Act I Scene 2
Sir John Falstaff enters with his boy page, joking about how small the boy is in comparison to himself, and commenting wittily on the doctors verdict on his state of health. He then jokes about how young Prince Henry, his companion, is, and inquires about the new clothes he ordered. The page tells him that the clothier did not trust Falstaffs credit, and wanted better security. Falstaff replies with a stream of insults against the man.
The Lord Chief Justice enters, with his servant. He tries to speak to Falstaff, who at first pretends to be deaf. When the two men do speak, Falstaff is extravagantly polite and begs the Chief Justice to take good care of his health.
The Chief Justice rebukes Falstaff for not coming when he was sent for, before the battle of Shrewsbury. Falstaff tries to change the subject. When the Chief Justice presses him, saying there were serious accusations against him, Falstaff says he did not come because he was on military duty and therefore exempt from a civilian summons.
The Chief Justice grudgingly agrees to drop the matter because Falstaff has served at Shrewsbury, and this wipes out the part he played in a robbery at Gads Hill (a reference to an event that took place in Henry IV, Part 1).
The Chief Justice then complains that Falstaff is a bad influence (an “ill angel”) on the Prince, which Falstaff, with great verbal dexterity, denies, on the basis that he is too heavy to be the ill angel, which is light. After more verbal jousting, the Chief Justice informs Falstaff that he has been summoned for service with Prince John, against the armies of Northumberland and York. Falstaff indulges in some bravado, and the Chief Justice wishes him well on the expedition. Falstaff then has the cheek to ask the Chief Justice for a loan of a thousand pounds, which the Chief Justice refuses. After the Chief Justice exits, Falstaff complains about his lack of money, and resolves to profit from the war.
The play continues the pattern set in Henry IV, Part 1, in which serious scenes depicting civil war and statecraft alternate with the comic exploits of Falstaff. This scene is different from any in the earlier play, however, because here Falstaff comes face to face with the Lord Chief Justice, the embodiment of the law that Falstaff so frequently ignores and mocks. The Lord Chief Justice is a worthy adversary, and speaks very bluntly to Falstaff of his lawless behavior. Falstaff parries the accusations with his customary verbal aplomb, but the Lord Chief Justice has a measure of wit too, and Falstaff does not rout him the way he might a lesser opponent. The scene is a clear foreshadowing of what happens in the final scene of the play, when Falstaff finally gets his comeuppance.
Act I Scene 2