Henry IV, Part 1
is a history play
by William Shakespeare
, believed to have
been written no later than 1597. It is the second play in
dealing with the
successive reigns of Richard
, Henry IV
(2 plays), and
. Henry IV, Part
1 depicts a span of history that begins with Hotspur's battle at Homildon against the Douglas late in 1402
and ends with the defeat of the rebels at Shrewsbury in the middle of 1403.
From the start it has
been an extremely popular play both with the public and the
Shakespeare's primary source for Henry IV, Part 1
, as for
most of his chronicle histories, was the second edition (1587) of
, which in turn drew on Edward Hall
's The Union of the Two
Illustrious Families of Lancaster and York
. Scholars have also
assumed that Shakespeare was familiar with Samuel Daniel
's poem on the civil wars.
Date and text
1 Henry IV
was almost certainly in performance by 1597,
given the wealth of allusions and references to the Falstaff
character., the earliest recorded performance occurred on the
afternoon of March 6, 1600, when the play was acted at court
before the Flemish
Ambassador. Other court performances followed in 1612 and
The play was entered into the Register of the Stationers
on Feb. 25, 1598, and first printed in quarto
later that year by stationer Andrew Wise
. The play was Shakespeare's most
popular printed text: new editions appeared in 1599, 1604, 1608,
1613, 1622, 1632, and 1639.
The Dering Manuscript
The Dering Manuscript, the earliest extant manuscript
text of any Shakespearean play,
provides a single-play version of both Part 1 and Part 2 of
Henry IV. The consensus of Shakespeare scholars is that
the Dering MS. represents a redaction prepared around 1613, perhaps
for family or amateur theatrics, by Edward Dering (1598–1644), of
Surrenden Manor, Pluckley, Kent, where the
manuscript was discovered.
A few dissenters have argued that
the Dering MS. may indicate that Shakespeare's Henry IV
was originally a single play, which the poet later expanded into
two parts to capitalize on the popularity of the Sir John Falstaff
character. The Dering MS. is part
of the collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C.
List of characters
John Farmanesh-Bocca as Prince Hal in the Carmel Shakespeare
Festival production of Henry IV, Part 1
- King Henry the Fourth of England. The
character is based on the historical King Henry IV of England. He is also known in
the play as "Bullingbrook" or "Bolingbroke" after his place of
birth in Bolingbroke, Lincolnshire. He is also called "Lancaster" by Glendower,
because he was Duke of Lancaster
before becoming king.
- Prince Henry, eldest son of Henry IV. The
character is based on the future Henry V of England. He is nicknamed "Hal"
or "Harry", and is sometimes called "Harry Monmouth" after his
- The Earl of Worcester is based
on Thomas Percy, 1st
Earl of Worcester. The leader of the rebel cause against the
King, he is sly, treacherous and self-centered willing to sacrifice
anything, including his nephew, if it means victory.
- Lord John of Lancaster is a small role. The
character, based on John, Duke of
Bedford, is represented in the play as the King's second son,
although he was actually the third. He is called "John" by Hal but
has "Lancaster" for a speech heading (confusingly, since Glendower
uses this name for his father).
- The Earl of Westmorland is based on Ralph Neville, 1st Earl
- Sir Walter Blunt.
- The Earl of Northumberland is based on
Henry Percy, 1st
Earl of Northumberland.
- Hotspur is the nickname of Henry Percy, Northumberland's son
- Kate, Lady Percy, is Hotspur's wife
Mortimer, called Earl of
- Lady Mortimer
- Owen Glendower, leader of the
Welsh, and Lady Mortimer's father
- The Earl of Douglas is based on Archibald Douglas, 4th
Earl of Douglas
- Sir Richard Vernon
- Richard Scroop, Archbishop of York
- Sir Michael, a member of the Archbishop's
- Sir John
Falstaff is a cowardly fat knight who befriends Prince
Hal. He is a fictional character, but was originally called
"Oldcastle" and distantly based on Sir John Oldcastle. King's Men actors who played
the part of Falstaff included John
Heminges, John Lowin, and Charles Hart.
