Author: ambrmerlinus (with thanks to angevin2 for her help with Elizabethan innuendo)
Fandom: Henry IV, Part I and Henry IV, Part II (More specifically, The Hollow Crown (2012).)
Spoilers: For 1 Henry IV and 2 Henry IV.
Prince Hal, aka Harry, is Prince of Wales and heir to the throne. Once his dad kicks it, he becomes King Henry V (and sometimes Harry le Roy). Dude has names out the wazoo. On the surface, he is a medieval frat boy who spends all his time boozing and whoring it up in common taverns with people far below his station and is generally a huge embarrassment to his dad, King Henry IV. In reality, as his very first soliloquy reveals, all this partying is just an act so that everyone will be even more impressed when he becomes king and casts his partyboy past aside to be super competent. He's gonna be a legend, damnit, and he's got the whole story already planned out.
Edward Poins, aka Ned and often just Poins, is the second son of a random nobleman, which means while he's technically aristocracy, he will inherit no land or titles. Traditionally, second sons go into the church or the military to make their way in the world. Poins has decided to screw tradition and settled on petty thievery for a career. Like Hal, he spends a lot of time at Mistress Quickly's tavern (The Boar's Head). In The Hollow Crown specifically, he's very quick to answer insult with violence and hates Falstaff's guts.
This being Shakespeare, there are of course alternate character interpretations buzzing around. Feel free to pick one at your own discretion.
TOGETHER, THEY DO CRIME
No, seriously, they do crime.
(Snuggling in Snuggies gifs courtesy of matafari)
Among other things.
THEIR RELATIONSHIP IN CANON
As Poins himself puts it:
I am your shadow, my lord; I'll follow you.
What does being the Prince's shadow mean? He parties with the Prince in Eastcheap, he runs courtly errands for him, he plans jokes and tricks for Hal's amusement, and is just generally his go-to man for pretty much everything. No matter what's going down, he's got Hal's back.
Hal seems to appreciate this, though the extent of Hal's affection for him (or, indeed, for anyone else) is unclear. He calls Poins "sweet," but it's half a pun on the sugar he gives him, and besides, Falstaff is "sweet" to Hal, too. (Though, considering how much academic energy is dedicated to Hal/Falstaff, having Poins be anywhere near Falstaff's place in the Prince's heart is pretty significant.)
Poins is the only member of the Eastcheap gang to escape banishment, imprisonment, or punishment of any kind (up to and including death), though whether this is because he's Hal's favorite or because he's the only one of noble birth, who can say.
Regardless of Hal's actual feelings towards Poins, Poins is prolly head-over-heels for Hal.
MAYBE THEY'RE JUST BROS?
(If you're not already reading Text From The Drunken Crown, you should be.)
(Incredibly Heterosexual Gifs courtesy of laufeysons)
No but seriously, while there isn't 100% irrefutable evidence of Hal/Poins being a canon thing, there are a couple of telling passages in the text of the play.
First, there's Hal's "small beer" speech in 2 Henry IV, Act II, scene ii:
Belike then my appetite was not princely got; for,
by my troth, I do now remember the poor creature,
small beer. But, indeed, these humble
considerations make me out of love with my
greatness. What a disgrace is it to me to remember
thy name! or to know thy face to-morrow! or to
take note how many pair of silk stockings thou
hast, viz. these, and those that were thy
peach-coloured ones! or to bear the inventory of thy
shirts, as, one for superfluity, and another for
use! But that the tennis-court-keeper knows better
than I; for it is a low ebb of linen with thee when
thou keepest not racket there; as thou hast not done
a great while, because the rest of thy low
countries have made a shift to eat up thy holland:
and God knows, whether those that bawl out the ruins
of thy linen shall inherit his kingdom: but the
midwives say the children are not in the fault;
whereupon the world increases, and kindreds are
While "What a disgrace it is to me to remember my name, or to know thy face tomorrow!" has more to do with courtly politics than morning-after regret, eyebrows can be raised at the fact that Hal has such an intimate knowledge of Poins's wardrobe.
