It seems likely that Henry IV, Part 1 was first performed
early in 1597 by the Lord
Chamberlain’s Men, perhaps at the Theatre.
The original cast is unknown, but Richard
Burbage may have played Prince Hal, with Augustine
Phillips as King Henry, and William
Sly as Hotspur. It is possible that Shakespeare himself played
the King, rather than Phillips. There is no certainty as to who
played Falstaff, the character chiefly responsible for the play’s
popularity. Either William
Kemp or Thomas
Pope, both leading comic actors with the Lord Chamberlain’s
Men, could have created the role. Kemp might have passed it to Thomas
Pope when he left the company in 1599. Falstaff was later played
Lowin, who replaced Pope.
The only certain early performances were all for royalty or aristocracy.
Lord Hunsdon entertained the Flemish ambassador Ludovik Verreyken
with the play in March 1600. Henry IV, Part 1 was one of
20 plays performed by the King’s
Men during the celebrations for the marriage of the Princess
Elizabeth to Frederick, Elector Palatine in the Winter of 1612-1613.
The play was performed at the palace of Whitehall on New Year’s
night 1624-1625, and it is likely to have been the play referred
to as ‘Olde Castell’ performed at court on 6 January
1631. The ‘ould Castel’ performed at court on 29 May
1638 is also likely to have been Shakespeare’s play.
Publication in quarto and folio
Henry IV, Part 1 appeared in 11 editions before 1642.
- Quarto 0, . This quarto exists only as a fragment of four
leaves, quire C. The manuscript from which this quarto was printed
might have been either Shakespeare’s own working draft of
the play, or a transcript prepared by a scribe. (Copy from Folger
- First quarto, 1598. Apparently printed from quarto 0. Comparisons
between the first quarto and its incomplete predecessor suggest
that the former was printed with some care for its accuracy.
- Second quarto, 1599. Printed from the first quarto.
- Third quarto, 1604. Printed from the second quarto. (Copy from
the Bodleian Library.)
- Fourth quarto, 1608. Printed from the third quarto.
- Fifth quarto, 1613. Printed from the fourth quarto.
- Sixth quarto, 1622. Printed from the fifth quarto.
- First folio, 1623. Printed from the fifth quarto, with some
editorial amendments. It is possible that the folio’s editors
collated a copy of the fifth quarto with a manuscript version
of the play, perhaps the acting company’s promptbook.
- Seventh quarto, 1632. Printed from the sixth quarto.
- Second folio, 1632. Printed from the first folio.
- Eighth quarto, 1639. Printed from the seventh quarto.
Andrew Wise entered ‘The historye of Henry the iiijth’
on the Stationers’ Register on 25 February 1598. He published
two editions that same year, both printed for him by Peter Short,
the second of which is now referred to as the first quarto. The
second quarto was printed for Wise in 1599, by Simon Stafford. In
1603, Wise transferred his copyright in the play to Mathew Law,
who entered it on the Stationers’ Register on 25 June 1603
as ‘Henry the. 4 the firste parte’. Law did not acquire
the copyright to Henry IV, Part 2, although that play was
also already in print.
The third quarto was printed by Valentine Simmes for Law in 1604.
In 1608, John Windet printed the fourth quarto for Law, and in 1613
William White printed the fifth quarto, again for Mathew Law. The
sixth quarto did not appear until 1622, and was printed for Law
by Thomas Purfoot. The seventh quarto was printed by John Norton
for William Sheares in 1632. The eighth quarto was again printed
by John Norton, this time for Hugh Perry in 1639.
Library copies of Henry IV, Part 1 contains detailed
bibliographic descriptions of all the quarto copies of the play.
Three sources were particularly important for the creation of Henry
IV, Part 1.
- Raphael Holinshed, The Third Volume of Chronicles (1587).
Shakespeare used Holinshed for the events in the play, particularly
the revolt by the Percy family in 1402-1403, as well as his principal
- Samuel Daniel, The First Fowre Bookes of the Ciuile Warres
between the Two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke (1595). Daniel’s
work, as well as Holinshed’s, provided the historical core
of the play.
- The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth (1598). Despite
its publication date, this anonymous play was probably performed
from the late 1580s. Shakespeare apparently drew on its mix of
history and comedy, and it may have inspired his tavern scenes
between Prince Hal and Falstaff, as well as his development of
the Prince’s character from a dissolute youth to a responsible
Story of the play
Note: the links below will take you to the page in the quarto where
each act begins, according to standard modern editions. (The quartos
themselves have no act divisions.) The quarto shown for each play
is always the earliest in the Library's collection - unless it is
a 'bad' quarto in which case it is the earliest 'good' quarto.
Henry IV, Part 1 is set at the beginning of the 15th century,
following King Henry’s usurpation of the throne and the murder
of his predecessor King Richard II.
1) The King receives news of civil unrest in his kingdom, and
postpones his promised pilgrimage to Jerusalem to atone for King
Richard’s death. His eldest son, Prince Henry (known as Hal)
drinks and carouses with Sir John Falstaff and his followers. The
King refuses to ransom Mortimer, the brother-in-law of Henry Percy
(known as Hotspur), who has been captured by the Welsh rebel Owen
Glendower. Hotspur, his father Northumberland, and Worcester (Northumberland’s
brother) plot a rebellion against King Henry.
John Gielgud as Hotspur, 'My liege, I did deny no prisoners'
IV, Part 1, Act 1, Scene 3. British Library Sound Archive,
2) Falstaff and his followers rob carriers taking money to the
King. After the robbery Prince Hal sets upon them, and Falstaff
and his men run away, abandoning their booty. Falstaff lies about
his cowardice to the Prince, who reveals the truth. During their
merriment, news arrives of the outbreak of civil war with the King’s
order for Prince Hal to join him against the rebels.
3) Hotspur, Northumberland, and Worcester have joined Mortimer
and Glendower in rebellion against the King. King Henry gives Prince
Hal a command in the army he has gathered against the rebels. The
Prince procures a company of men for Falstaff.
4) King Henry offers Hotspur and his followers redress of their
grievances and pardon if they will end their rebellion. In response
to Worcester’s separate declaration of his complaints against
the King, Prince Hal offers to settle the matter in single combat
with Hotspur. Worcester conceals the offer from Hotspur, making
5) During the Battle of Shrewsbury, the Prince saves his father
King Henry in his combat with the Scots rebel Douglas, and then
fights with and kills Hotspur. Falstaff carries off Hotspur’s
body and pretends that he has killed him, but the Prince exposes
him as a liar. The royal forces win the day, but immediately make
plans to face the rebels under Northumberland at York, as well as
those commanded by Glendower and Mortimer in Wales.
Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Falstaff, 'Hal, if thou see me down in
IV, Part 1, Act 5, Scene 1. British Library Sound Archive,