Act V - Act V, Scene 4
Scene IV. Another Part of the Field.
[Alarums. Excursions. Enter King Henry, Prince Henry,
Lancaster, and Westmoreland.]
Harry, withdraw thyself; thou bleedest too much.--
Lord John of Lancaster, go you unto him.
Not I, my lord, unless I did bleed too.
I do beseech your Majesty, make up,
Lest your retirement do amaze your friends.
I will do so.--
My Lord of Westmoreland, lead him to his tent.
Come, my lord, I'll lead you to your tent.
Lead me, my lord? I do not need your help:
And God forbid, a shallow scratch should drive
The Prince of Wales from such a field as this,
Where stain'd nobility lies trodden on,
And rebels' arms triumph in massacres!
We breathe too long:--come, cousin Westmoreland,
Our duty this way lies; for God's sake, come.
[Exeunt Lancaster and Westmoreland.]
By Heaven, thou hast deceived me, Lancaster;
I did not think thee lord of such a spirit:
Before, I loved thee as a brother, John;
But now I do respect thee as my soul.
I saw him hold Lord Percy at the point
With lustier maintenance than I did look for
Of such an ungrown warrior.
O, this boy
Lends mettle to us all!
[Alarums. Enter Douglas.]
Another king! they grow like Hydra's heads:
I am the Douglas, fatal to all those
That wear those colours on them.--What art thou,
That counterfeit'st the person of a king?
The King himself; who, Douglas, grieves at heart
So many of his shadows thou hast met,
And not the very King. I have two boys
Seek Percy and thyself about the field:
But, seeing thou fall'st on me so luckily,
I will assay thee; so, defend thyself.
I fear thou art another counterfeit;
And yet, in faith, thou bear'st thee like a king:
But mine I'm sure thou art, whoe'er thou be,
And thus I win thee.
[They fight; the King being in danger, re-enter Prince Henry.]
Hold up thy head, vile Scot, or thou art like
Never to hold it up again! the spirits
Of valiant Shirley, Stafford, Blunt are in my arms:
It is the Prince of Wales that threatens thee;
Who never promiseth but he means to pay.--
[They fight: Douglas flies.]
Cheerly, my lord: how fares your Grace?
Sir Nicholas Gawsey hath for succour sent,
And so hath Clifton: I'll to Clifton straight.
Stay, and breathe awhile:
Thou hast redeem'd thy lost opinion;
And show'd thou makest some tender of my life,
In this fair rescue thou hast brought to me.
O God, they did me too much injury
That ever said I hearken'd for your death!
If it were so, I might have let alone
Th' insulting hand of Douglas over you,
Which would have been as speedy in your end
As all the poisonous potions in the world,
And saved the treacherous labour of your son.
Make up to Clifton: I'll to Sir Nicholas Gawsey.
If I mistake not, thou art Harry Monmouth.
Thou speak'st as if I would deny my name.
My name is Harry Percy.
Why, then I see
A very valiant rebel of the name.
I am the Prince of Wales; and think not, Percy,
To share with me in glory any more:
Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere;
Nor can one England brook a double reign,
Of Harry Percy and the Prince of Wales.
Nor shall it, Harry; for the hour is come
To end the one of us; and would to God
Thy name in arms were now as great as mine!
I'll make it greater ere I part from thee;
And all the budding honours on thy crest
I'll crop, to make a garland for my head.
I can no longer brook thy vanities.
Well said, Hal! to it, Hal! Nay, you shall find no boy's
play here, I can tell you.
[Re-enter Douglas; he fights with Falstaff, who falls down as if
he were dead, and exit Douglas. Hotspure is wounded, and falls.]
O Harry, thou hast robb'd me of my youth!
I better brook the loss of brittle life
Than those proud titles thou hast won of me;
They wound my thoughts worse than thy sword my flesh:
But thoughts the slave of life, and life Time's fool,
And Time, that takes survey of all the world,
Must have a stop. O, I could prophesy,
But that the earthy and cold hand of death
Lies on my tongue: no, Percy, thou art dust,
And food for--
For worms, brave Percy: fare thee well, great heart!
