Henry IV, Part 2
Creation of the play
Henry IV, Part 2 can plausibly be dated to 1597. The play
was certainly completed before the end of 1598, since Ben Jonson
refers to Justice Silence in his 1599 play Every Man Out of
His Humour. It could not have been written before the 1595
publication of one of its principal sources, Samuel Daniel’s
The First Fowre Bookes of the Ciuile Warres. The epilogue
to Henry IV, Part 2 suggests that the play closely followed
Henry IV, Part 1, which was probably written in late 1596
or early 1597.
King Henry IV. John Stow, The
Chronicles of England, . British Library, 807.c.30,
p. 542. Larger
It is generally believed that Henry IV, Part 2 was begun
only after the success of Henry IV, Part 1. However, the
second play complements and continues the first, and it has been
suggested that Shakespeare did intend to write two plays, either
from the outset or once he had begun to write Henry IV, Part
There is no surviving evidence for early performances of Henry IV, Part 2. It has been suggested that the play was performed alongside Henry IV, Part 1 during the winter season 1596-1597 and again during the winter season 1597-1598, although there are no early records that the two plays were given on successive days. Performances in 1597 could have been given by the Lord
Chamberlain ’s Men at the Theatre. The original casting of the principal parts could have been the same as that suggested for Henry IV, Part 1, with Richard
Burbage as Prince Henry, Augustine
Phillips (or even Shakespeare himself) as King Henry, and either William
Kemp or Thomas Pope as Falstaff.
Publication in quarto and folio
Henry IV, Part 2 appeared in two editions (the first of
which was reissued) before 1642.
- Quarto a, 1600. This quarto appears to have
been printed from Shakespeare’s foul papers. It omits the
first scene of act 3, and 8 other passages. The scene might have
been omitted as the result of missing leaf in the manuscript passed
to the printer. The other passages were probably cut deliberately,
some to shorten the play in performance, and some for censorship
reasons. (British Library has quire E only from this quarto. Copy
of complete quarto from National Library of Scotland.)
- Quarto b, 1600. This quarto is identical to
quarto a, except that it adds the missing first scene of act 3
and resets the immediately surrounding text. The changes affect
quire E only, which has 6 leaves instead of 4.
- First folio, 1623. The relationship between
the quarto and the first folio text is complex. The folio includes
8 passages omitted from the quarto, and differs from the latter
in many details. The folio text might have been printed from a
manuscript made for stage use or reading, but not directly dependent
on Shakespeare’s foul papers. Or it could have been printed
from a copy of the quarto collated with such a manuscript. It
has also been suggested that the folio was printed from a manuscript
which was a transcript of an annotated version of the quarto.
- Second folio, 1632. Printed from the first
The manuscript of Henry IV, Part 2 was presumably purchased
from the Lord Chamberlain’s Men by the booksellers Andrew
Wise and William Aspley in 1600. They entered the play on the Stationers’
Register on 23 August 1600 as ‘ the second parte of the history
of kinge Henry the iiiith’, and quarto a was printed for them
that same year by Valentine Simmes. The omission of act 3 scene
1 led to the reissue, quarto b, also in 1600.
The printed text seems to have been censored, perhaps because the
play was published following the 1599 rebellion in Ireland, which
the Earl of Essex had failed to crush, and soon after the Earl’s
trial in 1600 for signing a dishonourable treaty with the Irish
rebels and leaving his post without permission. Allusions to Richard
II were removed from the quarto of Henry IV, Part I, probably
because of the frequent identification of Queen Elizabeth I with
the deposed king.
British Library copies of Henry IV, Part 2 contains detailed bibliographic descriptions of all the quarto copies of the play.
Several sources were particularly important for Shakespeare’s creation of Henry IV, Part 2.
IV is reconciled to the Prince of Wales. Raphael
Holinshed, The Third Volume of Chronicles, .
British Library, L.R.400.b.23, p. 539. Larger
First Fowre Bookes of the Ciuile Warres between
the Two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke (1595).
Daniel’s work influenced Shakespeare’s
treatment of King Henry’s guilt over
his usurpation of the throne and the death
of Richard II.
England (1580), The
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 2 is set in the early 15th century. The
action begins after the Battle of Shrewsbury and continues the history
of the King’s reign begun in Henry IV, Part 1.
(Prologue) Rumour recounts the spreading of false news of Hotspur’s
victory in the Battle of Shrewsbury.
(Act 1) At his castle in Warkworth, Northumberland learns of his
son Hotspur’s death and the King’s victory at Shrewsbury.
In London, Falstaff encounters the Lord Chief Justice who rebukes
him for his behaviour. At York, the Archbishop of York and other
lords plan further rebellion.
(Act 2) At the Boar’s Head Tavern in London, Mistress Quickly
has Falstaff arrested for debt. The ensuing scuffle is interrupted
by the Lord Chief Justice, and the matter is settled amicably. At
Warkworth, Northumberland is persuaded not to join the rebels but
fly to Scotland. Back in London, Falstaff and his followers carouse
with Mistress Quickly. They are joined by Prince Henry, but their
merriment is quickly ended by a messenger from the King and the
departure of the Prince to join his father.
(Act 3) The King resolves to take action against the rebels at
York. On his way to join the King’s army, Falstaff stops off
in Gloucestershire to recruit soldiers with the help of Justices
Shallow and Silence.
(Act 4) The Archbishop of York and the other rebel lords prepare
for battle. Westmoreland hears their grievances on behalf of Prince
John of Lancaster, who commands the King’s forces. Prince
John agrees to redress their wrongs, but as their army begins to
disperse he arrests them. At Westminster, the King is gravely ill.
Prince Henry visits his sickbed and, finding him asleep, takes the
crown from his pillow. King Henry, who is dying, confides in and
advises the Prince who will soon ascend the throne.
(Act 5) Falstaff returns to London, making another visit to Justices
Shallow and Silence on the way. The King is dead, and the Prince
is now Henry V. In Gloucestershire, Falstaff hears of the Prince’s
accession and makes haste to London. Returning from his coronation,
Henry V meets Falstaff and disowns him.
(Epilogue) An actor apologises for an earlier displeasing play,
and pleads on behalf of this one. He promises to continue the story
in yet another play, with Sir John Falstaff and Katherine of France.