Henry IV, Part I and Henry IV, Part II are historical plays by William Shakespeare. Part I, which was written and first performed in 1597 and first printed in quarto in 1598 by stationer Andrew Wise, has always been much more popular and critically acclaimed than Part II. In fact, Henry IV, Part I was Shakespeare’s most popular printed text with eight new editions appearing over the first one hundred years of its existence. Henry IV, Part II was published in quarto in 1600 by Valentine Simmes and was next published in the First Folio of 1623. The Monthly Letter (ML) of the Limited Editions Club, quotes Sir Paul Harvey from The Oxford Companion to English Literature, in summarizing the plays:
The subject of part I is the rebellion of the Percy’s, assisted by Douglas, and in concert with Mortimer and Glendower; and its defeat by the king and the Prince of Wales at Shrewsbury (1403). Part II deals with the rebellion of Archbishop Scroop, Mowbray, and Hastings.
As with many of his histories, Raphael Holinshed‘s Chronicles was Shakespeare’s primary source for the play. Wikipedia mentions that Chronicles, in turn, drew on Edward Hall‘s The Union of the Two Illustrious Families of Lancaster and York and that scholars also assume that Shakespeare was familiar with Samuel Daniel‘s poem on the civil wars. One of Shakespeare’s most well-known characters, Sir John Falstaff, is introduced in Part I and is the focus of one of the two main storylines in Part II. The great English writer Samuel Johnson, in his edition of Shakespeare (1765) as quoted in the ML, describes Falstaff:
Falstaff is a character loaded with faults, and with those faults which naturally produce contempt. He is a thief, and a glutton, a coward, and a boaster, always ready to cheat the weak, and prey upon the poor; to terrify the timorous and insult the defenceless…The moral to be drawn from this representation is, that no man is more dangerous than he that with a will to corrupt, hath the power to please; and that neither wit nor honesty ought to think themselves safe with such a companion when they see Henry seduced by Falstaff.
There is some evidence that Sir John Falstaff was based on a real life friend of Henry V (who at the time period within this play is Henry, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Henry IV, nicknamed “Prince Hal“), John Oldcastle, however the epilogue in Part II explicitly denies this.
In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I, King Henry IV is unhappy with Hal for spending his time with rogues and lowlifes such as Falstaff. The prince redeems himself at the battle of Shrewsbury by killing Henry Percy (“Hotspur”) in combat, seriously dampening the prospects of the rebels. This sets the scene for Part II. In Part II, Hal returns to his interactions with lowlifes, again seeming unsuited to eventual kingship and disappointing the king. Next, as summarized in Wikipedia:
Another rebellion is launched against Henry IV, but this time it is defeated, not by a battle, but by the duplicitous political machinations of Hal’s brother, Prince John. King Henry then sickens and appears to die. Hal, seeing this, believes he is King and exits with the crown. King Henry, awakening, is devastated, thinking Hal cares only about becoming King. Hal convinces him otherwise and the old king subsequently dies contentedly.
In Part II, Hal and Falstaff’s stories mostly diverge only coming together in the final famous scene where:
Falstaff, having learned from Pistol that Hal is now King, travels to London in expectation of great rewards. But Hal rejects him, saying that he has now changed, and can no longer associate with such people. The London lowlifes, expecting a paradise of thieves under Hal’s governance, are instead purged and imprisoned by the authorities.
As for the two plays taken together, Samuel Johnson wrote that (as quoted in the ML):
None of Shakespeare’s plays are more read than the first and second parts of Henry the fourth. Perhaps no author has ever in two plays afforded so much delight. The great events are interesting, for the fate of the kingdoms depend upon them; the slighter occurrences are diverting, and, except one or two, sufficiently probable; the incidents are multiplied with wonderful fertility of invention, and the characters diversified with the utmost nicety of discernment, and the propounded skill in the nature of man.
Like in most of my continuing series of reviewing the works of Shakespeare, here are some of my favorite quotes from King Henry IV, Parts I and II. From Part I, the Prince remarking on one day becoming the person he intends to be:
Yet heerein will I imitate the Sunne,
Who doth permit the base contagious cloudes
To smother up his Beauty from the world,
That when he pleases again to be himselfe,
Being wanted, he may be more wondred at,
By breaking through the foule and ugly mists
Of Vapours, that did seeme to strangle him.