(It's also worth noting that Poins wears not only silk stockings, but peach-colored silk stockings, for a double-dose of effeminacy. tl;dr - Poins dresses like a hooker.)
(Also-also, while The Hollow Crown cuts this speech way short, it does make up for it by setting the whole thing in a sauna and having Hal and Poins wearing nothing but towels. So there's that.)
Even more suggestive is the exchange between Doll Tearsheet and Falstaff in 2 Henry IV, Act II, scene iv:
Why does the prince love [Poins] so, then?
Because their legs are both of a bigness, and a'
plays at quoits well, and eats conger and fennel,
and drinks off candles' ends for flap-dragons, and
rides the wild-mare with the boys, and jumps upon
joined-stools, and swears with a good grace, and
wears his boots very smooth, like unto the sign of
the leg, and breeds no bate with telling of discreet
stories; and such other gambol faculties a' has,
that show a weak mind and an able body, for the
which the prince admits him: for the prince himself
is such another; the weight of a hair will turn the
scales between their avoirdupois.
Or, in plain English:
"eats conger and fennel" –– Conger is a kind of eel; eels are shaped like penises; Poins eats penises. Fennel is slightly more subtle, being associated with flattery (often a sexual thing when it comes to Shakespearean kings; see Richard II) and slang for pimping.
"drinks off candles' ends for flap-dragons" –– I really hope you don't need me to explain the phallic imagery of putting one's mouth anywhere near a candle, but just in case: flap-dragons in its drinking-game form is an activity where you basically put candles in shots and drink them while trying not to burn your face off. Poins likes to play this game. Candles are penis-shaped. That is the joke.
"rides the wild-mare with the boys" –– More like rides the wild boys, amirite? No but seriously horseback riding in Shakespeare is usually sexual.
"wears his boots very smooth, like unto the sign of the leg" –– Poins has great legs and dresses accordingly. Hal digs this.
Again, none of this is absolute proof of Hal/Poins being canon, but it's something to consider. As is this:
This is not the Universal Gaze of Heterosexual Longing. This is the Universal Gaze of Already Tapping That.
WHEREFORE SHOULD WE SHIP IT?
If you enjoy tragedy, climb aboard the HMS Hal/Poins, because this is the ship for you.
(A Softer Crown courtesy of butilovefire)
Remember the "small beer" speech I mentioned? That same scene becomes something like a breakup between Hal and Poins, particularly in The Hollow Crown.
After the opening of "here is how much I know about your life, Poins, even though it kind of grosses me out," Hal goes on to ask Poins's opinion of his behavior. Poins calls him a hypocrite for partying while his dad is sick (or rather, says that is what most people would think of Hal).
What wouldst thou think of me, if I should weep?
I would think thee a most princely hypocrite.
It would be every man's thought; and thou art a
blessed fellow to think as every man thinks: never
a man's thought in the world keeps the road-way
better than thine: every man would think me an
hypocrite indeed. And what accites your most
worshipful thought to think so?
Why, because you have been so lewd and so much
engraffed to Falstaff.
And to thee.
By this light, I am well spoke on; I can hear it
with my own ears: the worst that they can say of
me is that I am a second brother and that I am a
proper fellow of my hands; and those two things, I
confess, I cannot help.
These lines could be played laughingly, or they could be played as they were in The Hollow Crown, with Hal coldly saying that his relationship with Poins means as much or as little as his relationship with Falstaff, and Poins flying into a rage at the suggestion (cutting off his little speech about his background and how awesome he is in the process).
The scene continues with Bardolph bringing the Prince a letter from Falstaff. The subject of said letter, coincidentally, is Poins.
[Reads] 'Sir John Falstaff, knight, to the son of
the king, nearest his father, Harry Prince of
Wales, greeting.' Why, this is a certificate.
[Reads] 'I will imitate the honourable Romans in
brevity:' he sure means brevity in breath,
short-winded. 'I commend me to thee, I commend
thee, and I leave thee. Be not too familiar with
Poins; for he misuses thy favours so much, that he
swears thou art to marry his sister Nell. Repent
at idle times as thou mayest; and so, farewell.
