Henry IV, Part 2

Henry IV, Part 2

Henry IV, Part 2

Henry IV, Part 2

Synopsis

This edition offers a fully modernized text of one of Shakespeare's most fascinating plays. Henry IV, Part 2 is the only play in the canon whose structure almost exactly mirrors that of its predecessor, and thereby affords unique perspectives on Shakespeares art and craft. Far from being the impoverished country cousin of an illustrious work, Part 2 introduces unforgettable new characters like Pistol and Shallow, and memorable minor players such as Doll Tearsheet and the reluctant Goucestershire recruits. Above all, it gives us more Falstaff. Although he is now politically distanced from Hal, he looms larger than ever as a mischievous figure who never ceases to fascinate with his unique blend of native wit, inventiveness, and corruption. Through a radical reconsideration of the play's text(s) and date, it is argued here for the first time that the character of Falstaff was called Oldcastle in Part 2 as well as in Part 1, and that it was the vetting of Part 2 for the 1596-7 Christmas performances at Court which led to the change of name in both plays. This edition moreover takes the view that the Folio-only passages in the play reflect the text of the original prompt-book.

Excerpt

It is never easy to come second. For Shakespeare to have written a play called 'The Second Part of Henry the Fourth', in both quarto and Folio, seems therefore to be a particularly confident stroke, because the new (albeit 'second') play is clearly expected to repeat the success of the one whose title it echoes, 'The First Part of Henry the Fourth'. It also appears to assume that its audiences know Part I. Whereas Richard ii or 1 Henry iv, the first two members of the second tetralogy, or Henry V, the play which completes the cycle, all enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy, Part 2 of Henry iv is connected to Part 1 in a seamless join. 'Rumour', the Induction, enters at a chronological point located before the dramatic action of Part 1 has fully finished (see below, p. 9). in terms of plot and imaginative chronology, Shakespeare's completing his dramatization of Bolingbroke's reign in 2 Henry iv revisits the end of Part I. the sequel starts in medias res, in the immediate aftermath of the climactic action which concludes 1 Henry iv, the Battle of Shrewsbury.

The apparent disadvantage of an umbilical dependence on the plot of another member of the tetralogy may be thought to be compounded by the absence from the sequel of the heroic, and at times youthfully idealistic, strains of the high plot of Part I. There is no Hotspur any longer to challenge Hal for the succession (as well as the loyalty of the audience), and our only view of the indomitable Kate Percy is as Hotspur's grieving widow, in a scene which is often cut in performance. Moreover, in Part 2 the Prince of Wales disdainfully transcends his madcap Eastcheap adventures which account for much of the attraction of Part 1. His brief appearance at the Boar's Head tavern in Part 2 is almost grudging. If the three Henry plays of the second tetralogy are viewed primarily as stations of the prodigal's progress towards the crown, then 2 Henry iv is the most isolated and transitional of them, a mere prelude to the epic of Henry V. At worst it could be seen to be marking time until the coronation in its fifth Act, which empowers Henry to launch into his French campaign. the obsession with sickness in 2 Henry iv (seeWells, 1994, p. 147, and . . .

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