Falstaff, saying words that ring true:
…yet Youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it weares.
Hotspur tells Glendower:
And I can teach thee, Couze, to shame the Devil,
By telling truth. Tell truth, and shame the Devill.
If thou have power to rayse him, bring him tither,
And Ile be sworne, I have power to shame him hence.
Oh, while you live, tell truth, and shame the Devill.
The Prince responding to the King remarking how “bloodily the Sunne begins to peere“:
The Southerne winde
Doth play the Trumpet to his purposes,
And by his holly whistling in the Leaves,
Fortels a tempest, and a blustering day.
To which the King responds:
Then with the lowers ket it sympathize,
For nothing can seeme foule to those that win.
Falstaff speaks of something he has been proven not to have:
Well, ’tis no matter, Honor prickes me on: yea, but how if Honour pricke me off when I come on? How then? Can Honour set too a legge? No: or an arme? No: or take away the greefe of a wound? No. Honour hath no skill in Surgerie, then? No. What is honour? A word. What is in that word Honour? What is that Honour? Ayre: A trim reckoning. Who hath it? He that dy’de a Wednesday. Doth he feele it? No. Doth he heare it? No. Tis insensible then? yea, to the dead. But wil it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction wil not suffer it, therefore Ile none of it. Honour is a mere Scutcheon, and so ends my Catechisme.
As the Prince kills Percie, Hotspur’s final words:
Oh Harry, though hast rob’d me of my youth:
I better brooke the losse of brittle life,
Then those proud Titles thou hast wonne of me,
They wound my thoghts worse, then thy sword my flesh:
But thought’s the slave of Life, and Life, Times foole;
And Time, that takes survey of all the world,
Must have a stop. O’ I could prophesie,
But that the earthy and cold hand of death,
Lyes on my Tongue: No Percy, thou art dust
and Food for —
In the Induction of Part II, the ills of rumor:
Open your Eares: For which of you will stop
The vent of Hearing, when loud Rumor speakes?
…Rumour, is a pipe
Blowne by Surmises, Jelousies, Conjectures;
And of so easie, and so plaine a stop,
That the blunt Monster, with uncounted heads,
The still discordant, wavering Multitude,
can play upon it…
Falstaff on his need for spending:
I can get no remedy against this Consumption of the purse. Borrowing only lingers, and lingers it out, but the disease is incurable.
The King responds to Harcourt with an irony that still haunts the world today:
Will Fortune never come with both hands full,
But write her faire words still in foulest Letters?
Shee eyther gives a Stomack, and no Foode,
(Such are the poore, in health) or else a Feast,
And takes away the Stomack (such as the Rich,
That have abundance, and enjoy it not.)
Hal, now King, tells Falstaff:
Presume not, that I am the the thing I was,
For God doth know (so shall the world perceive)
That I have turn’d away from my former Selfe,
So will I those that kept my Companie
King Henry IV, Parts I and II, are part of the marvelous 1939/1940 thirty seven volume The Plays of William Shakespeare by the Limited Editions Club (LEC), which was designed by the great Bruce Rogers. Like all editions in this set, it uses the text of the First Folio, with Quarto insertions, edited and amended where obscure by Herbert Farjeon. The type is an 18 point close facsimile of Janson, made by the Lanston Monotype Company, with the italic used being a creation of the Monotype Company since Bruce Rogers did not like the Janson 18 point italic; italic small capitals were made by re-cutting the Italic capitals of the Monotype Garamond Bold in a special size and with slight alterations of a few of the characters with a close new type face. It is bound with gilt tops and uncut edges in backs of American linen, with the titles stamped in gold on the spine. The cover design is based on a decorative wall design in a house that that Shakespeare was thought to have stayed at frequently. A different artist was used for each of the 37 volumes in this set. For King Henry IV, Part I, British artist, book illustrator, typographer, and lithographer Barnett Freedman provided auto-lithographs (where the artist draws his own designs on to the stones without the intervention of trade craftsmen or photomechanical means) to illustrate the play. The illustrations were drawn upon the stone by the artist and printed at The Curwen Press in London. For King Henry IV, Part II, English artist Edward Bawden provided water-colors to illustrate the play. Bowden’s illustrations were reproduced in Paris with the background being printed by the collotype process in the works of Georges Duval, and the hand-coloring being added through pochoir by printmaker Jean Saudé. In the Monthly Letter (ML), Sussan tells of his challenge in portraying characters:
Concerning Freedman‘s illustrations for Henry IV Part I, the ML says:
To give himself scope, he abolished the top and bottom margins, running his pictures in oblong shape ups and down the page…The mixture of the colors attained by the printing of one stone upon another seems to us to afford pleasurable delight to the eye. And the pictures themselves seem to us to be dramatically vivacious, with a scenic grouping and a romantic feeling to add richly to the reading of the play.
