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Henry IV, Part 1
William Shakespeare




The one serious flaw in a brilliantly arranged usurpation was Henry's dependence on powerful men for the support necessary to take the crown from Richard, while at the same time seeking to maintain the independence and inherent power of the office.

Moody E. Prior, The Drama of Power, 1973


The prince, who is the hero both of the comick and tragick part, is a young man of great abilities and violent passions, whose sentiments are right, though his actions are wrong; whose virtues are obscured by negligence, and whose understanding is dissipated by levity. In his idle hours he is rather loose than wicked, and when the occasion forces out his latent qualities, he is great without effort, and brave without tumult. The trifler is roused into a hero, and the hero again reposes into the trifle. The character is great, original and just.

Samuel Johnson, The Plays of William Shakespeare, 1785

Very conscious of the way that men respond to the image of royalty, and no less instinctive a politician than his father, Hal is the creator as well as the creature of political mythology, the author as well as the hero of his legend.

Robert Ornstein, A Kingdom for a Stage, 1972


[At Gad's Hill] What he leaves behind is not jeering contempt for a butt or a coward, but affection; an affection compounded of many simples: laughing sympathy for one who has "more flesh than another man, and therefore more frailty", astonishment at the quick dexterity with which he nevertheless carries his guts away, merriment at the turning of the tables upon him, delight in the sheer absurdity of his predicament, and above all- quite illogically, though inextricably- blended with the rest, gratitude to the player for the cleverness of the whole entertainment.

John Dover Wilson, The Fortunes of Falstaff, 1943


Hotspur's speech [Act I, Scene iii, lines 30-71], by far the most sustained in the play to this point, is so full of detail, so quick and apparently spontaneous in elaboration,... so varied by impersonations of the "popinjay", and yet so strong and lively in rhythm that his character is strongly established in its own right by this one manifestation. The speech glistens with light and shade and is charged with energy. Given the active performance implied by the language, Hotspur usurps all attention.

John Russell Brown, Shakespeare in Performance, 1976


Analysis leaves us then, with symbols of Power and Appetite as the keys to the play's meaning: Power and Appetite, the two sides of Commodity... Those who see the world of Henry IV as some vital, joyous Renaissance England must go behind the facts Shakespeare presents. It is a world where to be normal is to be anti-social, and to be social is to be anti-human. Humanity is split in two. One half is banished to an underworld where dignity and decency must inevitably submerge in brutality and riot. The other half is restricted to an overworld where the same dignity and decency succumb to heartlessness and frigidity.

John F. Dandy, Shakespeare's Doctrine of Nature, 1949

[Henry IV, Part 1 Contents]


We wish to thank the following educators who helped us focus our Book Notes series to meet student needs and critiqued our manuscripts to provide quality materials.

Murray Bromberg, Principal
Wang High School of Queens, Holliswood, New York

Sandra Dunn, English Teacher
Hempstead High School, Hempstead, New York

Lawrence J. Epstein, Associate Professor of English
Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York

Leonard Gardner, Lecturer, English Department
State University of New York at Stony Brook

Beverly A. Haley, Member, Advisory Committee
National Council of Teachers of English Student Guide Series
Fort Morgan, Colorado

Elaine C. Johnson, English Teacher
Tamalpais Union High School District
Mill Valley, California

Marvin J. LaHood, Professor of English
State University of New York College at Buffalo

Robert Lecker, Associate Professor of English
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

David E. Manly, Professor of Educational Studies
State University of New York College at Geneseo

Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education
State University of New York at Buffalo

Frank O'Hare, Professor of English
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Faith Z. Schullstrom, Member of Executive Committee
National Council of Teachers of English
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Guilderland Central School District, New York

Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts
Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois [Henry IV, Part 1 Contents]



Brown, John Russell. "Henry IV, Part One," in Shakespeare in Performance. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976.

Brooks, Cleanth, and Robert B. Heilman. "Introduction to Henry IV, Part One," in Understanding Drama. New York: Rinehart, 1948.

Burgess, Anthony. Shakespeare. London: Penguin, 1972.

Chute, Marchette. An Introduction to Shakespeare. New York: Dutton, 1951.

Ornstein, Robert. "Henry IV Part One," in A Kingdom for a Stage. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972.

Prior, Moody E. The Drama of Power: Studies in Shakespeare's History Plays. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1973

Saccio, Peter. "Henry IV: The King Embattled," in Shakespeare's English Kings. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Tillyard, E. M. W. "Henry IV Part One," in Shakespeare's History Plays. New York, 1947.

Wilson, John Dover, ed. Life in Shakespeare's England. London: Penguin, 1911.

Winny, James. "The Royal Counterfeit," in The Player King. London: Chatto & Windus, 1968.


Shakespeare wrote 37 plays (38 if you include The Two Noble Kinsmen) over a 20-year period, from about 1590 to 1612. It's difficult to determine the exact dates when many were written, but scholars have made the following intelligent guesses about his plays and poems:


    1588-93 The Comedy of Errors
    1588-94 Love's Labor's Lost
    1590-91 2 Henry VI
    1590-91 3 Henry VI
    1591-92 1 Henry VI
    1592-93 Richard III
    1592-94 Titus Andronicus
    1593-94 The Taming of the Shrew
    1593-95 The Two Gentlemen of Verona
    1594-96 Romeo and Juliet
    1595 Richard II
    1594-96 A Midsummer Night's Dream
    1596-97 King John
    1596-97 The Merchant of Venice
    1597 1 Henry IV
    1597-98 2 Henry IV
    1598-1600 Much Ado About Nothing
    1598-99 Henry V
    1599 Julius Caesar
    1599-1600 As You Like It
    1599-1600 Twelfth Night
    1600-01 Hamlet
    1597-1601 The Merry Wives of Windsor
    1601-02 Troilus and Cressida
    1602-04 All's Well That Ends Well
    1603-04 Othello
    1604 Measure for Measure
    1605-06 King Lear
    1605-06 Macbeth
    1606-07 Antony and Cleopatra
    1605-08 Timon of Athens
    1607-09 Coriolanus
    1608-09 Pericles
    1609-10 Cymbeline
    1610-11 The Winter's Tale
    1611-12 The Tempest
    1612-13 Henry VIII


    1592 Venus and Adonis
    1593-94 The Rape of Lucrece
    1593-1600 Sonnets
    1600-01 The Phoenix and the Turtle

[Shakespeare's Sonnets read by Sir John Gielgud]


ECC [Henry IV, Part 1 Contents] []

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