Unlike the first tetralogy, the second tetralogy and The First Part of Henry the Fourth in particular are filled with hints of what is to come.
When we first meet Falstaff and Prince Hal in the tavern, Falstaff pleads with Hal, “Do not thou, when thou art king, hang a thief” (I.ii.60-61). Later in the tavern, Hal says to one of Falstaff’s partners in crime, Bardolph,
O villain, thou stolest a cup of sack eighteen years ago, and wert taken with the manner, and ever since thou hast blushed extempore. Thou hadst fire and sword on thy side, and yet thou rannest away: what instinct hadst thou for it?
My lord, do you see these meteors? do you behold these exhalations?
What think you they portend?
Hot livers and cold purses.
Choler, my lord, if rightly taken.
No, if rightly taken, halter.
Hal first recounts the beginnings of Bardolph’s life of crime–stealing alcohol nearly two decades earlier–and points to Bardolph’s drunken red face (“blushed extempore”). Bardolph asks if the prince knows what those red marks on his face means. Hal says that they mean drunkenness and poverty; Bardolph disagrees, saying that it’s anger (“choler”). Hal then puns on “collar” with “halter,” a hangman’s noose–another kind of collar.
But what does this truly portend?
In Henry the Fifth, during the campaign against the French, Henry learns that that only Englishman lost is
one that is like to be executed for robbing a church, one Bardolph, if your majesty know the man: his face is all bubukles, and whelks, and knobs, and flames o' fire: and his lips blows at his nose, and it is like a coal of fire, sometimes plue and sometimes red; but his nose is executed and his fire's out.
— Henry V, III.vi.97-103
And when Henry has the chance to pardon his old drinking pal for his crimes, he doesn’t; instead, he says, “We would have all such offenders so cut off” (Henry V, III.vi.104).
As the “play extempore” ends and Falstaff states (in the voice of the prince), “Banish not (Falstaff) thy Harry’s company: banish plump Jack, and banish all the world” (II.iv.463-464), Hal, playing his father, begins by saying, “I do” (II.iv.465), only to continue forebodingly in his own voice, “I will” (II.iv.465). And Hal is good (or bad) to his word in The Second Part of Henry the Fourth: when Falstaff attempts to get the attention of the newly crowned King Henry V, the former Prince Hal tells his former friend, “I know thee not, old man…I banish thee, on pain of death, // As I have done the rest of my misleaders” (2 Henry IV, V.v.47,63-64).
Both Hal and Hotspur also can be seen as harbingers to Henry V’s St. Crispin Day’s speech. In Act Two, Scene Four, Hal says that the travelers’s losses “will be paid back again with advantage” (II.iv.530). When Hotspur learns that his father’s troops will be unavailable for the Battle of Shrewsbury, he responds not in fear or despair, but in fortunate happiness:
I rather of his absence make this use:
It lends a luster and more great opinion,
A larger dare to our great enterprise,
Than if the earl were here
Hotspur sees this loss as an advantage, a way of appearing greater than they would otherwise. Compare this to Henry the Fifth‘s speech before the Battle of Agincourt when Henry learns of the horrible odds against his army:
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honor
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day
— Henry V, IV.iii.31-34,41.45-47,50-52
Like Hotspur, Henry doesn’t wish any more men, so that they will have the “greater share of honor” (IV.iii.23). And I love the way Hal uses “advantage” in Eastcheap years before he’ll use “advantages” in France.
Don’t tell me ol’ Willy boy didn’t know where he was going when he wrote this play…