Freedman explains his intent:
I have attempted to enrich the book, and enhance the beauty of the typography, not by the accepted method of producing an illustration that “goes” with the type, but by an entirely contrasting one. The shape of the picture is in direct contra-distinction to the type-area, as is the color and general weight, and the method of carrying the whole design through the page from top to bottom, serves to retain continuity, and has been, rarely used….I have tried to show the contrasting elements of each succeeding act, and with the fullness or colour and boldness of form, to express the extraorindary richness and profundity of this magnificent historical and human drama.
Freedman came to prominence in the world of illustration with his design and illustrations for the 1931 edition of Siegfried Sassoon‘s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer. His first work for George Macy’s Limited Editions Club (LEC) was the 1936 edition of George Borrow‘s Lavengro (by which time, according to Wikipedia, “Freedman developed a technique whereby the black and white illustrations printed by line block simulated lithography, bringing a unity to the book“). He went on to provide illustrations for the LEC editions of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace in 1938 and Anna Karenina in 1951, as well as for Dickens’s Oliver Twist (1939), Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1941) and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1942) for Macy’s Heritage Press.
As for Edward Bawden‘s illustrations for Henry IV Part II, the ML says:
He elected to make the illustrations for the second part of Henry IV as a series of sketches for stage settings, attempting to add interest in the play for the reader by showing the reader the stage at various important moments. The small figures in his drawings move abound reform according to the demands of the particular scenes, but the settings remain, in the hope that the reader will have the setting in the mind’s eye while reading the whole of the scene to which it applies.
Bowden had spent some time working at the Curwen Press , and also worked as a commercial artist. He taught at the Royal College of Art from 1930 to 1963, except for a period of time where he served as a war artist in World War Two. Bawden’s work can be seen in many major collections.
Both these editions are wonderfully done and masterfully reproduced, using two major artists from the twentieth century. These can occasionally be found for under $100 in near fine condition or better, just be sure to watch for discoloring on the spines, which is often typical for this series. Such prices are ridiculously inexpensive for works such as these.
About the Editions
- Part of the 1939/1940 thirty seven volume The Plays of William Shakespeare by the Limited Editions Club
- Designed by Bruce Rogers
- Text of the First Folio, with Quarto insertions, edited and amended where obscure by Herbert Farjeon
- Note concerning the plays (in the prospectus) by Sir Paul Harvey, from The Oxford Companion to English Literature
- Preface to the plays (in the prospectus) by Samuel Johnson from his edition of Shakespeare, 1765
- Henry IV Part I illustrations from auto-lithograph by British artist, book illustrator, typographer, and lithographer Barnett Freedman, drawn upon the stone by the artist and printed at The Curwen Press in London
- Henry IV Part II illustrations from line and water-colors by English artist Edward Bawden, reproduced in Paris with the background being printed by the collotype process in the works of Georges Duval, and the hand-coloring being added through pochoir by printmaker Jean Saudé
- Text printed at the Press of A. Colish in New York
- Type is an 18 point close facsimile of Janson, made by the Lanston Monotype Company, with the italic used being a creation of the Monotype Company since Rogers did not like the Janson 18 point italic; italic small capitals were made by re-cutting the Italic capitals of the Monotype Garamond Bold in a special size and with slight alterations of a few of the characters with a close new type face
- New paper created for this edition by the Worthy Paper Company of Springfield
- The binding was done by Russell-Rutter Company in New York
- Bound with gilt tops and uncut edges in backs of American linen, with the titles stamped in gold on the spine
- Cover design based on a decoration wall design in a house that that Shakespeare was thought to have stayed at frequently (a friend of his)
- 8 3/4″ x 13″, 91 pages
- Limited to 1950 copies
Pictures of the Editions
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