Thine, by yea and no, which is as much as to
say, as thou usest him, JACK FALSTAFF with my
familiars, JOHN with my brothers and sisters,
and SIR JOHN with all Europe.'
My lord, I'll steep this letter in sack and make him eat it.
That's to make him eat twenty of his words. But do
you use me thus, Ned? must I marry your sister?
God send the wench no worse fortune! But I never said so.
Again, these lines could be read a number of ways. The Hollow Crown decides to cut out the more lighthearted lines and give us Hal's inquiry of "Must I marry your sister?" delivered in an ice-cold deadpan, leaving Poins to stutter and scramble to convince his Prince that no, he would never use him thus.
Hal laughs it off... eventually... and they do have another scene together afterwards, but this is generally considered the moment that they both realize what they have together cannot continue indefinitely. Cue the feels. And then...
THE ETERNAL QUESTION
Okay, so there's kind of this weird thing about Poins.
And I don't mean he runs away, or gets murdered, or goes to prison. I mean one scene he's there and the next scene he's not. Poof, vanished, ne'er to return! And there is nothing, literally ~n o t h i n g~ in the text explaining where he's gone. Shakespeare straight up did not give a crap about this dude beyond his purpose to push along the plot.
Fortunately, we care more. This incongruity in the text provides us with the perfect fic prompt: where the heck did Poins go, and why? Will he ever return? And if he does, will he and Hal make out?
WHEREFORE DO YOU SHIP IT?
1) See above canon evidence.
2) The question of where the heck Poins disappeared to is hella intriguing to me.
3) As mentioned above, the underlying theme of "kings can't have friends" in the narrative of The Hollow Crown is exemplified by the Hal/Poins dynamic, making it ripe for drama and therefore interesting.
4) Tom Hiddleston and David Dawson are both very pretty men and the only thing better than two very pretty men is two very pretty men with their faces smushed together.
5) The Hollow Crown was really good and y'all should watch it.
SHUT UP WITH ALL YOUR CHIT CHAT AND SHOW ME WHERE THE FIC'S AT
Sojourn by gothicdragon752
Summary: How it came to pass that Ned Poins became the Prince of Wales’ shadow.
The King's Servant by gothicdragon752
Summary: Ned still isn’t quite sure why he’s even here; why he sneaks onto the King’s estate and watches him ride; why he has come enough times to know the King’s routine. [Sequel to Sojourn]
Your Grace by house_kitten
Summary: Hal and Poins get up to a bit of fun in Mistress Quickly's tavern; total PWP
The Moon's Men by gileonnen
Summary: Hal never fired a shot, in the run on London. (WWII AU)
Ficlets by JLR
Rating: Teen and up
Summary: A collection of three-sentence ficlets, originally posted on tumblr: Wall Street!Hal, Pirate!Hal, western!Poins, band!Hal and Poins, Hotspur genderswap.
Untitled by alittlebitontuesdays
Summary: A series of ten single-sentence Hal/Poins ficlets.
Had we but world enough and time by shinobi93
Rating: Teen and up
Summary: Their story plays out, again and again, crossing centuries and still always ending the same way. Poins lives each life with the hope that one day it will change.
Too Famous To Live Long by shinobi93
Rating: General Audiences
Summary: Some people burn brightly; others flicker in the shadows. Ned Poins was content to be in the latter group.
If we can't have it all by shinobi93
Summary: Hal grew up with the city in his veins, learning its secrets and the way blood runs on its pavements. Slipping into the space his father’s death left at twenty four was just the next step up, but power comes at a price and his violent shadow can't protect him forever.
A near-future gangster AU.
Fool Me Once by oxymoronic
Rating: Teen and Up
Summary: The story of Hal and Poins, through the ages. [companion piece to Had We But World Enough And Time]
In the Shadow of the King by notkingyet
Summary: In the year of our Lord 1422, in the Château de Vincennes near Paris, France, the King was dying. He knew it, though his lords and physicians were loathe to say as much. He knew it from the ache of his withering muscles; the roiling, burning, stabbing in his gut; the slow, dry burn of his fever; the stench of death that filled the room. Furthermore, Bardolph had told him so.