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Henry IV, Part 2

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Henry IV, Part 2 is the only Shakespeare play that is a sequel, in the modern sense, to an earlier play of his. Like most sequels, it repeats many elements from the previous work, Henry IV, Part 1. This play again puts on stage Henry IVs son, Prince Hal, who continues to conceal his potential greatness by consorting with tavern dwellers, including the witty Sir John Henry IV, Part 2 is the only Shakespeare play that is a “sequel,” in the modern sense, to an earlier play of his. Like most sequels, it repeats many elements from the previous work, Henry IV, Part 1. This play again puts on stage Henry IV’s son, Prince Hal, who continues to conceal his potential greatness by consorting with tavern dwellers, including the witty Sir John Falstaff. As in Part 1, Prince Hal and Falstaff seek to best each other in conversation, while Falstaff tries to ingratiate himself with Hal and Hal disdains him. Part 2 adds some fresh characters, the rural justices Shallow and Silence and Shallow’s household. Political rebellion, while important to the plot, does not loom as large as in Part 1. There are no glorious champions; combat is replaced by deception, cunning, and treachery. The authoritative edition of Henry IV, Part 2 from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes: -Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play -Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play -Scene-by-scene plot summaries -A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases -An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language -An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play -Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books -An annotated guide to further reading Essay by A. R. Braunmuller The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.


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Henry IV, Part 2 is the only Shakespeare play that is a sequel, in the modern sense, to an earlier play of his. Like most sequels, it repeats many elements from the previous work, Henry IV, Part 1. This play again puts on stage Henry IVs son, Prince Hal, who continues to conceal his potential greatness by consorting with tavern dwellers, including the witty Sir John Henry IV, Part 2 is the only Shakespeare play that is a “sequel,” in the modern sense, to an earlier play of his. Like most sequels, it repeats many elements from the previous work, Henry IV, Part 1. This play again puts on stage Henry IV’s son, Prince Hal, who continues to conceal his potential greatness by consorting with tavern dwellers, including the witty Sir John Falstaff. As in Part 1, Prince Hal and Falstaff seek to best each other in conversation, while Falstaff tries to ingratiate himself with Hal and Hal disdains him. Part 2 adds some fresh characters, the rural justices Shallow and Silence and Shallow’s household. Political rebellion, while important to the plot, does not loom as large as in Part 1. There are no glorious champions; combat is replaced by deception, cunning, and treachery. The authoritative edition of Henry IV, Part 2 from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes: -Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play -Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play -Scene-by-scene plot summaries -A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases -An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language -An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play -Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books -An annotated guide to further reading Essay by A. R. Braunmuller The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.

30 review for Henry IV, Part 2

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    This is chillier world than the first part of Henry IV, lacking in both its good humor and its generosity. Falstaff is not nearly so funny apart from Hal, Prince John is a much icier foil than the mercurial Hotspur, and Hal himself--whom we wish to like--makes himself disagreeable by stealing his dying father's crown and snubbing the fat knight we love. Yet Shakespeare, by subtle degrees, leads us to the point where we come to admire Hal and believe in his moral transformation. Images of This is chillier world than the first part of Henry IV, lacking in both its good humor and its generosity. Falstaff is not nearly so funny apart from Hal, Prince John is a much icier foil than the mercurial Hotspur, and Hal himself--whom we wish to like--makes himself disagreeable by stealing his dying father's crown and snubbing the fat knight we love. Yet Shakespeare, by subtle degrees, leads us to the point where we come to admire Hal and believe in his moral transformation. Images of gestation and generation abound in this very masculine play, demonstrating how many unlooked-for things may grow within the womb of time, how even the most dissolute of princes may mature into a great warrior king.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Henry IV, Part 2 (Wars of the Roses, #3), William Shakespeare Henry IV, Part 2 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed written between 1596 and 1599. It is the third part of a tetralogy, preceded by Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 and succeeded by Henry V. The play is often seen as an extension of aspects of Henry IV, Part 1, rather than a straightforward continuation of the historical narrative, placing more emphasis on the highly popular character of Falstaff and introducing other Henry IV, Part 2 (Wars of the Roses, #3), William Shakespeare Henry IV, Part 2 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed written between 1596 and 1599. It is the third part of a tetralogy, preceded by Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 and succeeded by Henry V. The play is often seen as an extension of aspects of Henry IV, Part 1, rather than a straightforward continuation of the historical narrative, placing more emphasis on the highly popular character of Falstaff and introducing other comic figures as part of his entourage, including Ancient Pistol, Doll Tearsheet and Justice Robert Shallow. Several scenes specifically parallel episodes in Part 1. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دهم ماه ژانویه سال 1989 میلادی عنوان: بخش دوم شاه هنری چهارم؛ عنوان قراردادی: هنری چهارم - بخش دوم؛ نویسنده: ویلیام شکسپیر؛ مترجم: احمد خزاعی؛ تهران، اسفار، 1367، در 229 ص، عکس، عنوان روی جلد: هنری چهارم؛ موضوع: نمایشنامه هنری چهارم شاه انگلستان 1367 تا 1413 سده 16 م دومین بخش هنری چهارم، سومین نمایشنامه از یک مجموعه چهار نمایشنامه ای است، که شکسپیر در آنها دوران حکومت ریچارد دوم، هنری چهارم، و هنری پینجم، سه تن از پادشاهان انگلستان را باز مینماید. اما مهمترین نکته ای که باید دریافت، اینست که بخش دوم هنری چهارم، نمایشنامه ای ست مستقل و با بخش اول هنری چهارم، کاملا متفاوت است. این نمایشنامه اگرچه همانند سه نمایشنامه دیگر این مجموعه، به رخدادهای تاریخی میپردازد، اما از نظر سبک و لحن با آنها متفاوت است. ا. شربیانی

  3. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    The threat of social disorder swirls around William Shakespeares Henry IV, Part 2 (War of the Roses #3). The threat comes in many forms. Most outwardly, its a rebellion led by nobles who have never really accepted the legitimacy of King Henry IVs monarchy. As a further representation of a disruption of that order, King Henry is dying. Legitimacy of any succession must be conferred along with a recognition of the natural order, but is Prince Hal up to the job? Northumberland poignantly draws The threat of social disorder swirls around William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2 (War of the Roses #3). The threat comes in many forms. Most outwardly, it’s a rebellion led by nobles who have never really accepted the legitimacy of King Henry IV’s monarchy. As a further representation of a disruption of that order, King Henry is dying. Legitimacy of any succession must be conferred along with a recognition of the natural order, but is Prince Hal up to the job? Northumberland poignantly draws attention to this drama at the beginning of the play: Let heaven kiss earth! Now let not Nature's hand Keep the wild flood confined! Let order die! And let this world no longer be a stage To feed contention in a ling’ring act. But let one spirit of the first-born Cain Reign in all bosoms, that each heart being set On bloody courses, the rude scene may end, And darkness be the burier of the dead! (Northumberland, Act 1 Scene 1). I love how evocative Shakespeare’s language is! Once again, even though he is older and possibly more debauched than he was in Part 1, Falstaff is a central figure in this conflict. He is a friend of Prince Hal and a symbol of Hal’s youth. When Hal takes up the mantle of the monarchy after his father dies (and thus becomes King Henry V), he rejects Falstaff as something antithetical to this order. His condemnation is also a rejection of the freedom he once had when he was a youth. He tells a praising Falstaff, “Presume not that I am the thing I was” (King Henry V, Act 5 Scene 5). Does the newly crowned King Henry no longer have any affection for his former friend? As always, there is no simple answer to such questions.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    Virtue is chok'd with foul ambition - William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2, Act 3, Scene 1 I was recently at a book signing for Don Winslow's new book The Force and he brought up his life-long fascination with Shakespeare and how the Godfather books/movies (at least the first two) are basically a retelling of Shakespeare's Henry IV with the moral poles flipped (with Al Pacino playing Hal and Diane Keaton as a gender-bent Falstaff). I can run with that. Anyway, Henry IV, Part 2 is fantastic. It is “Virtue is chok'd with foul ambition” - William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2, Act 3, Scene 1 I was recently at a book signing for Don Winslow's new book The Force and he brought up his life-long fascination with Shakespeare and how the Godfather books/movies (at least the first two) are basically a retelling of Shakespeare's Henry IV with the moral poles flipped (with Al Pacino playing Hal and Diane Keaton as a gender-bent Falstaff). I can run with that. Anyway, Henry IV, Part 2 is fantastic. It is less playful than Henry IV, Part 1 and the comic role of Falstaff drops an octave into tragicomedy. Falstaff still possesses a comedic greatness to him, but he has suddenly seen his relationship with Hal changed at the end as Hal puts away childish things and takes up the mantle (and crown) of his father. One of my favorite of Shakespeare's Histories (right there with Richard III). It is a mature and serious play. Youth's sandbox has been replaced with the battlefield and folly has been replaced with responsibility. Favorite lines: “Rumour is a pipe Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures And of so easy and so plain a stop That the blunt monster with uncounted heads, The still-discordant wavering multitude, Can play upon it.” (Prologue, Scene 1) "I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men." (Act I, Scene 2) "I were better to be eaten to death with a rust, than to be scoured to nothing with perpetual motion." (Act I, Scene 2) "A good wit will make use of anything; I will turn diseases to commodity." (Act I, Scene 2) “By my troth, I care not; a man can die but once; we owe God a death and let it go which way it will he that dies this year is quit for the next” (Act 3, Scene 2) "Commit The oldest sins the newest kind of ways." (Act 4, Scene 4)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    I can't consider these plays as solitary occasions. I'm all teary-eyed. Who knew I could shed tears for poor old Falstaff, even now? I mean, sure, he's a fool and a rascal and incorrigible, but at the core of it, he and Hal were friends, weren't they? And yet, even while I hate Hal a little for his decision, I love him all the more for it and everything else. Truly, he was the best king. Not only very aware of his audience, but always playing to every side, learning the craft of people and of hard I can't consider these plays as solitary occasions. I'm all teary-eyed. Who knew I could shed tears for poor old Falstaff, even now? I mean, sure, he's a fool and a rascal and incorrigible, but at the core of it, he and Hal were friends, weren't they? And yet, even while I hate Hal a little for his decision, I love him all the more for it and everything else. Truly, he was the best king. Not only very aware of his audience, but always playing to every side, learning the craft of people and of hard decisions. Then again, he's always known about hard decisions and all of this couldn't have been more studied and careful. Even his jests boast of tactical genius. Fanboy? Yeah. I am. Of a character. lol Still, it was a rather heart-wrenching scene with the prince and his father at the end. *sniffle* Sorry. I just love these plays so much.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Leonard Gaya

