Henry IV, Part II

Definition

Theater

  • Shakespeare's conclusion of the two-part story ofHenry IV. It was first performed in 1598 in London with the comicactor William Kempe as Justice Shallow. In 1945 the Old Vicproduced Parts I and II with Laurence Olivier as Hotspurin Part I and Justice Shallow in Part II and Ralph Richardsonas Falstaff in both. Richardson was hailed by one criticas "the greatest of modern Falstaffs".

    The plot begins soon after Hotspur's defeat and death, with a newinsurrection looming. Falstaff, still leading a riotous life with his friendsat the tavern, is asked to recruit soldiers. On the way to the battle he staysin Gloucestershire with his old acquaintance Justice Shallow, whose hospitalityhe exploits to the full. Meanwhile Hal's brother, Prince John of Lancaster,uses treachery to capture the leaders of the insurrection without a fight, andthe king dies in London. At the end of the play, in one of Shakespeare's mostdebated scenes, a reformed Prince Hal, now Henry V, banishes Falstaff"on pain of death...Not to come near our person by ten mile."

    With well over 40 speaking parts, the play requires one of the largestcasts in the Shakespeare canon. The US actor Henry Miller (1860 - 1926)once performed Henry IV, Part II with a touring company that outnumberedthe paying audience two to one.

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