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Henry IV, Part 1

William Shakespeare


Key Facts

Key Facts

full title  ·  The History of Henry the Fourth ( 1 Henry IV)

author  · William Shakespeare

type of work  · Play

genre  · Historical drama, military drama

language  · English

time and place written  · Probably 15961597, London

date of first publication  ·  1598 (in quarto), 1623 (in folio)

tone  · The tone of the play alternates between very serious drama and rollicking comedy. The drama is grave and ominous, and is centered on the careworn figure of King Henry IV and the rebellion of the Percys. The comedy is fast-paced, rambunctious, and punning, and centers around the character of Falstaff and the other rogues at the Boar’s Head Tavern.

setting (time)  · Around 14021403

setting (place)  · London, especially the royal palace and the Boar’s Head Tavern; various other locales around England, including the battlefield of Shrewsbury, where the final act takes place

protagonist  · Prince Harry

major conflict  · The Percy family, encouraged by the hot temper of the young nobleman Hotspur, seeks to overthrow the reigning king of England, Henry IV. Simultaneously, Harry, the crown prince of England, must work to win back his honor and his place in his father’s esteem after squandering it by spending too much time with the rogue Falstaff and other unsuitable companions.

rising action  · The king’s confrontation with Hotspur; the robbery; the king’s confrontation with Harry; the Percys’ battle preparations

climax  · The Battle of Shrewsbury in Act V, specifically Harry’s duel with Hotspur

falling action  · The king’s strategizing after the battle, leading into the play’s sequel, 2 Henry IV

themes  · The nature of honor; the legitimacy of rulership; high and low language

motifs  · Doubles; British cultures; the multiplicity of language; magic

symbols  · The play is not heavily symbolic, though various characters represent various traits: for example, Hotspur represents the ideal of honor as a product of glory on the battlefield, and Glyndwr represents the folk magic of Wales.

foreshadowing  · Hotspur’s confrontation with the king; the king’s claim that Hotspur has more honor than Harry; Harry and Falstaff’s role-playing; the robbery; Hotspur’s confrontation with Kate.

Falstaff--not the King or Prince--Rules This One!

by ReadingShakespearefor450th, March 11, 2013

I think it should have been called Sir Jack, First Part, as Falstaff towers over everybody else in King Henry IV, Part 1. See my blog on the play:


1 out of 2 people found this helpful

Falstaff is your standard issue jester

by pafnuty, September 28, 2013

Most Shakespeare plays have a jester, who is able to perceive certain things better than the "noble" person. There are other elements that make Falstaff more interesting, such as the juxtaposition of "fortune," class, or perhaps simply initiative.


1 out of 4 people found this helpful

magic is not a motif

by Bad_Horse, December 16, 2014

No "strong current of magic runs throughout the play". It's in one or two scenes in part 1.


1 out of 1 people found this helpful

See all 6 readers' notes   →
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