    In Henry IV, Part 1, Prince Hal was for the most part in a rebellion against his father and his noble calling, and spent his time in the cesspools of London with his friends, the beer-bellied Falstaff and the rest of the prostitutes and hoodies. Here, in Part 2, the rebellions against the ever-sickly King are gradually petering out, both on the battlefields of England and inside the head of the prodigal son, Prince Hal. The old debauched and heart-warming friendship between the Prince and In Henry IV, Part 1, Prince Hal was for the most part in a rebellion against his father and his noble calling, and spent his time in the cesspools of London with his friends, the beer-bellied Falstaff and the rest of the prostitutes and hoodies. Here, in Part 2, the rebellions against the ever-sickly King are gradually petering out, both on the battlefields of England and inside the head of the prodigal son, Prince Hal. The old debauched and heart-warming friendship between the Prince and Falstaff seems to have cooled off quite a bit, and the larger-than-life knight of Eastcheap is fading into the enormous and slightly unpalatable gyp that he is. By the end of this “coming-of-age” play, Prince Hal sheds his skin and, without much soul-searching, symbolically kills his father figures: both King Henry IV and Sir John Falstaff. This Part 2 is darker and drier than Part 1; and if Shakespeare is an ocean, this play is indeed a low tide, especially Act III and the dull, slightly condescending and rather insubstantial conscription scene with Shallow and Silence. However, some parts are still memorable, like the apology of wine at the end of IV,2, or the long dialogue between the King and the Prince in IV,3. An interesting aspect in this scene is the image of the dying king, sleeping with his crown on his pillow, when it is quite clear that the crown — like the deep well of Richard II, or like the magic ring of Sauron, if you will — is an ever-staring eye that robs sleep from those who wear it, drives them mad, makes them abjure their old friends and slaughter their kin: case in point, Harry himself who, at his coronation, suddenly rejects the anarchic Falstaff (the shocking “I know thee not, old man” in V,5) and embraces the authoritarian Chief Justice instead. However, more to come on that topic, as the Histories progress and we move on towards the heroic masterpiece, Henry V…