- Edward "Ned" Poins, a companion of Prince
- Bardolph, a companion of Prince Hal
- Peto, a companion of Prince Hal
Quickly, hostess of a tavern where Hal and his friends
- Francis, a drawer at the tavern
- Carriers, Chamberlain, Ostler, Travellers, Sheriff, Messengers,
Servant, Lords, Soldiers
Henry Bolingbroke – now King Henry
– is having an unquiet reign. His personal disquiet
at the means whereby he gained the crown – by deposing Richard II – would be solved by a
journey or crusade to the Holy Land to fight Muslims,
but broils on his borders with Scotland and Wales prevent
Moreover, his guilt causes him to mistreat the Earls
Northumberland and Worcester, heads of the Percy family, and Edmund
Mortimer, the Earl of March
. The first
two helped him to his throne, and the third was proclaimed by
Richard, the former king, as his rightful heir
Adding to King Henry's troubles is the behaviour of his son and
heir, the Prince of Wales
. Hal (the
future Henry V
) has forsaken the
Royal Court to waste his time in taverns
low companions. This makes him an object of scorn to the nobles and
calls into question his royal worthiness. Hal's chief friend and
foil in living the low life is Sir
. Fat, old, drunk, and corrupt as he is, he has a
and a zest for life that
captivates the Prince, born into a world of hypocritical pieties
and mortal seriousness.
has three groups of characters that interact slightly at first, and
then come together in the Battle of Shrewsbury, where the success of the rebellion will be
First there is King Henry himself and his immediate
council. He is the engine of the play, but usually in the
background. Next there is the group of rebels, energetically
embodied in Harry Percy – Hotspur
– and including his father
(Northumberland) and lead by his uncle Thomas Percy
(Worcester). The Scottish Earl of
Douglas, Edmund Mortimer and the Welshman Owen Glendower
also join. Finally, at the
center of the play are the young Prince Hal and his companions
Falstaff, Poins, Bardolph, and Peto. Streetwise and pound-foolish,
these rogues manage to paint over this grim history in the colours
play opens, the king is angry with Hotspur for refusing him most of
the prisoners taken in a recent action against the Scots at
Holmedon (see the Battle of Humbleton Hill).
Hotspur, for his part, would have the king
ransom Edmund Mortimer (his wife's brother) from Owen Glendower,
the Welshman who holds him. Henry refuses, berates Mortimer's
loyalty, and treats the Percys with threats and rudeness. Stung and
alarmed by Henry's dangerous and peremptory way with them, they
proceed to make common cause with the Welsh and Scots, intending to
depose "this ingrate and cankered Bolingbroke." By Act II,
rebellion is brewing.
As Henry Bolingbroke is mishandling the affairs of state, his son
Hal is joking, drinking, and whoring. He finds himself embroiled in
a highway robbery, as this is the chief means by which Falstaff and
his minions support themselves. Hal is not, however, a pawn of
these fellows, but rather coolly keeps his head, does not
participate directly, and later returns all the money taken. Rather
early in the play, in fact, Hal informs us that his riotous time
will soon come to a close, and he will reassume his rightful high
place in affairs by showing himself worthy to his father and others
through some (unspecified) noble exploits. Hal believes that this
sudden change of manner will amount to a greater reward and
acknowledgment of prince-ship, and in turn 'earn' him respect from
the members of the court.
The revolt of Mortimer and the Percys very quickly gives him his
chance to do just that. The high and the low come together when the
Prince makes up with his father and is given a high command. He
orders Falstaff (who is, after all, a knight
to procure a group of footsoldiers and proceed to the battle site
at Shrewsbury. The easy life is over for now.
(see Battle of
Shrewsbury) is crucial.
If the rebels even achieve a
standoff their cause gains greatly, as they have other powers
awaiting under Northumberland, Glendower, Mortimer, and the Bishop
of York. Henry needs a decisive victory here. He outnumbers the
rebels, but Hotspur, with the wild hope of despair, leads his
troops into battle. The day wears on, the issue still in doubt, the
king harried by the wild Scot Douglas, when Prince Hal and Hotspur,
the two Harrys that cannot share one land, meet. Finally they will
fight – for glory, for their lives, and for the kingdom. The future
king, no longer a tavern brawler but a warrior, prevails.
On the way to this climax, we are treated to Falstaff, who has
"misused the King's press damnably", not only by taking money from
able-bodied men who wished to evade service but by keeping the
wages of the poor souls he brought instead who were killed in
battle ("food for powder, food for powder"). He has the effrontery,
too, to claim he killed Hotspur, having merely stabbed the dead
body. Yet Hal (who, not an hour before, actually had
killed him), perhaps shaking his head in wonder, allows Sir John
his disreputable tricks.
