Henry IV, Part 2

Content Group


Henry IV, Part 2, has suffered, like many other sequels, from comparison with its prototype. The elegant interweaving of plot lines around the Percys' rebellion in Part 1 is generally held to be missing in the episodic structure of Part 2, with its pastoral scenes in the Gloucestershire countryside, and glimpses of the tail-ends of the flagging rebellion. The dark tone is set by the king's ultimately fatal illness, echoed in the analogous stress on the aging impotence of Falstaff and his cronies, which reaches a grim climax in the repudiation of Falstaff by his ex-friend Prince Hal as the new King Henry V. Though this repudiation completes the relationship of Hal and Falstaff which lies at the heart of Part 1, there has been debate about how far the two plays are intrinsically related, though they are often performed as a sequence, which is how Part 2 is most often revived. Most audiences are alienated by its downbeat tone, but this elegiac quality was sympathetically exploited in Orson Welles' Falstaff (or Chimes at Midnight), with a wintry setting that memorably matches the melancholy cooling of Falstaff's genius.

Henry IV, Part 2, English Shakespeare Company, 1989
Henry IV, Part 2, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1964
Henry IV, Part 2, Constance Benson as Doll Tearsheet, 19th Century
Henry IV, Ralph Richardson as Falstaff, Old Vic, 1945
Henry IV, Part 2: Mistress Quickly, Falstaff, and Doll Tearsheet
Essay Title Author
King Henry V Hugh Richmond

Alexander, Peter, ed. Henry IV, Part 1. London: BBC, 1979.

Alkire, Nancy L. "Babes in Armor: Staging a Shakespeare History with a Feminist Subtext, or Robert Behrens' Gender Reversals for 1 Henry IV." On-Stage Studies 15 (1992): 66-75.

Collins, David G. "A Prince Hal for Our Times: Darkness and the Search for Self in Stratford, Ontario (1979)." Publications of the Missouri Philological Association 11 (1986): 11-18.

Fisher, Philip. Review of Henry IV, Part 2, Royal Shakespeare Company, Barbican, London, 2001. British Theatre Guide.

Gorman, Bill. Review of Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Shakespeare Repertory Theatre, Ruth Page Theatre, Chicago. Centerstage, May 5, 2001.

Hodgdon, Barbara. Henry IV, Part Two. Shakespeare in Performance. Manchester, UK; New York: Manchester University Press, 1993.

Howlett, Kathy M. "Utopian Revisioning of Falstaff 's Tavern World: Orson Welles's Chimes at Midnight and Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho." In The Reel Shakespeare: Alternative Cinema and Theory, edited by Lisa S. Starks and Courtney Lehmann, 165-88. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; London: Associated University Presses, 2002.

Jowett, John. "Cuts and Casting: Author and Book-Keeper in the Folio Text of 2 Henry IV." AUMLA: Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association 72 (1989): 275-95.

Murray, Matthew. Review of Henry IV, adapted by Dakin Matthews, Lincoln Center, 2003. Talkin' Broadway, November 20, 2003.

Poole, Kristen. "Saints Alive! Falstaff, Martin Marprelate, and the Staging of Puritanism." Shakespeare Quarterly 46 (1995): 47-75.

Potter, Lois. "2 Henry IV and the Czech Political Context." Shakespeare Worldwide 14-15 (1995): 252-55.

Potter, Lois. "The Second Tetralogy: Performance as Interpretation." In A Companion to Shakespeare's Works, Volume II: The Histories, edited by Richard Dutton and Jean E. Howard. Blackwell Publishing, 2005.

Shaw, John. "The Staging of Parody and Parallels in 1 Henry IV." Shakespeare Survey 20 (1967): 61-73.

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Except where otherwise specified, all written commentary is © 2016, Hugh Macrae Richmond.