  7. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    The groundwork for this play that is full of morale and still some comic relief was given in the first part. As I said, there was a lot of history to tell so Shakespeare divided it up. In this 2nd part, the battle of Shrewsbury is over, Hotspur is dead, Hal (King Henry IV's son) returns victorious. This part definitely focuses on Hal and his further passage from scandalous young bloke to a man of honour - and it is about Falstaff and how he falls from grace. This last bit can be seen most clearly The groundwork for this play that is full of morale and still some comic relief was given in the first part. As I said, there was a lot of history to tell so Shakespeare divided it up. In this 2nd part, the battle of Shrewsbury is over, Hotspur is dead, Hal (King Henry IV's son) returns victorious. This part definitely focuses on Hal and his further passage from scandalous young bloke to a man of honour - and it is about Falstaff and how he falls from grace. This last bit can be seen most clearly because Hal and Falstaff have almost no time together. Instead, the play is divided into the part showing Falstaff who is still a petty criminal despite his vow in the previous play and the part of the prince. Falstaff's age is shown time and time again together with an ominous illness that somehow mirrors the nearing death of Henry IV himself (Falstaff mentions it once). Falstaff is behaving worse and worse (or maybe just as bad as before but it is in stark contrast of the new Hal?) but when he speaks ill of the prince (who hears him) he tries to make amends by helping against a new rebellion. The other part shows Hal still being a disappointment to his father and it is Hal's brother John who takes care of the new rebellion mentioned above (not by battle). Then, the king falls ill and seems to die, there is quite some father-son-drama but before Henry IV actually dies, they make up. In the final scene, the two story lines meet because Falstaff, hearing Hal is king, travels to London in hopes of money. In fact, it appears that all lowlives thought they'd thrive under Hal's reign but quickly learn that they were very wrong. At the end, there is even an epilogue, a 4th wall breach, that informs us of a soon-to-come new play in which Falstaff shall die and (which I think is funny) that his character was not based on a rebel called Sir John Oldcastle (apparently an anti-Catholic who nevertheless died a martyr so his descendents were outraged at the possible connection). Shakespeare again managed to bring a lot to the page/stage with this play. I think this was less humorous than the first part (except for the epilogue but I might be the only one finding that funny) but still very good. It being less humorous might have been because Shakespeare wanted to drive home the morale a bit more strongly this time (after all, a king dies)! I was somewhat disappointed about Hal still being a disappointment to his father but an immediate change might have been less realistic and might have prevented the great climax when Henry IV dies.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Presume not that I am the thing I was. Compared with Part 1, this sequel is significantly weaker as a stand-alone play. There is no antagonist to compare with Hotspur. Falstaff wanders about in pointless merrymaking, mostly separated from Hal; and unfortunately his wit is not nearly so sharp outside of his young companions company. The same can be said for Hal, whose youthful liveliness fades into a chilling uprightness. And the plot can be frustratingly meandering and abrupt. The main drama of Presume not that I am the thing I was. Compared with Part 1, this sequel is significantly weaker as a stand-alone play. There is no antagonist to compare with Hotspur. Falstaff wanders about in pointless merrymaking, mostly separated from Hal; and unfortunately his wit is not nearly so sharp outside of his young companion’s company. The same can be said for Hal, whose youthful liveliness fades into a chilling uprightness. And the plot can be frustratingly meandering and abrupt. The main drama of this play is the progression of Hal from prodigal son to the ideal young king. This transformation is apt to cause some misgivings. On the one hand, I found it genuinely admirable when Hal commends the Justice and bids him to do his work. And even if one loves Falstaff, it is difficult to wish that the King of England would keep such a lawless fellow around, much less lend him influence. On the other hand, the newly-ascended king’s rejection of his former friend and mentor is deeply sad. Perhaps he should have turned Falstaff away, but it need not have been with such cold scorn. Again, there is a moral conflict here. Falstaff may best be described as amoral: uninhibited, pleasure-loving, devoid of both cruelty and rectitude. He feels no scruples whatsoever at dishonesty and robbery, and acknowledges no ideal as worth pursuing or even respecting. Hal, by contrast, is a moral creature: he wishes to uphold the moral order, but for him this may mean murder or bloody conquest. So one must ask: Which is better, to be a drunken pickpocket or to lead your country on an invasion? Neither the socially subversive nor the socially upstanding can be fully embraced, which is why Hal’s rejection of Falstaff causes such complex reactions.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    The prodigal prince returns 15 May 2013 In the particular edition of this play that I read the editors included and essay by Harold Jenkins (not that that name means anything to me) about whether Henry IV is two five act plays or one ten act play. Personally I don't care either way and would really not want to write a major thesis on that particular point, but that is probably because there is so much more with regards to Shakespearian plays, such as the nature of the human condition, and also The prodigal prince returns 15 May 2013 In the particular edition of this play that I read the editors included and essay by Harold Jenkins (not that that name means anything to me) about whether Henry IV is two five act plays or one ten act play. Personally I don't care either way and would really not want to write a major thesis on that particular point, but that is probably because there is so much more with regards to Shakespearian plays, such as the nature of the human condition, and also the nature of political revolt, that I consider that an essay on whether two plays are one or one play is two is probably just a waste of my time. Then again, each to his own, and if this is what interests Jenkins then who am I to criticise him. Anyhow, my position with regards to that question is that it is neither because I actually see it as one forty act play (beginning with Richard II and ending with Richard III) that has been split into eight parts that, in a sense, each can stand on their own as individual plays. I recently saw this play performed in Sydney by the Bell Shakespeare Company (which is probably the leading Shakespearian theatre group in Australia) and they had performed the two plays as an amalgamation, however since the entire performance was a little under three hours (excluding the twenty minute interlude) there was a number of scenes that had been dropped, and I suspect most of them were from the second play (the rebellion of Northumberland and the Archbishop Scroop was not included, despite the scene where Falstaff examining troops with Justices Swallow and Silence being included). The play itself, as with most Shakespearian performances these days, had been brought into the modern setting with the nobility dressed in suits and the scenes in Eastcheap done as if it were in a modern Australian pub. Falstaff himself did change his style in this play going from being little more than a bum to being a well dressed bum, however that had something to do with his elevation from being a trouble maker to a knight in the second play. What I didn't notice in the first play but did notice this time was that Falstaff actually claims the credit for killing Hotspur. We know that Hal kills Hotspur, but leaves the scene before anybody can confirm the kill, and Falstaff, who had been playing dead for most of the battle (which is not surprising) then gets up and puts a knife in Hotspur's body and claims the kill. As such, when the King enters the scene, he immediately strips Hal of the kill and awards it to Falstaff. Now this is actually an important event, especially for those who claim that Hal's return to his wild ways in the second part is inconsistent with the first part where he goes from being a tavern rat to being an honourable battlefield commander. Firstly, Hal is quite bitter at the award for killing Hotspur going to Falstaff on the grounds that he knows that Falstaff is a liar, a cheat, and incredibly lazy (as well as being a coward). In fact, in the second play Falstaff and Hal only encounter each other twice, and where the only change in Falstaff is his title, Hal's attitude has changed dramatically. In fact of both times that Hal and Falstaff meet, the former is rebuking the latter (the first time is where Hal masquarades as a servant boy to listen to what Falstaff says about him when he is not around, and the second is during the coronation parade when Falstaff foolishly expects that Hal will turn England into a thieves' paradise). In a way the play of Henry IV (in two parts) is not so much about the redemption of a wayward child (though in some aspects it is) but rather about a boy's journey into adulthood. By the second part, Hal has already been redeemed: the prodigal son has returned and he is not going out again. The only reason he returns to Eastcheap is to see if Falstaff himself has changed, but that is not going to happen. Shakespeare is too realistic with his characters, and it is clear that Falstaff is simply too old to be able to break away from a lifetime of bad habits. It is interesting too that even though Falstaff does not appear in Henry V, many of the other companions from Eastcheap do and form a part of the irregular army. Once again, Hal, in the next play, puts on a disguise and goes and mingles with them, but this time he does not reveal himself, he just listens. In Henry V we learn of Falstaff's fate: in Act 2, Scene 1, when Falstaff's page enters and tells his companions advising that he is sick as the king has broken his heart. However, we never actually hear of his fate (and since the fleet was setting sail to France, and since we know that Falstaff is, well, basically a coward, it is not surprising that he would be hiding under his sheets and not wanting to go and fight a real war).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zachary F.

    "Presume not that I am the thing I was..." -Hal/Henry V, act 5, scene 5 Looks like I spoke too soon. The first part of Henry IV shows Shakespeare really hitting his stride with the historical genre, judiciously blending comic and tragic elements to create an effective tonal ambiguity. The sequel also does a lot of blending, but this time the result is less like a master artist mixing paints and more like you or me dumping produce into a Magic Bullet and hoping it comes out a smoothie. There are a "Presume not that I am the thing I was..." -Hal/Henry V, act 5, scene 5 Looks like I spoke too soon. The first part of Henry IV shows Shakespeare really hitting his stride with the historical genre, judiciously blending comic and tragic elements to create an effective tonal ambiguity. The sequel also does a lot of blending, but this time the result is less like a master artist mixing paints and more like you or me dumping produce into a Magic Bullet and hoping it comes out a smoothie. There are a lot of elements here, some of them pretty interesting on their own (I loved, in a useless trivia sort of way, the weird and totally un-Shakespearean intro and epilogue), but they never cohere into anything more than a mess. Individual scenes are memorable: the titular king's deathbed exchange with his son is moving, as is Hal's famous final rejection of his old friend and mentor Falstaff, and there's some good comic material too. But way too much of the play is given over to long, rambling Falstaff scenes with no clear narrative throughline, intercut by the occasional weightless-feeling sequence of less-than-intriguing political intrigue. Shakespeare scholars are always trying to find ways to let Will off the hook for his weaker works*, and it's been proposed that 2 Henry IV was written mainly to capitalize on the runaway popularity of the Falstaff character (see also The Merry Wives of Windsor), or else that the two parts started as a single play that got out of hand. Whatever the reason, though, there's really not enough substance here to justify a separate work, and it's not difficult to imagine a still-good version of the first play with the salient bits of this one added in. Ah well. I've got two plays still left in the Falstaff & Hal Theatrical Universe ( Merry Wives and Henry V , respectively), so I guess I'd better buckle in. Here's hoping part two is the outlier instead of the tone-setter. Edit: I kept thinking about this pair of plays after posting my initial review of this one, and thought maybe I should say a little more about the content itself. For me, the most fascinating theme of the Henry IV duology is the question of Hal's growth as a character and a human being. It's popular nowadays to read his arc as a coming-of-age tale, and interpreted in that light the plays have a certain existentialist appeal: the characters who succeed are the ones who can adapt and reforge their identities (Hal, and to an extent his father), while the ones who stay rooted in old habits (most notably Falstaff) are ultimately overcome or left in the past. But that's not the only way it can be read, and in fact Hal gives a speech towards the beginning of part one which suggests the whole thing is an act—he's only playing the part of a prodigal son so that when the time comes for him to take up the mantle of kingship his subjects will be impressed by his apparent transformation. From a contemporary perspective this is a less satisfying arc: we want our protagonist to develop into something different, preferably something better, over time. But that's a fairly modern expectation, and for every Hamlet or Macbeth Shakespeare wrote, defined and tortured by the burden of choice, there's an Iago or a Richard III who pretty much stays one thing (though not without assuming other roles when it's beneficial) till the end. Ultimately it’s up to the reader to decide what to make of it all, and, as in so much of life, it’s remarkable how different things look depending on where you’re standing. --- * Personally I think it's silly to act surprised that not everything the man wrote was an untouchable work of genius, seeing as he churned out something like 40 plays in two and a half decades, a third or so of them among the greatest of all time, all while being an actor and a businessman and a landowner and a husband and a father and God knows what else... Surely even Shakespeare was only human.

