The Second Part of Henry the Fourth: Midpoint

Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at The Second Part of Henry the Fourth.

There are 3239 lines in the play, so the midpoint takes place at line 1620, which occurs 97 lines into Act Three, Scene Two. The scene takes place at Justice Shallow’s home in Gloucestershire, where the Justices Shallow and Silence await the military impressing of the men of their local village. The justices are old and doddering, the scene a weird mix of poignancy and physical humor. The scene opens with the two justices waxing nostalgic over their youths, and a childhood companion, Sir John Falstaff, whom they know will be arriving shortly.

When Falstaff finally does arrive, he postpones any reacquaintance until after the matters at hand, and he calls for the impressees to be put before him. Shallow says,

Where's the roll? Where's the roll? Where's the roll? Let me see, let me see, let me see. So, so, so, so, so, so, so. Yea, marry, sir. Ralph Mouldy! Let them appear as I call, let them do so, let them do so. Let me see, where is Mouldy?

— III.ii.96-100

So why is this representative of the play as a whole?

“Where’s the roll? Where’s the roll? Where’s the roll?” This play has an interesting character list. While the plot concerns a continuing storyline, we’re introduced to so many new characters (Doll Tearsheet, the Chief Justice, the other Justices, new conspirators, new impressees) that it’s hard to tell your characters without a scorecard (the roll!).

“So, so, so, so, so, so, so.” Repetitive, like the general structure of the play (compared with The First Part).

Mouldy. The name itself connotes a lack of freshness, which hearkens back to the repetitive plot, and the lack of a satisfactory dramatic structure.

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