Ill-weaved ambition, how much art thou shrunk!
When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;
But now two paces of the vilest earth
Is room enough. This earth that bears thee dead
Bears not alive so stout a gentleman.
If thou wert sensible of courtesy,
I should not make so dear a show of zeal:
But let my favours hide thy mangled face;
And, even in thy behalf, I'll thank myself
For doing these fair rites of tenderness.
Adieu, and take thy praise with thee to Heaven!
Thy ignominy sleep with thee in the grave,
But not remember'd in thy epitaph!--
[Sees Falstaff on the ground.]
What, old acquaintance? could not all this flesh
Keep in a little life? Poor Jack, farewell!
I could have better spared a better man:
O, I should have a heavy miss of thee,
If I were much in love with vanity!
Death hath not struck so fat a deer to-day,
Though many dearer, in this bloody fray.
Embowell'd will I see thee by-and-by:
Till then in blood by noble Percy lie.
[Rising.] Embowell'd! if thou embowel me to-day, I'll give you leave
to powder me and eat me too to-morrow. 'Sblood, 'twas time to
counterfeit, or that hot termagant Scot had paid me scot and lot too.
Counterfeit! I lie; I am no counterfeit: to die, is to be a
counterfeit; for he is but the counterfeit of a man who hath not the
life of a man: but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth,
is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed.
The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I
have saved my life.--
Zwounds, I am afraid of this gunpowder Percy, though he be dead: how,
if he should counterfeit too, and rise? by my faith, I am afraid he
would prove the better counterfeit. Therefore I'll make him sure; yea,
and I'll swear I kill'd him. Why may not he rise as well as I?
Nothing confutes me but eyes, and nobody sees me. Therefore,
sirrah, with a new wound in your thigh, come you along with me.
[Takes Hotspur on his hack.]
[Re-enter Prince Henry and Lancaster.]
Come, brother John; full bravely hast thou flesh'd
Thy maiden sword.
But, soft! whom have we here?
Did you not tell me this fat man was dead?
I did; I saw him dead, breathless and bleeding
Upon the ground.--
Art thou alive? or is it fantasy
That plays upon our eyesight? I pr'ythee, speak;
We will not trust our eyes without our ears.
Thou art not what thou seem'st.
No, that's certain; I am not a double man: but if I be not
Jack Falstaff, then am I a Jack. There is Percy! [Throwing the
body down.] if your father will do me any honour, so; if not, let
him kill the next Percy himself. I look to be either earl or
duke, I can assure you.
Why, Percy I kill'd myself, and saw thee dead.
Didst thou?-- Lord, Lord, how this world is given to lying!--
I grant you I was down and out of breath; and so was he: but
we rose both at an instant, and fought a long hour by Shrewsbury
clock. If I may be believed, so; if not, let them that should
reward valour bear the sin upon their own heads. I'll take it upon
my death, I gave him this wound in the thigh: if the man were
alive, and would deny it, zwounds, I would make him eat a piece of
This is the strangest tale that ever I heard.
This is the strangest fellow, brother John.--
Come, bring your luggage nobly on your back:
For my part, if a lie may do thee grace,
I'll gild it with the happiest terms I have.--
[A retreat is sounded.]
The trumpet sounds retreat; the day is ours.
Come, brother, let's to th' highest of the field,
To see what friends are living, who are dead.
[Exeunt Prince Henry and Lancaster.]
I'll follow, as they say, for reward. He that rewards me, God
reward him! If I do grow great, I'll grow less; for I'll purge,
and leave sack, and live cleanly as a nobleman should do.
[Exit, bearing off the body.]
— Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
Falstaff's famous phrase, most often quoted today as "Discretion is the better part of valor," somewhat redeems his cowardly act. He has just risen from his feigned death having playing dead on the battle field to escape true death. Falstaff claims that concepts like "honor" and "valor" help no one if one's dead, and so he excuses his actions as the kind of "discretion" that keeps someone from foolishly putting oneself into harms way in order to cultivate a reputation for heroism. If such actions keep you alive, then it's not counterfeiting, but a genuine "image of life."