  11. 5 out of 5

    leynes

    Oh boy, this is what I feared all of Shakespeare's histories would be like: boring, incredibly dull and just overall lacking in exciting characters and plot. Luckily, not all of his histories are like that, take the first part of Henry IV for example which was excellent, but the second part annoyed the shit outta me. But let's start off by talking about the enjoyable moments of this play, believe me, they were far and few between. I adore the fact that Prince Hal, after his coronation, cut all Oh boy, this is what I feared all of Shakespeare's histories would be like: boring, incredibly dull and just overall lacking in exciting characters and plot. Luckily, not all of his histories are like that, take the first part of Henry IV for example which was excellent, but the second part annoyed the shit outta me. But let's start off by talking about the enjoyable moments of this play, believe me, they were far and few between. I adore the fact that Prince Hal, after his coronation, cut all of his ties to Falstaff and his old friends. Falstaff basically came into the court being like "what's up buddy, have ya missed me and all of my prostitutes?" and Hal was like "new phone, who dis" — it was wonderful! The London lowlifes, expecting a paradise of thieves under Hal's governance, are instead purged and imprisoned by the authorities. Hum hallelujah! We love a good happy ending! But for real, that's totally what Falstaff deserved; if you've read my review for The Merry Wives of Windsor you know how much I hate him. In general, I was kind of proud of my precious Prince Hal and that he finally came thru and that his masterplan of setting the bar so low that he would exceed all expectations actually worked out in the end: And with his spirits sadly I survive To mock the expectations of the world, To frustrate prophecies, and to raze out Rotten opinion, who hath writ me down After my seeming. And you know what else is super funny? In the epilogue Shakespeare teases the follow-up play, Henry V, which hadn't been written at this point and he claims that the audience will learn more about Falstaff and his adventures in it... when in reality, as all of those who read Henry V know, Falstaff doesn't even show up in that play. Merely, his death is announced. What a mess! I love it. (I'm just picturing the audience at the time leaving the theatre enraged because they were lured in by false advertisement. Is that why they burned down the Globe? ...Okay, too soon? I apologise.) Oh, and there's also this wonderful part in which the old King Henry bemoans the fact that "health, alack, with youthful wings is flown from this bare withered trunk." And I'm like: same, Harry, same, I'm also rusty as fuck. And another awesome quote: Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Apart from these little tidbits, the play was just insufferable. For real, I would not recommend it at all. I'm fairly used to Shakespeare now but for some reason (let's be real the reason was fucking BOREDOM!) I couldn't keep track of what was happening. I needed to revisit scenes and read up on the former acts that I had already read to understand what was going on. There was nothing that held my attention and that resulted in me needing four weeks to finish this play. This is unheard of, even in my lowliest days I was able to wrap up a Shakespeare play within three days. Whatever, I just wouldn't recommend this play, unless you desperately want to read all of Shakespeare's work (like I do) or are extremely interested in the Wars of the Roses.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Chaikin

    The play where Henry IV dies and Henry V must show he's not the drinking wayward lout he's been in his life up to this point. I read this with a group on Litsy and I think we had fun giving it a hard time. It's an awkward play, with some seriousness in the opening and some really beautiful language in the later acts, but in between is a whole lot of second rate humor around Falstaff. Maybe it does work on stage. But reading it, it just felt incomplete. As one person put it, it was like whenever The play where Henry IV dies and Henry V must show he's not the drinking wayward lout he's been in his life up to this point. I read this with a group on Litsy and I think we had fun giving it a hard time. It's an awkward play, with some seriousness in the opening and some really beautiful language in the later acts, but in between is a whole lot of second rate humor around Falstaff. Maybe it does work on stage. But reading it, it just felt incomplete. As one person put it, it was like whenever Shakespeare ran out of material, he wheeled out Falstaff for diversion. Others felt there must be multiple authors. Or perhaps the bard ran out of time to complete it. Regardless, this felt like the cobbled Shakespeare, an unpolished script. It's now my least favorite of his plays...but it's still Shakespeare. ----------------------------------------------- 21. Henry IV, Part 2 by William Shakespeare editor: Claire McEachern, for The Pelican Shakespeare series published: originally performed 1591. Introduction for The Pelican Shakespeare 2000. format: 167 page paperback acquired: Library read: Mar 30 – Apr 28 time reading: 7 hr 29 min, 2.7 min/page rating: 3

  13. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    I really did expect to like this play much more than I did. I read somewhere that both plays had originally been one play, but that the Falstaff character proved so popular that Shakespeare split the play in two and added more Falstaff. This play doesnt quite hang together as well as part one. Im tempted to say something about sequels always being crap. In many ways this is the same story over again but bizarrely Falstaff and Hal hardly meet in the play they only meet as friends once and then I really did expect to like this play much more than I did. I read somewhere that both plays had originally been one play, but that the Falstaff character proved so popular that Shakespeare split the play in two and added more Falstaff. This play doesn’t quite hang together as well as part one. I’m tempted to say something about sequels always being crap. In many ways this is the same story over again – but bizarrely Falstaff and Hal hardly meet in the play – they only meet as ‘friends’ once and then once again near the end. Hal has done some backsliding since we last met him. Not so much with Falstaff, whom he only thinks of now when he feels like torturing someone for his own amusement, but with Poins – who is another wayward youth wanting the young prince to marry his sister. This play has a cast of thousands and that is also part of the problem here – it already feels a bit like a soap opera and it having so many incidental characters makes the whole thing more confusing than anything else. This time it is Hal’s younger brother that is making him look bad – off sorting out rebellions, but by cheating and lying. This is hardly ‘heroic’. Hal’s dad – the person the play was named after, after all – again hardly has a role in the play. Needless to say he is not terribly impressed with the idea that he is handing over power to a whoring, drinking, goodtime boy. He has spent his life feeling guilty about having stolen the crown from its rightful head and just when it looks possible that by his own death that particular stain can be removed it seems his son is the last person anyone would want to pass a crown onto. In its broadest outline this play sounds like a coming-of-age story – young guy, out and about on the town, having a good time, but who gives up his wild ways (wild oats sowed to within an inch of their lives) as soon as responsibility knocks, turning his back on those who had previously lead him astray. The problem is that while all this is well and good in broad outline, it is in the details of this play where the story feels much less wholesome. It is in how Hal treats his previous ‘friends’ once he becomes king that leaves a particularly bad taste in the mouth. The scene where the new king refuses to acknowledge Falstaff and then, when forced to, banishes him from coming within ten miles of his person is almost too painful to watch. Don’t get me wrong, Falstaff is self-centred, nasty coward – but he has been bitterly misused by Hal in this play (and the last one too, truth be told) and deserves to have been treated better than he is. I think it would be impossible to come away from the play respecting Hal for his behaviour towards Falstaff. It is despicable. Now, this makes the whole question of Falstaff perhaps the most interesting part of the play. And this is in keeping with what we see too, as he takes up a very large part of this play with his various ways of cheating people and in trying to convince a prostitute to sleep with him. It is not all that clear just what Falstaff is really doing in this play. I tried to imagine what poor old Henry IV would think if he was brought back from the dead and told that two plays had been written about him by perhaps the greatest ever writer in the language – I should think his delight would be a little tarnished by seeing himself so small a role in his own life story when in fact so much of the play is about not only his layabout, good for nothing son, but his layabout son’s ex-friend. It is somewhat bizarre, I think. The scene where father and son finally are on stage together at the same time does seem to be time for the ‘real’ play to get underway. We have the father dying and Hal walking off with his crown (couldn’t you even wait until I was actually dead before you could get your greedy hands on the damn thing?) really did seem to be the makings of a great scene – but like everything else in this play even this rather more than just a little awkward scene resolved itself far too easily. And that really is the problem with this play, it is all just a little too pat. I’ve a feeling that Shakespeare needed to not offend anybody with these plays and so things needed to be resolved ‘nicely’. I’d have had Henry IV dying thinking his son was an arse and I’d have had Hal tormented by this – and this being the motivation for how badly he treats his old friends. This might have even made Hal seem a bit more likeable – let’s face it, he is anything but likeable in this play. Hal’s off to give the French a good kicking in the next play – our journey up the ladder of English kings continues.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Liam

