Act V Scene 5
At Westminster in London, in a street near the Abbey, the King and his train enter, cross the stage and then exit. Falstaff, Shallow, Pistol, Bardolph and the Page then enter. They stand and wait for the King to pass. Falstaff is eager to see the King, and to show his friends how much in the royal favor he stands. When Pistol informs him that Doll is in prison, Falstaff assures Pistol that he will free her.
Then the King and his train enter. Falstaff hails him enthusiastically. But the King responds coldly, rejecting his former friend. He says he has changed, and wants nothing more to do with his former companions. He banishes Falstaff and his friends, saying they must not come within ten miles of him. He also gives Falstaff an allowance, so that poverty does not force him into bad deeds, and encourages him to reform himself. He instructs the Lord Chief Justice to ensure that his instructions are carried out.
Falstaff tries to recover from this blow by trying to convince Shallow that the King will send for him in private, and that this apparent rejection was only for the sake of appearance.
While Shallow tries to get Falstaff to repay at least half of the thousand pounds Falstaff owes him (Shallow had lent him the money on the promise that Falstaff would secure him royal favor), the Lord Chief Justice enters with Prince John. The Chief Justice gives instructions for Falstaff to be conveyed to the Fleet prison.
Prince John tells the Chief Justice that he approves of the banishment of the Kings former friends. He also says he expects that within a year, the King will lead them to war in France.
The rejection of Falstaff has provoked more critical comment, and more disagreement, than any other aspect of the play. Henry Vs harsh, pompous and even cruel manner towards his old friend has alienated many playgoers and readers. It is often said to reveal a cold, calculating element in his personality that detracts from his warmth as a human being. Rogue Falstaff may be, but he is genuinely fond of the new King, and seeing him slapped down in public in this manner is a shock, even though Shakespeare has prepared the audience for Falstaffs rejection during the course of the play.
On the other hand, it is pointed out that if the King is to be an effective ruler, he has no choice but to reject Falstaff and the lawlessness he stands for. Falstaffs punishment is in fact mild, and his imprisonment at the Fleet is of short duration.
Act V Scene 5