King Henry IV
The reigning King of England, and the father of Prince Henry. His health declines throughout the play, due in part to his anxiety about civil insurrection and the fate of his seemingly irresponsible heir, Prince Henry.
Henry, Prince of Wales
The heir to the English throne. Prince Henry, or Harry, is known as Hal to Falstaff and his friends. Upon his father’s death, he becomes King Henry V. He is the play’s main protagonist, and his transformation from a youthful hell-raiser into the dignified King Henry V is one of the major psychological developments of the play.
Prince John, Duke of Lancaster; Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester; and Thomas, Duke of Clarence
Sons of King Henry IV and younger brothers of Prince Henry.
The Lord Chief Justice
The most powerful official of the law in England. Level-headed, perceptive, and intelligent, he is a close advisor to King Henry IV. He also becomes an advisor and father figure to Prince Henry after the King’s death and Prince Henry’s subsequent coronation.
Earl of Warwick, Earl of Surrey, Earl of Westmoreland, Harcourt, Sir John Blunt
Noblemen; King Henry IV’s allies and advisors.
Sir John Falstaff
A fat, jovial, aging knight. Falstaff is a cheat and a liar, and the butt of many jokes and pranks. However, he seems well loved by his friends, especially the prostitute Doll Tearsheet. An incredibly popular character on the Elizabethan stage, Falstaff is Prince Henry’s long-time mentor and close friend. However, as Prince Henry prepares himself for kingship by shedding his disreputable past, his relationship with Falstaff becomes increasingly strained.
A boy whom Prince Henry has assigned to serve Falstaff. The page carries Falstaff’s sword and runs his errands, and soon begins to imitate Falstaff in his insolence and disrespectfulness.
Poins, Peto, Bardolph
Friends of Falstaff and Prince Henry. Former crooks and highwaymen, these men have, like Falstaff, gained money and prestige since the Battle of Shrewsbury. Poins is the smartest of the three, and the closest to Henry. Bardolph, an incorrigible drunkard, has a bright red nose and welts all over his face.
An army ensign (ancient meant “ensign” in Elizabethan English). Pistol serves under Falstaff and is extremely aggressive and belligerent.
Mouldy, Shadow, Wart, Feeble, and Bullcalf
Army recruits whom Falstaff inspects in Gloucestershire. Only Shadow, Wart, and Feeble go with Falstaff to the war; the others manage to bribe their way out.
Archbishop of York
A powerful northern clergyman who helps lead the rebellion against King Henry IV.
Mowbray and Hastings
Two lords who conspire with the Archbishop of York to overthrow King Henry IV.
Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland
Usually called Northumberland, but sometimes called Percy. A powerful northern nobleman whose brother, the Earl of Worcester, and son Hotspur have recently been killed in battle against King Henry IV.
Dead before the play begins, but often referred to in its early scenes. Hotspur was Northumberland’s son and a key leader in the rebellion against the King. In King Henry IV, Part One, the quick-tempered warrior Hotspur was a discernible contrast to the self-indulgent Prince Henry.
Wife of the Earl of Northumberland.
An ally of Northumberland. Lord Bardolph is not to be confused with Bardolph, Falstaff’s drunken associate.
The mysterious and influential leader of the Welsh rebellion. Glendower is a key figure in Henry IV, Part One, though his character never appears in Part Two.
Proprietress of the Boar’s Head Tavern in Eastcheap, London. She has a dim wit but a good heart.
Falstaff’s favorite prostitute and a friend of Mistress Quickly. Doll Tearsheet seems both fiercer and smarter than most of the law officers in Eastcheap, and she also seems to have a deep and abiding affection for Falstaff.
Fang and Snare
Incompetent officers of the law whom Mistress Quickly calls upon to arrest Falstaff.
Justice Shallow and Justice Silence
Middle-class country landowners, and justices of the peace (minor local law officers). These two cousins live up to their names: Justice Shallow talks endlessly about trivial topics, while Justice Silence barely ever opens his mouth—except to sing rowdy songs when he gets drunk. Shallow is an old friend of Falstaff’s from law school.
A household servant of Justice Shallow.
A messenger from the King, to the Lord Chief Justice.
A messenger from Shrewsbury, to Northumberland.
Sir John Coleville
A rebel, captured by Falstaff.
Rumor and Epilogue
Presenters who deliver the opening and concluding speeches, respectively. Rumor is the personification of rumor and gossip, and wears a costume painted with tongues.