    This wasn't as good as the first part but it was still okay. Kind of lost interest due to there being so many characters and it all got a little hard to follow but I did really like the ending!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    I liked Henry IV less than I liked Richard II. I think there was too little of Henry IV the King in this book, and too much of Henry V's "coming of age", or rather, "maturing" to the role of a leader. And definitely too much of John Falstaff... I could almost say that I saw more of King Henry IV in Richard II than here ;) Had it not been a part of Shakespeare's Cronicles (or Second Tetralogy) on English kings, it could've easily been titled Falstaff. So, for me, John Falstaff overtook the play. I liked Henry IV less than I liked Richard II. I think there was too little of Henry IV the King in this book, and too much of Henry V's "coming of age", or rather, "maturing" to the role of a leader. And definitely too much of John Falstaff... I could almost say that I saw more of King Henry IV in Richard II than here ;) Had it not been a part of Shakespeare's Cronicles (or Second Tetralogy) on English kings, it could've easily been titled Falstaff. So, for me, John Falstaff overtook the play. But, let's start from the beginning... Of course, there's a wide array of secondary and cameo characters -in which I often got lost- but it is reasonable and necessary plot-wise as the characters depict all of the substantial and influential gentry, nobility and clergy who took part in all the political power games, battles and parleys. The history of the English crown is so complicated, especially with the two main houses battling for power that I'm not going to complain about the length and complexity of Henry IV. And whether it is very faithful to the true events and the people's roles in history and politics or not, is not my concern. I can always read some more on the background and lineages of the Plantagenets, Yorks and Lancasters. However, the whole history of the power play between the big houses in England and especially inside the ruling dynasty is so intriguing that I was delighted to be able to look at it all from a different angle and not only from the history books I studied. What I liked was, obviously, the flowing, flawless writing, the sharp-witted retords and the common truths concerning the wielding of power, the ruling of a divided kingdom and the loneliness of a king/a ruler - all of which was so cleverly and openly shown in Henry IV's monologues and his dialogues with his son and crown prince Henry V. I read the original, English version of the play, although I did compare quite a few scenes with the Polish translation to see how it all worked in my mother tongue (I'm an English teacher and translator myself, so call it my professional quirk if you want) and I must say, IMHO, Shakespeare's work can be beautiful even in such a strange language as Polish ;) To my mind, the translator did a magnificent job. And all of that leads me to the character of Sir John Falstaff. I'm afraid I didn't like him :( I get it that he was depicted (and generally invented) in such a way as to show the inadequacies and vices of lower gentry (or maybe of nobility as a whole?). But why was he best friends with the Crown Prince? Was it to show how immature Prince Hal used to be? That his turning his back on Falstaff, failing and indigent as John was, was to show us the moment when Henry finally matured? Now that he was king, he simply cut himself off from John Falstaff to show the people around him that he's ready to rule, that he's man enough to stand up to the crown? I believe so... Still, I know that John Falstaff plays an important role in the history of literature, that his appearance created inspiration to quite a few broad and cunning noble companions in many swashbuckling and historic works. And I admit that much of his banter was witty or eye-opening and very much needed for the plot, but I simply found him rude, lewd, tricky and stupid. I wouldn't trust him, not ever, as, IMO, he only took care of his own needs and well-being. And besides, there was just to much of him on page!!! Our Polish Onufry Zagłoba from Sienkiewicz's Trylogia: Ogniem i mieczem, Potop and Pan Wołodyjowski was also probably inspired by Falstaff but this character was genuinely witty and clever. He was also loyal, albeit a bit cowardly, and kind-hearted. I can't imagine half of the adventures the Trylogia's MC survived would have had such a positive outcome if not for Zagłoba's sharp tongue, quick wit and adaptive skills ;) Generally, a great read if you're interested in British history (although not all the events are 100% true with historic accounts), the power play on the throne dais and the musings and internal battles the rulers must face. I'll definitely continue with Shakespeare's royal Cronicles!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    Love, love, love the themes of this play so excellently handled in all their joys and sorrows.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Jeremy Irons as King Henry IV Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal Simon Russell Beale as Falstaff Julie Walters as Mistress Quickly Alun Armstrong as Northumberland 3/4 Rebels continue to plot against Henry IV. Falstaff hopes for high office. Cry God For Harry - An adaptation from Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 and Henry V First broadcast 1977 (R7 repeat 2004, 2005) Cast: Robert Lang, Alan Howard, Brewster Mason, Peter Egen, Donald Huston, David Buck, Susan Thomas, Maurice Denham, Michael Godfrey, John Hollis, John Jeremy Irons as King Henry IV Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal Simon Russell Beale as Falstaff Julie Walters as Mistress Quickly Alun Armstrong as Northumberland 3/4 Rebels continue to plot against Henry IV. Falstaff hopes for high office. Cry God For Harry - An adaptation from Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 and Henry V First broadcast 1977 (R7 repeat 2004, 2005) Cast: Robert Lang, Alan Howard, Brewster Mason, Peter Egen, Donald Huston, David Buck, Susan Thomas, Maurice Denham, Michael Godfrey, John Hollis, John Bull, Patricia Hayes, Bernard Gallaher, David Horovich, Tony McEwen, Stephen Thorne, Joe Dunlop, Victoria Plucknit, Christopher Saul, David Strom, Brenda Bruce, Hugh Dixon, Garrick Hagen, Nigel Lambert, Jack May, Clifford Norgate, Peter Geoffrey, Sean Barrett, Carleton Hobbs, Richard Derrington, Michael Redgrave, Gavin Campbell, John Westbrook, Kevin Flood, John Rye, David March, Sam Dustor, Christopher Binead, Hayden Jones, Anthony Hall, Michael Harbour, Carol Russo, Christopher Picknead Adapted and Directed by Dickon Reid 1. Riot And Dishonour The rebellion gathers pace in part one of this adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry IV and Henry V. Starring Alan Howard and Peter Egan. 2. Glorious Deeds With the rebellion in full force, the battle begins in this adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry IV and Henry V. 3. Falstaff Goodnight Northumberland learns that his son Hotspur has been killed by Prince Hal and that the rebellion has failed. Episode 3 of 4. The Tide Of Blood Henry IV has won the battle against the rebels but he doesn't feel happy about his victories. 5. The Action Of The Tiger Adaptation of Shakespeare. As King Henry V takes to the throne he prepares for a battle with FRANCE. 6. St Crispin's Day Henry V rallies his men as the battle between ENGLAND and FRANCE begins. Adaptation of Shakespeare.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marquise

    This second part was still enjoyable despite not being as funny as the first, and the humour being a bit cruder in my opinion. Falstaff is the same as before, but this time round he's less amusing in comparison, because by now everyone is sobering up and changing but him, who clings to his buffoonery and is made to pay for it at last. We do learn a little more of his background story, however, with the revelation that he'd not always been the libertine he currently is and that he served Mowbray, This second part was still enjoyable despite not being as funny as the first, and the humour being a bit cruder in my opinion. Falstaff is the same as before, but this time round he's less amusing in comparison, because by now everyone is sobering up and changing but him, who clings to his buffoonery and is made to pay for it at last. We do learn a little more of his background story, however, with the revelation that he'd not always been the libertine he currently is and that he served Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk whose enmity with Henry IV was the opening gambit in the first part. Hal isn't at his best here either, and to an extent he's even overshadowed briefly by his younger brother, John of Lancaster, who's the one in charge of putting an end to the still ongoing rebellion of the Percys of Northumberland, with more diplomacy than his elder brother would. As for their father, the king, as if wanting to confirm my idea that Shakespeare doesn't find Henry IV very interesting, the king hardly appears twice in the whole book, first in Act III and then in the last scene of Act IV he gives up the ghost, so I maintain that the title of these two-part plays doesn't quite reflect the protagonism of he who's really been the main character all along: his son, and Falstaff as another relevant character. I'm giving this 3 stars and a half, for the play ends a bit disappointingly, but it's plain that the story of Hal and his chum Falstaff shall continue.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Subashini

