Henry IV, Part I



  • The first of two plays by Shakespeare about the reignof Henry IV, first performed in 1597 in London. The practice of presentingboth parts together began only in the 20th century: the ShakespeareMemorial Theatre at Stratford opened in 1932 with Part I and Part II performed in one day.

    Shakespeare's principal sources were Holinshed's Chroniclesand an anonymous play called The Famous Victories of Henry V, whichmay have been performed as early as 1588. The main plot dealswith the rebellion of the Percy family, led by Harry Hotspur, againstHenry IV. The king despairs of his elder son Henry (Prince Hal), whospends his time in taverns with Sir John Falstaff, a roguishliar and glutton; however, in the final battle against the rebelsPrince Hal saves the life of his father and slays Hotspur. In performancethe play is invariably stolen by the larger-than-life Falstaff, arguablythe greatest (and most complex) comic creation in English drama.