Overview

Henry IV


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

A: William Shakespeare Pf: (1) c.1596–7, London; (2) c.1597–8, London Pb: (1) 1598; (2) 1600 G: Hist. dramas, each in 5 acts; blank verse and prose S: England and Wales, 1401–13 C: (1) 19m, 3f, extras; (2) 38m, 4f, extrasPart 1. Despite Henry's hopes for stability in his kingdom, England is threatened on all sides. The Welshman Owen Glendower has defeated an English army. Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy has repelled a Scottish invasion, but now joins forces with the Welsh and with his father, the Earl of Northumberland, to rise up against Henry. Henry has domestic concerns too: his son, Prince Hal, spends most of his time in the company of an old reprobate, Sir John Falstaff, and even gets involved in criminal activities with him. However, at the Battle of Shrewsbury between Henry and the rebels, Hal kills Hotspur in face-to-face combat. The rebels are defeated, but peace has not been achieved. Part 2. The remaining rebels in the north seek to parley with the royal forces, led by Prince John. They agree to disperse their army with the promise that their grievances will be redressed, but are then seized and executed. Meanwhile in London, Henry is dying. He has learned of the death of Glendower, and now of the defeat of the northern rebels. He and Hal are finally fully reconciled. Meanwhile, Falstaff, who has been recruiting men in the country, learns of Henry's death and rushes back to London to claim favours from Prince Hal. However, the newly crowned Henry V publicly rejects Falstaff.Henry IV, mainly based on Holinshed's Chronicles, is on one level a chronicle play, picking its way dexterously through a tumultuous period of British history, always with the underlying recognition that Henry IV is a usurper and therefore can hardly hope that his nation can live in peace. On another level, the play traces the growth of Hal from irresponsible playboy to become the most heroic figure of Shakespeare's history plays in Henry V. To depict this, Shakespeare created one of the greatest comic figures of all time: Falstaff, based on the miles gloriosus character, is so much larger than life that, although strictly only an element of the sub-plot, he threatens to dominate the whole piece, and his rejection by Hal can too easily be seen as betrayal by a young prig than as an essential stage in the assumption of kingship.

A: William Shakespeare Pf: (1) c.1596–7, London; (2) c.1597–8, London Pb: (1) 1598; (2) 1600 G: Hist. dramas, each in 5 acts; blank verse and prose S: England and Wales, 1401–13 C: (1) 19m, 3f, extras; (2) 38m, 4f, extras

Part 1. Despite Henry's hopes for stability in his kingdom, England is threatened on all sides. The Welshman Owen Glendower has defeated an English army. Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy has repelled a Scottish invasion, but now joins forces with the Welsh and with his father, the Earl of Northumberland, to rise up against Henry. Henry has domestic concerns too: his son, Prince Hal, spends most of his time in the company of an old reprobate, Sir John Falstaff, and even gets involved in criminal activities with him. However, at the Battle of Shrewsbury between Henry and the rebels, Hal kills Hotspur in face-to-face combat. The rebels are defeated, but peace has not been achieved. Part 2. The remaining rebels in the north seek to parley with the royal forces, led by Prince John. They agree to disperse their army with the promise that their grievances will be redressed, but are then seized and executed. Meanwhile in London, Henry is dying. He has learned of the death of Glendower, and now of the defeat of the northern rebels. He and Hal are finally fully reconciled. Meanwhile, Falstaff, who has been recruiting men in the country, learns of Henry's death and rushes back to London to claim favours from Prince Hal. However, the newly crowned Henry V publicly rejects Falstaff.

[...]

Subjects: Literature.


Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.