    Some beautiful language aside (it is Shakespeare), I couldn't wait to be finally done with this.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I have not been posting recently because I have found that my most meaningful reads continue to be in groups of unexpectedly related books along with a critical volume to prompt insights. So reviews pile up because I have to finish all of the books before I write. This time I picked up the second book of the Gormenghast triology by Mervyn Peake and the third book of Shakespeares Henry IV tetralogy, while continuing to work through Derek Traversis Shakespeare: From Richard II to Henry V'. About I have not been posting recently because I have found that my most meaningful reads continue to be in groups of unexpectedly related books along with a critical volume to prompt insights. So reviews pile up because I have to finish all of the books before I write. This time I picked up the second book of the Gormenghast triology by Mervyn Peake and the third book of Shakespeare’s Henry IV tetralogy, while continuing to work through Derek Traversi’s Shakespeare: From ‘Richard II’ to ‘Henry V'. About halfway through all of them I started to feel the resonance. Both of the series study the consequences of the neglect of a ruler's responsibilities. In both, the country suffers as it is thrown into chaos, and we watch the development of a hero destined to bring it back into balance. (Note the parallels in this review draw on all four of the Shakespeare plays and the first two books of the Gormanghast trilogy; I haven’t read Titus Alone yet.) The parallel plots: In Gormenghast, the scholarly Lord Sepulchrave retreats to his study, and the countess is holed up with her pet birds. They ignore governance and their children; Steerpike starts to take over when vengeance for a rather small incident takes charge of his character. Violence expands, and evil pervades the palace. Steerpike manipulates the lord’s twin sisters and others into acting as his agents. Eventually the castle itself is threatened with total destruction. In the Shakespeare series, the source of trouble is partying. Richard II, the king has been reveling with the corrupt courtiers and neglecting to govern or steward his country’s resources. Bolingbroke is driven to turn an injustice into open revolt (in contrast to Steerpike’s turn to subterfuge when offended). But rebellion against one king begets rebellion against the next. According to Traversi, the emphasis in both Henry IV plays is on the disruption in the kingdom. We see little contact between Henry and Hal until near Henry’s death. Although King Henry is definitely concerned about his son, he doesn’t seem to take steps to do anything. Manipulation of others, and deceit, pervades the kingdom. In a light-hearted way, it characterizes the tavern world. Parallels continue. In both works, mano-a-mano duels are key plot devices that also represent critical conflicts of values. In Richard II, the single combat (that doesn’t come off) in the first scene is the last gasp of chivalry as a new tougher world order comes into play. Then the battle scene between Hal and Hotspur in Henry IV part 1 repeats and finalizes this change of worldviews. In Gormenghast, the duel between Flay and Swelter is partly a difference of temperaments, and partly a conflict of dedication to the kingdom and an evil nature. In writing this, I wonder if it isn’t also addressed to what Peake perhaps viewed as a change of worldviews from the old aristocratic realm to the dominance of the commoner. The final duel in Gormenghast (view spoiler)[between Titus and Steerpike (hide spoiler)] is really between the kingdom and its would be usurper and dynasty-destroyer. Henry the IV, in part 2, faces not one but an alliance of men who want to destroy his dynasty and seize territory. We don’t get a full battle scene, but we could call the negotiation between Lancaster and York in Henry IV part 2 a kind of duel that the ruling government wins. But there are intriguing contrasts between the two series. Consider how the two princes escape the oppressive court. Hal has calculated that he can enjoy himself, prepare to reign a kingdom of various social classes, and set the stage for an ascension that will put the stain of his father’s bloody takeover behind him. He revels at Mistress Quickly’s tavern, but never completely acts like a commoner with abandon. He humors Falstaff’s claim to mentor him, but what he is really learning is how this class reasons and reacts, lessons he can use later in battlefield and public relations. Here, language delights in puns, wit and repartee. It is all down to earth, nevertheless there is always a reserve about Hal. Pondering the limits on the life of the ruler later, he laments the constraints that wearing the crown will put on every experience and impulse. Traversi and other critics emphasize his virtually iron clad self control, as Shakespeare makes us see what it costs him. But he never seriously considers walking away. Titus, on the other hand, is a child without Hal’s reasoning powers. His tutoring at the loving hands of Bellgrove and Flay is real. To escape the ritual and dictatorial reign of his elders, he runs away to the solitude of the forest without any reflection at all. He finds magic in his encounters with the forest child, not brigandage, as when Hal ventures at night to the forest. The richness of the language rests in ornate description; in the forest there is no speaking. (view spoiler)[Later, Titus's eventual determination to re-engage at the castle, to go to battle, is not assumption of his royal responsibility but blind vengeance. After that, at least at the end of book 2, he once again walks away from his heritage. For Peake, was there nothing worth ruling in post-war Britain? (hide spoiler)] The contrast between the commoner in the two series is profound. There is a wild richness in Falstaff and the world of the tavern that is in a different universe than the gray life of the villagers outside the Gormanghast castle. This difference emphasizes that Peake wrote in the midst and aftermath of WWII. Life in depression and postwar Britain was indeed gray, bleak, and limited. Peake creates an amazing world, but he is mortal. He cannot match the range and depth of character that Shakespeare brings to life. We find the doctor and Bellgrove amusing, dedicated civil servants, and we are charmed by the gothic detail. But Peake never wrote anything like the Crispin speech, or Falstaff’s musing on honor. [I was amused earlier in the year, reading some continental authors, to note their insistence on Shakespeare’s definite mortal level of accomplishment. Of course he’s not perfect, but the dissenters were a bit tender in being so emphatic.] I am definitely going to finish the Gormanghast trilogy. It is absorbing and well written. I also recommend the Traversi. Traversi is a little repetitive his theme of disorder, but I was certainly led to think more deeply about the plays while reading him. I am still bewildered by the Falstaff scences in Henry IV part 2 though. Perhaps watching a production, as opposed to reading the play, would help. In looking to find out what Traversi's reputation was, I came across a gem of an obituary in the New York Times, September 14, 2005. Excerpts: ...Given that he had already published his first Shakespearean work, a life in academe signalled. However, he was disinclined to join the senior common room and sought out a broader life. In 1939, he obtained a post as lecturer at the British Institute in Rome, where he was arrested for apparent disrespect to Il Duce, but returned to England with the outbreak of war, catching one of the last boats to leave France. His singular lack of physical coordination meant that he was unsuited for military service. Instead he was sent to the British Institute in Madrid. He adapted to the odd life in post civil war Spain, forging a strong relationship with the director of the institute, Walter Starkie, whose own personality did nothing to mitigate the eccentricities of the place and time. In Madrid, in 1944, he married Maria Concepcíon Vázquez de Castro y Sarmiento, one of the first women in Spain to graduate from a university and a pupil of his at the institute. At the age of 25, she was arrested as she travelled by train with him to a walking expedition, because Franco's laws required her to have the written permission of her father to travel any distance with an unrelated man. He himself had close encounters with the civil guard for being in prohibited areas, although it was never clear whether this was by design or through insouciance. He remained in Spain, in Bilbao and Barcelona, until 1948 when he was posted to South America as representative of the British Council in Uruguay and subsequently Chile from 1948 to 1955. He then spent four years as representative in Teheran before returning to Madrid in 1959 and subsequently Rome in 1965. His time with the British Council began in its infancy. He had the benefit, because of distance and poor communication, of autonomy in how he discharged his responsibilities. His postings were invariably a great success, because of the broadness of his interests and his desire to communicate them... A very English life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Blake

    Henry IV Part Two is altogether a darker and more anti-climactic play than is Part One. The promise of a true and brave Prince Hal fulfilled at the Battle of Shrewsbury is undone and remade, but against a backdrop of characters more weary and aged and a rebellion that is never quite becoming. Playing in dual stories that hardly meet, Falstaff and the comic characters are all but severed from the Prince; but even the once playful Lord of Misrule has lost something vital, is working against a Henry IV Part Two is altogether a darker and more anti-climactic play than is Part One. The promise of a true and brave Prince Hal fulfilled at the Battle of Shrewsbury is undone and remade, but against a backdrop of characters more weary and aged and a rebellion that is never quite becoming. Playing in dual stories that hardly meet, Falstaff and the comic characters are all but severed from the Prince; but even the once playful Lord of Misrule has lost something vital, is working against a black approach and faltering. There's humour and poetry, songs and oratory. There's elegy. But, whether by its form or by its whole endeavor, Part Two most powerfully and yet in ways understated suggests a less hopeful view of English history and never quite consoles or revives the high and playful hopes of Part One.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rick Davis

    Hal has to grow up and leave poor Falstaff behind.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Well, I finished! This play has a whole hell of a lot of characters and I totally couldn't keep track of who was on which side. This was not the one to read when I've had five hours of sleep per night for three weeks and I have an attention span about like a gnat. Must reread at some point.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elena Sala

