tavern, MISTRESS QUICKLY, FALSTAFF and DOLL TEARSHEET are together in Falstaff’s room. PISTOL (Paul Ritter) joins them and soon riles DOLL TEARSHEET with his threatening behaviour. BARDOLPH and FALSTAFF throw him out of the Tavern. FALSTAFF & DOLL RETURN to his room. HAL and POINS, in their disguises, sneak along the corridor by FALSTAFF’s room and climb up a ladder into the rafters above his room. They overhear FALSTAFF telling DOLL TEARSHEET that he thinks HAL is shallow and POINS’ wit is as thick as mustard. As FALSTAFF stands up to pour more wine, HAL and POINS drop down into the room and angrily protest at what they’ve heard. They are interrupted by PETO (Ian Conningham) who bursts into the room with news that the King is in court, weary messengers are arriving from the north and a dozen Captains are searching for FALSTAFF to lead his troops to the fight. It is a wake up call for HAL who feels guilty for wasting time playing pranks and leaves. FALSTAFF reluctantly bids farewell to MISTRESS QUICKLY and DOLL TEARSHEET.

KING HENRY IV has become increasingly frail with sickness and lack of sleep. He is greatly concerned for his country but WARWICK reassures him that NORTHUMBERLAND will soon be dealt with. Meanwhile, FALSTAFF and BARDOLPH travel to Gloucestershire to review a group of men who have been assembled for recruitment by SHALLOW (David Bamber) and SILENCE (Tim McCullan). After questioning the men to select the most suitable candidates, SHALLOW and SILENCE leave to have a drink. In their absence BARDOLPH accepts bribes from two of the men in return for their release from combat.

The rebel army, led by the ARCHBISHOP, MOWBRAY, HASTINGS and COLEVILLE, is on the march.
They are met by the EARL OF WESTMORELAND (James Laurenson) an envoy from the King. WESTMORELAND asks what is behind their cause and invites them to speak with PRINCE JOHN OF LANCASTER in person to resolve the issue.

Inside the Prince’s tent, the ARCHBISHOP reminds the Royal party about the grievances presented earlier to the King. LANCASTER vows to address each issue and asks them to stand down their army in return. The news is passed on to the troops and the rebel army disperse immediately. As the ARCHBISHOP and WESTMORELAND raise a glass of wine to toast the agreement, LANCASTER asks WESTMORELAND to discharge the Royal forces. WESTMORELAND speaks with a Captain outside and proceeds back into the tent to tell LANCASTER that they will not leave until they are discharged by the Prince in person. As HASTINGS enters the tent, the Captain and several soldiers follow him inside. WESTMORELAND announces that he is arresting the ARCHBISHOP, HASTINGS and MOWBRAY for high treason. The soldiers capture the three prisoners and LANCASTER explains that although he will honour his pledge to address their grievances, he cannot overlook their personal act of rebellion against the King.

Deep in the woods, FALSTAFF is resting at the bottom of a hollow when COLEVILLE, under pursuit from LANCASTER’s troops, rolls down the bank. COLEVILLE realises he’s come across the man who killed HOTSPUR and hands himself over to FALSTAFF. LANCASTER rides up. FASTAFF tells the Prince that he has taken COLEVILLE prisoner. The Prince remains cynical of this but sends COLEVILLE off for execution with the others. He agrees to FALSTAFF’s request to be given leave to go to Gloucester.

WESTMORELAND arrives at the Palace to tell KING HENRY that the rebels have been defeated. The King rises to congratulate WESTMORELAND but collapses, and, in ill health, sinks to the floor. WESTMORELAND and WARWICK help the King into bed. HENRY asks for his crown to be placed on the pillow beside him. HAL is heard entering the Palace and his younger brother, CLARENCE (Matthew Tennyson), tells HAL that their father is exceedingly ill. HAL approaches his father’s bedside and sits by his bedside. The Lords and his brothers leave the two alone. HAL speaks gently to the King but when he gets no response and believes that his father is on the point of death. Taking the crown and warily accepting his own destiny, he takes the crown and leaves the room.

HAL sits on the throne and wears the crown. KING HENRY shouts for his Lords and young son. They run into his bedroom as the King is looks for his crown. HENRY stumbles to his feet and fights his way through into the Great Hall. KING HENRY snatches the crown back from his son and shouts at him for wishing him dead. HAL explains that he mistakenly thought the King was dead, something which struck his heart cold. The King muses upon how he came to claim the crown and advises HAL to look to overseas wars as a means of reuniting the broken country. LANCASTER enters the hall and, proudly seeing his second son, the KING speaks his last words.

WARWICK and WORCESTER tell the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE that the King has died. WARWICK points out that HAL is no fan of the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE, who now fears for his position.

In Gloucestershire, FALSTAFF, his PAGE and BARDOLPH arrive at SHALLOW’s house. SHALLOW invites them to stay the night. FALSTAFF, as yet unaware of the King’s death, tells his PAGE that he will have enough funny stories from their visit to keep HAL laughing forever.

Meanwhile in the Palace of Westminster, KING HENRY V stands before the entire court. The new King and the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE openly discuss their tense relationship but when the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE questions what he has actually ever done wrong, the King agrees that the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE has been right in his previous actions. KING HENRY asks the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE to continue in the role. The King addresses the court and reassures them that where his blood has previously flowed in vanity, it will now flow only in majesty.

As the merriment continues at SHALLOW’s house after dark, PISTOL arrives to tell FALSTAFF that KING HENRY IV is dead and that HAL is now KING HENRY V. FALSTAFF prepares to leave immediately for London, assuming that the King will summon him, and excited at the thought of the power that his position as the King’s favourite will bring.

The coronation is held in Westminster Abbey and HAL is proclaimed KING HENRY V. FALSTAFF, SHALLOW, BARDOLPH, PISTOL, PETO and PAGE run down a side aisle with other late-comers to try to get a good view of the procession.

The coronation procession makes its way down the nave with KING HENRY followed by his brothers and his father’s advisers, GLOUCESTER, WESTMORELAND, WARWICK and the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE. FALSTAFF pushes past the pikemen and stands before KING HENRY. The King calls to the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE to speak to FALSTAFF before telling him that he does not know him. As FALSTAFF rises to make a joke, KING HENRY tells him not to presume he is the same man he knew as HAL. The King tells FALSTAFF he does not want to see him, or any of their other friends, until they too have reformed their characters. KING HENRY leaves and FALSTAFF tells SHALLOW not to believe what he has heard. He assures him that he will be called for in private and will be able to repay his debt to SHALLOW by borrowing money from the King. They too begin to leave the Abbey when the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE and his soldiers step forward to arrest FALSTAFF and his party.

We see MISTRESS QUICKLY and DOLL TEARSHEET being arrested at the Boar’s Head Tavern.
FALSTAFF is dragged away. We close in on FALSTAFF who has tears running down his cheeks.