The play ends at Shrewsbury, after the battle. The death of Hotspur
has taken the heart out of the rebels, and the king's forces
prevail. Henry is pleased with the outcome, not least because it
gives him a chance to execute Thomas Percy, the Earl of Worcester,
one of his chief enemies (though previously one of his chief
friends). But all is not settled: now he must deal with the
Archbishop of York, who has joined with Northumberland, and with
the forces of Mortimer and Glendower. This ending in the middle
sets the stage for Part 2.
Themes and interpretations
At its first publication in 1597 or 1598 the play was titled
The History of Henrie the Fourth
title page advertised only the presence of Harry Hotspur
and the comic Sir John Falstaff
; Prince Hal was not mentioned.
Indeed, throughout most of the play's performance history, Hal was
staged as a secondary figure, and the stars of the stage, beginning
with James Quin
and David Garrick
often preferred to play Hotspur.
It was only in the twentieth century that readers and performers
began to see the central interest as the coming-of-age of Hal, who
is now seen as the starring role.
In the "coming-of-age" interpretation, Hal's acquaintance with
Falstaff and the tavern lowlife humanizes him and provides him with
a more complete view of Elizabethan
life. At the outset, Prince Hal seems to pale in comparison
with the fiery Henry "Hotspur" Percy
the young noble lord
of the North (whom
Shakespeare portrays about 23 years younger than he was in history
in order to provide a foil
Hal). Many readers interpret the history as a tale of Prince Hal
growing up, evolving into King Henry
, perhaps the most heroic
of all of
Shakespeare's characters, in what is a tale of the prodigal son
adapted to the politics of
Other readers have, however, looked at Hal more critically; Hal can
appear as a budding Machiavel
. In this reading, there
is no "ideal king": the gradual rejection of Falstaff is a
rejection of Hal's humanity in favour of cold realpolitik
Henry IV, Part 1
caused controversy on its first
performances in 1597, because the comic character now known as
' was originally named 'Oldcastle'
and was based on John Oldcastle
famous Protestant martyr
with powerful living
descendants in England.
Although the character is called Falstaff in all surviving texts of
the play, there is abundant external and internal evidence that he
was originally called Oldcastle. The change of names is mentioned
in seventeenth-century works by Richard James
("Epistle to Sir Harry
Bourchier", c. 1625) and Thomas Fuller
(Worthies of England,
1662). It is also indicated in
details in the early texts of Shakespeare's plays. In the quarto
text of Henry IV, Part 2
(1600), one of Falstaff's speech prefixes in Act I, Scene ii is
mistakenly left uncorrected, "Old." instead of "Falst." In III, ii,
25-6 of the same play, Falstaff is said to have been a "page to
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk"—which was true of the historical
Oldcastle. In Henry IV, Part 1
, I,ii,42, Prince Hal calls
Falstaff "my old lad of the castle." Iambic pentameter
verse lines in both
parts are irregular when using the name "Falstaff", but correct
with "Oldcastle". Finally, there is the blatant disclaimer at the
close of Henry IV, Part 2
that disassociates the two
figures: "for Oldcastle died [a] martyr, and this is not the man"
There is even a hint that Falstaff was originally Oldcastle in
The Merry Wives of
too. When the First
and quarto texts of that play are compared, it appears
that the joke in V,v,85–90 is that Oldcastle/Falstaff incriminates
himself by calling out the first letter of his name, "O, O, O!,"
when his fingertips are singed with candles—which of course works
for "Oldcastle" but not "Falstaff." There is also the "castle"
reference in IV,v,6 of the same play.