    HENRY IV, Part 2, is a "sequel", in the modern sense of the term, to HENRY IV, Part 1. This play again puts on stage Prince Hal, Henry IV's son, and the witty John Falstaff as well as all the characters we met in the first part. Henry IV is dying. Prince Hal has proved himself as a great soldier. However, he still seems to consort with prostitutes and tavern dwellers. Falstaff status in the world has gone up (a little). He spends most of his time drinking and bragging about his relationship with HENRY IV, Part 2, is a "sequel", in the modern sense of the term, to HENRY IV, Part 1. This play again puts on stage Prince Hal, Henry IV's son, and the witty John Falstaff as well as all the characters we met in the first part. Henry IV is dying. Prince Hal has proved himself as a great soldier. However, he still seems to consort with prostitutes and tavern dwellers. Falstaff status in the world has gone up (a little). He spends most of his time drinking and bragging about his relationship with Prince Hal. He looks forward to the happy time when his beloved friend will become King of England. Falstaff is still quite funny but his character deteriorates noticeably. He is not likeable as before. He has become swollen with himself. The world, in this play, is a diseased and darkening world and Falstaff is a key representation of this decay. Where in Part 1 Falstaff reflected on the concept of honor, to question and reject it, in Part 2 Falstaff dedicates a long soliloquy to ... sack. Hotspur is dead, and a certain concept of honor as a grand political idea died with him. In place of honor we have Falstaff's celebration and ramblings on sack and the cold blooded betrayal of the rebels by Prince John, Hal's younger brother. In Part 1 we had a lively, gay and improvised world full of promise; in Part 2 the world seems corrupted and tawdry. Of course, Misrule must be banished if Rule is to thrive so Hal has to reject Falstaff and his cronies when he becomes King Henry V. As expected, in the end Falstaff is banished, the Lord Chief Justice is adopted by the young King as a sort of adoptive "father" and a promising future can be expected for England. Though less funny than the first part, this play is still wonderful. We knew that the Falstaffian holiday had to end. And however painful Falstaff's banishment feels for the reader (or spectator), we know the role of a King is essentially a lonely one, and we understand Hal's decision is part of the cost of being King.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anand

    Henry IV Part 2 isn't quite as exciting as the rousing and blockbuster showdown of Part 1. It's much chillier. Falstaff isn't as fun, though his rhetoric and prose is as full of the life principle as it was in Part 1. If I am not as enthused yet with Falstaff as Harold Bloom is, I do admire his characterization and his interesting fool-profundity, even as he is a thoroughly immoral character in many ways. Mark Van Doren, in his book Shakespeare, has some words to say: "No play of Shakespeare's is Henry IV Part 2 isn't quite as exciting as the rousing and blockbuster showdown of Part 1. It's much chillier. Falstaff isn't as fun, though his rhetoric and prose is as full of the life principle as it was in Part 1. If I am not as enthused yet with Falstaff as Harold Bloom is, I do admire his characterization and his interesting fool-profundity, even as he is a thoroughly immoral character in many ways. Mark Van Doren, in his book Shakespeare, has some words to say: "No play of Shakespeare's is better than 'Henry IV.' Certain subsequent ones may show him more settled in the maturity which he here attains almost at a single bound, but nothing that he wrote is more crowded with life or happier in its imitation of human talk. The pen that moves across these pages is perfectly free of itself. The host of persons assembled for our pleasure can say anything for their author he wants to say. The poetry of Hotspur and the prose of Falstaff has never been surpassed in their respective categories; the History as a dramatic form ripens here to a point past which no further growth is possible; and in Falstaff alone there is sufficient evidence of Shakespeare's mastery in the art of understanding style, and through style of creating men." I personally find the reconciliation between King Henry IV and Prince Hal to be truly touching, making way with beautiful rhetoric for the new King Henry V. It's interesting to parallel the first soliloquy of Prince Hal: I know you all, and will awhile uphold The unyoked humour of your idleness: Yet herein will I imitate the sun, Who doth permit the base contagious clouds To smother up his beauty from the world, That, when he please again to be himself, Being wanted, he may be more wonder'd at, By breaking through the foul and ugly mists Of vapours that did seem to strangle him. If all the year were playing holidays, To sport would be as tedious as to work; But when they seldom come, they wish'd for come, And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents. So, when this loose behavior I throw off And pay the debt I never promised, By how much better than my word I am, By so much shall I falsify men's hopes; And like bright metal on a sullen ground, My reformation, glittering o'er my fault, Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes Than that which hath no foil to set it off. I'll so offend, to make offence a skill; Redeeming time when men think least I will. To those final words to Falstaff: I know thee not, old man: fall to thy prayers; How ill white hairs become a fool and jester! I have long dream'd of such a kind of man, So surfeit-swell'd, so old and so profane; But, being awaked, I do despise my dream. Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace; Leave gormandizing; know the grave doth gape For thee thrice wider than for other men. Reply not to me with a fool-born jest: Presume not that I am the thing I was; For God doth know, so shall the world perceive, That I have turn'd away my former self; So will I those that kept me company. When thou dost hear I am as I have been, Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast, The tutor and the feeder of my riots: Till then, I banish thee, on pain of death, As I have done the rest of my misleaders, Not to come near our person by ten mile. For competence of life I will allow you, That lack of means enforce you not to evil: And, as we hear you do reform yourselves, We will, according to your strengths and qualities, Give you advancement. Be it your charge, my lord, To see perform'd the tenor of our word. Set on. "I know you all" to "I know thee not" is a big, full-circle change. Both speeches here are full of poetry - of the sun's concealment and eventual greater shining, of the dream of the profane Falstaff - and of the promise of recognition of the grand Henry V that we will come to know and wonder at. Edit, July 31 2018: I upped my rating to five stars. Yes, it’s rambling, not as tight as the first Henry IV play. Yet read together the Henry IV plays parts 1 and 2 give a great drama of the life force and original that is Falstaff. If anything, even where I don’t quite understand him or even think him good, I have come to appreciate the greatness of Falstaff that charmed Bloom, Bevington, Morgann, and Bradley, and Hazlitt. I also have some sympathy for the Prince Hal as he’s going on his own journey. I think the costs of the state imposing its order are ultimately too great, and the pathos of Falstaff’s rejection sticks out the more. Yet Shakespeare’s so brilliant that I can imagine how Prince Henry, now King Henry, would feel the pressure and the weight of his new responsibilities, and of course the embarrassment he must feel when Falstaff, in his genuine sincerity and bravado, fails to observe the due that a king deserves. Plus, Shakespeare’s characterizations of women and side characters are brilliant. I love Doll Tearsheet, even the fustian ranter Pistol, Shallow, and the companions of Falstaff. Either way I think the Henry IV plays have a plenitude of worldbuilding and coverage that even the later masterpieces don’t quite achieve or intend to go for (though Hamlet, King Lear, the other great tragedies, Antony and Cleopatra, and the late romances are going for something different, perhaps more magnificent and sublime). I think this truism is true, that if we had to pick at least two plays that represent everything Shakespeare can do, and it’s hard to do so, the Henry IV plays are as good a representative of the Bard’s talent and genius as any.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    King Henry IV Part Two ends in transition, both for the English political atmosphere and for the central characters. Part of this transition takes place in the audiences' perspective. We witness the rise of a young prince and the deterioration of an illegitimate king amidst the fog of civil war. And yet Shakespeare twists the end. The truly naive patron cannot predict precisely how these events will resolve. I did not imagine King Henry IV repenting the means of his ascension, nor did I King Henry IV Part Two ends in transition, both for the English political atmosphere and for the central characters. Part of this transition takes place in the audiences' perspective. We witness the rise of a young prince and the deterioration of an illegitimate king amidst the fog of civil war. And yet Shakespeare twists the end. The truly naive patron cannot predict precisely how these events will resolve. I did not imagine King Henry IV repenting the means of his ascension, nor did I imagine King Henry V severing his friends, nor did I imagine John Falstaff capable of so much sorrow. However, despite these twists, the resolution holds firm to the true nature of each character and one might argue that any other resolution would seem forced. Through the first three acts, I labored through what seemed a time-abiding story. The rebellion continues with Northumberland and the Archbishop of York. As the story follows the same plot outlined in the first part, with leaders of the rebellion meeting under a banner of peace with the king's spokesmen, the first twist pricked my ear. The rebels accept the same offer made previously to Percy from their royal opponent only to suffer a stab in the back as Prince John arrests them and sentences them to death for high treason. As opposed to Hotspur, York maintains a reasonable disposition and wisely condemns these rebellious actions as results of the time, not necessarily of Henry IV's malice. It seems that York views these events through a transcendent mind, as a clergyman and not a soldier, and willfully plays his part in the cascading political revolution. As Shakespeare would instruct us through these two plays, Bolingbroke's ascension revolutionized England's political landscape and reformed the minds of nobility and royalty alike by presenting fallibility and cracking the invincibility of the throne. Henry IV's party quells the rebels, not with honorable arms or merciful heart, but with trickery and by manipulating the integrity of an honest clergyman. The play moves into the king's counsel and finally his chamber where we meet him for the last time. And what a time! The audience witnesses both the sickening effect of paranoia within a king and the resurrection of a man, desperate for love and a connection with his boy as father and son rather than king and prince. As the king and Prince Henry counter over the crown, we hear the king repent the road which brought him to it, but also warn of its overwhelming power. The crown displaced his virtue with fear - fear of losing it despite its debilitating quality, like his "Precious". The crown consumed his spirit and left him empty, caring only for its safety, like a vessel to an alien symbiont. Yet Prince Henry proves wise enough to respect the crown's agency: Thus, my most royal leige, Accusing it, I put it on my head, To try with it, as with an enemy That had before my face murder'd my father, - The quarrel of a true inheritor. But if it did infect my blood with joy, Or swell my thoughts to any strain of pride; If any rebel or vain spirit of mine Did with the least affection of a welcome Give entertainment to the might of it, Let God for ever keep it from my head, And make me as a vassal is, That doth with awe and terror kneel to it! The prince, aware of the crown's poisonous power, but unavoidably destined to wear it, may yet prove a worthy and just king, by understanding the true nature of it and prizing humanity above power. When John Falstaff hears of Prince Henry's coronation, he leaps from his chair, promises high positions to his friends and thanks God for presenting him with a winning lottery ticket! How like Falstaff - eeking through these plays as a rusting anchor on honor, nobility, integrity and all other virtues which righteous upbringing instills in us. But love. Falstaff never cheated love nor shamed loyalty. When King Henry V banishes him, I hear his spirit seep from his often lively mouth and envision all his putrid breath of charm flow from his nostrils. I feel the heat of his tears boiling in his eyes and his blood pause within his heart. Falstaff does not care for his lost position nor do I imagine he laments the suddenly collapsing thrill of his imagined future. But to lose Harry - to the crown - to him King Henry V's royal procession appears as a funeral march. But we cannot abhor the new king for this! On the contrary, we would likely do so if he abused his position and turned the court into a lavish party with Poins helping him roast Falstaff and Doll bouncing from one sack to the next. The new king enjoys the ability and privilege of washing away his past and renewing himself as a dedicated king while Falstaff must suffer alone the bed he has made for himself. As York said, these things result from the times, from the conditions of our lives and the longings of our vanity, our virtue and our hearts. All must play their role and suffer their fate. You wave to his administrative assistant from within the elevator. The doors slide shut. You stand motionless for a time before finally pressing the button which will bring you to the lobby. When the bell rings and the doors open, you step out and the boy before you leaps out of your path just before you collide. The flicker of downtown bustle shimmers on the window panes. You tell yourself, with a grin no one can see, "Shakespeare made me sympathize with a fool before kings."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Traci at The Stacks

