Lack of Interaction (Hal and Poins, as well)

Yesterday, we discussed the absence of the royals for long stretches of The Second Part of Henry the Fourth, and it weird effect on the dramatic structure of the play. And last week, we touched on the amount of time (stage time and speeches) that each of the three main characters spent in the play.

Let’s take a look on the effect this has…

Hal and Falstaff share the stage for only 80 lines in Act Two, Scene Four of The Second Part, and then have only a single final exchange in Act Five, Scene Five. In contrast, in The First Part, over the course of the eight scenes they share, they interact in over 800 lines… nearly TEN TIMES their interaction in this play.

Hal and Henry’s only scene together in this play lasts a mere 150 lines in Act Four, Scene Five. In The First Part, they share over 300 lines over their four scenes together–twice the lines.

On the other hand, it seems as if Poins has replaced Falstaff in the monopolizing of Hal’s time; even his brother Thomas (Duke of Clarence) refers to Poins as a “continual follower” (IV.iv.53) of Prince Hal. Their two-person Act Two, Scene Two lasts 167 lines, and they share another 10 lines in Act Two, Scene Four. Back in The First Part, even as they are planning their Gad’s Hill robbery scheme, they spend less than 130 lines together.

This lack of Part Two interaction between Hal and his two main counterpoints from The First Part throws this entire play out of balance. Hal isn’t together with Falstaff or his father. Neither can exert much influence on him. Yet, neither can Poins. So, we have a play where Hal doesn’t do much, isn’t influenced by much. There’s a void in the center of the play.

A big fat white-haired void… you know where I’m going with this, I’m sure…