The name change and the Epilogue disclaimer were required, it is
generally thought, because of political pressure: the historical
Oldcastle was not only a Protestant martyr, but a nobleman with
powerful living descendants in Elizabethan England. These were the
Lords Cobham: William
Brooke, 10th Baron Cobham
(died March 6, 1597), was Warden of
the Cinque Ports (1558–97), Knight of the Order of the Garter
(1584), and member
of the Privy Council (1586–97); his son Henry Brooke, 11th Baron
, was granted the paternal post of Warden of the Cinque
Ports upon his father's death, and made a Knight
of the Order of
in 1599. Even more so, Frances Brooke, the 10th
Baron's wife and 11th Baron's mother, was a close personal
favourite of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth
The elder Lord Cobham even had a strong negative impact upon the
lives of Shakespeare and his contemporaries in the theatre. The
company of actors formed by Shakespeare, Richard Burbage
, Will Kempe
and the others in 1594 enjoyed the
patronage of Henry Carey, first Lord Hunsdon, then serving as
; they were,
famously, the Lord Chamberlain's
. When Carey died on July 22, 1596, the post of Lord
Chamberlain was given to William Brooke, Lord Cobham, who
definitely was not a friend to the players, and who withdrew what
official protection they had enjoyed. The players were left
to the mercies of the local officials of the City of
London, who had long wanted to drive the companies of
actors out of the City. Thomas
, in a contemporary letter, complained that the actors
were "piteously persecuted by the Lord Mayor and the aldermen"
during this period. Fortunately, for the players and for English
literature, this interval did not last; when Cobham died less than
a year later, the post of Lord Chamberlain went to Henry Carey's
son George, second Lord Hunsdon, and the actors regained their
The name was changed to 'Falstaff', based on Sir John Fastolf
, an historical person with a
reputation for cowardice at the Battle
, and whom Shakespeare had previously represented in
Henry VI, Part 1
had died without descendants, making him safe for a playwright's
Shortly afterward, a team of playwrights wrote a two-part play
entitled Sir John
, which presents an heroic dramatization of
Oldcastle's life and was published in 1600.
In 1986, the Oxford Shakespeare
edition of Shakespeare's works rendered the character's name as
Oldcastle, rather than Falstaff, in Henry IV, Part 1
, as a
consequence of the editors' aim to present the plays as they would
have appeared during their original performances. No other
published editions have followed suit.
' Chimes at Midnight
) compiles the two Henry IV
into a single, condensed storyline, while adding a handful of
scenes from Henry V
dialogue from Richard II
and The Merry Wives of
. The film stars Welles himself as Falstaff,
as King Henry, Keith Baxter
as Hal, Margaret Rutherford
as Mistress Quickly
and Norman Rodway
Adapted scenes in flashback
are included in the 1989 film version of Henry V
) with Robbie
portraying Sir John Falstaff and Kenneth Branagh
playing the young Prince
Gus Van Sant
's 1991 film My Own Private Idaho
based on Part 1 of Henry IV
The one-man hip-hop musical Clay
is loosely based on Henry
- Saccio, pp. 47–50.
- Weil and Weil, p 1.
- Kastan, p.340
- Weil and Weil, p. 4.
- Halliday, Shakespeare Companion, p. 135.
- Halliday, Shakespeare Companion, p.215.
- 1H4, 1.3.137, in Bevington (1997).
- 1H4, 4.3.30, 4.4.19, in Bevington (1997).
- 1H4, 4.2.12, in Bevington (1997)
- 1H4, 4.2.64, in Bevington (1997)
- 1H4, 55.19, in Bevington (1997).
- Sisk 520.
- Sanders 31.
- Duthie 141.
- Auden, W. H.
- Scoufos, Shakespeare's Typological Satire, p.
- Halliday, Shakespeare Companion, p. 107; Scoufos, p.
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Complete Works of Shakespeare. Updated Fourth Edition.
University of Chicago, 1997.
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- Greenblatt, Stephen.
"Invisible Bullets: Renaissance Authority and Its Subversion in
Henry IV and Henry V." In Political
Shakespeare, edited by Jonathan
Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, 18 –
- Halliday, F. E. A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964.
Baltimore, Penguin, 1964.
- Kastan, David Scott (ed.) "King Henry IV Part 1" The Arden
Shakespeare: Third Series Thompson Learning 2002.
- Saccio, Peter, Shakespeare's English Kings, 2nd edn,
- Sanders, Norman. "The True Prince and the False Thief."
Shakespeare Survey 30 (1977).
- Sisk, J. P. "Prince Hal and the Specialists." Shakespeare
Quarterly 28 (1977).
- Weil, Herbert and Judith Weil, eds. The First Part of King
Henry IV, 1997 (New Cambridge Shakespeare).
- Wright, Louis B, and Virginia A. LaMar, eds. The Folger
Library General Reader's Shakespeare: Henry IV, Part I.