    These characters are not my favorite. Mostly about the future Henry V and Falstaff and sort of about nothing at all. I liked this one slightly more than Henry IV part 1 but thats not saying much. These characters are not my favorite. Mostly about the future Henry V and Falstaff and sort of about nothing at all. I liked this one slightly more than Henry IV part 1 but that’s not saying much.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Puck

    Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. This was way better than Part I! The humour is dirtier, Fallstaff appears older and more cruel (and yet I pity him), and while I enjoy Prince Hal, my heart breaks for the king. Henrys play is never really about him, yet his character is so rich. I am not just talking about his final talk with Hal in Jerusalem; Henrys insomnia-soliloquy shows so well his pain and regret. Taking the crown didnt bring peace to England, and neither did it bring peace to “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” This was way better than Part I! The humour is dirtier, Fallstaff appears older and more cruel (and yet I pity him), and while I enjoy Prince Hal, my heart breaks for the king. Henry’s play is never really about him, yet his character is so rich. I am not just talking about his final talk with Hal in Jerusalem; Henry’s insomnia-soliloquy shows so well his pain and regret. Taking the crown didn’t bring peace to England, and neither did it bring peace to Henry’s mind. “And now my death Changes the mood, for what in me was purchased Falls upon thee in a more fairer sort.” Now that Hotspur’s bravura and the (royal) pranks are behind us, the story feels rawer, chillier. Civil war isn’t won with swords, but by Prince John’s cold tactics. Fallstaff joking with Shallow is still funny, but they are making fun of poor men about to die. Reality comes knocking at the door like the Lord Chief Justice, and while some welcome him – Hall is done with Eastcheap – for others it feels like a stab in the back. It’s that combination of nasty jokes and bitter loss – of father (figures), of teenage fun, of royal immunity from punishment – that makes Henry IV, Part 2 so good. 4 stars, and let’s get ready to rumble in France. Ps. I highly recommend reading Part I and Part II right after each other; the story and the characters then have the most impact.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Henry IV Part II should be read right after reading Henry IV Part I as the two plays together give the reader a great portrait of humanity and its ever changing adjustments to the wheels of fate and circumstance. They flow together seamlessly. This play continues the journey of Prince Hal as he becomes Henry V, and I think is a more satisfying play than its predecessor. The giant figure in these two plays, Sir John Falstaff, was much more pleasing and intriguing to me here then he was in Henry “Henry IV Part II” should be read right after reading “Henry IV Part I” as the two plays together give the reader a great portrait of humanity and its ever changing adjustments to the wheels of fate and circumstance. They flow together seamlessly. This play continues the journey of Prince Hal as he becomes Henry V, and I think is a more satisfying play than its predecessor. The giant figure in these two plays, Sir John Falstaff, was much more pleasing and intriguing to me here then he was in “Henry IV Part I”. His humanity was all encompassing and richer, a much more interesting character arc in “Henry IV Part II”. Act 2:4 gives us a good time in the Eastcheap tavern, and I found it especially enjoyable as Shakespeare gives many characters some nice moments in this scene. Another highlight is Act 3:1 where Henry IV has a soliloquy about his longing for sleep and peace. It is a beautiful moment that anyone who has had a troubled mind (everyone) can find truth in. Another joy to be had in Act 3 is the introduction of one of my favorite characters, the wonderful Justice Shallow. He is a great cameo role, where Shakespeare’s genius for creating very real people with little stage time is on full display. He would be a treat for any actor to play. The final act of this play is one of many conflicting emotions, and the dramatic irony of Act 5:3 is discomforting for the reader as you watch Falstaff (who I came to love through this piece) celebrate a joy that you know is already dashed. In Act 5:5 we get one of the saddest scenes in all of Shakespeare. Falstaff is cruelly rejected by the newly crowned Henry V in a scene that is terrifying to read. Terrifying because Henry seems to (internally) want to reconcile his relationship with his old friend, but also knows his duties to the crown. It really is a scene about the end of a relationship with all the hurt, heartbreak, etc. those entail. When a great love (platonic, romantic, or otherwise) comes to an end it is a sobering sight. As for the Pelican Shakespeare series, they are my favorite editions since the scholarly research is usually top notch and the editions themselves look good as an aesthetic unit. It looks and feels like a play and this compliments the text's contents admirably. The Pelican series was recently reedited and has the latest scholarship on Shakespeare and his time period. Well priced and well worth it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jimyanni

    The Folger library edition is a very fine edition; if I were rating strictly according to the quality of the scholarship shown here, I'd cheerfully rate the book at five stars. The play itself, however, is one of the weakest of Shakespeare's plays. The plot isn't as vile as I find the plot in the Taming of the Shrew; the misogyny displayed here is of the common, garden variety of the misogyny found throughout Shakespeare, rather than the exceptional, "beyond the call of cultural duty" variety The Folger library edition is a very fine edition; if I were rating strictly according to the quality of the scholarship shown here, I'd cheerfully rate the book at five stars. The play itself, however, is one of the weakest of Shakespeare's plays. The plot isn't as vile as I find the plot in the Taming of the Shrew; the misogyny displayed here is of the common, garden variety of the misogyny found throughout Shakespeare, rather than the exceptional, "beyond the call of cultural duty" variety found there. Nor is it responsible for the emotional trauma that can be laid at the feet of "Romeo & Juliet", which is responsible for teaching generations of young people a concept of romantic love that is not only inaccurate, but disfunctional and harmful. On the other hand, it manages to avoid these sins of plot largely by having very little plot at all; the plot of this story can largely be summed up thusly: "Sir John Falstaff, a conniving, disreputable, venal, greedy but entertaining old man has expectations of preferrment at court once Prince Hal, who has enjoyed his company for years, inherits the throne. He is disappointed, however, once Hal demonstrates that he is capable of acting like a grownup once he is in a grownup position." There is very little else to be found here; to be sure, the language is prettily Shakespearean, some of the scenes setting the stage are moderately amusing (nowhere near as amusing as similar scenes in Part One, however) and there are a few memorable quotes, notably "He hath eaten me out of house and home," and "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown." But really, there just isn't enough plot there to build much interest, and the characters aren't as well-developed as they usually are in Shakespeare.

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