Henry IV Part 1

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Henry IV Part 1 Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on William Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 1. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of William Shakespeare
Shakespeare's father was a glove-maker, and Shakespeare received no more than a grammar school education. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582, but left his family behind around 1590 and moved to London, where he became an actor and playwright. He was an immediate success: Shakespeare soon became the most popular playwright of the day as well as a part-owner of the Globe Theater. His theater troupe was adopted by King James as the King's Men in 1603. Shakespeare retired as a rich and prominent man to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1613, and died three years later.
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Historical Context of Henry IV Part 1
King Henry IV was born into the House of Plantagenet (on his father John of Gaunt’s side) and the House of Lancaster (on his mother’s side). Born Henry of Bolingbroke, he later became the tenth king of England (and the first Lancastrian to hold the throne) after deposing King Richard II. Like his character in the play Henry IV Part I, the historical King Henry IV spent much of his reign stamping out rebellions and defending himself against treasonous plots cooked up by the historical figures of Owen Glendower and Henry Percy.
Other Books Related to Henry IV Part 1
Henry IV Part I is the second play in the tetralogy of Shakespeare plays known as the Henriad, which includes Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V Together, the plays enact the historic rise of the House of Lancaster to England’s throne. Richard II tracks Henry Bolingbroke’s defeat of King Richard II to become King Henry IV; Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2 track King Henry IV’s reign, struggle to keep his throne, and eventual death; and Henry V follows the reign of King Henry V, who is still Prince Hal in Henry IV Part 1.
Key Facts about Henry IV Part 1
  • Full Title: Henry IV Part I
  • When Written: 1596-1597
  • Where Written: London
  • When Published: 1598
  • Literary Period: Elizabethan England
  • Genre: History play
  • Setting: England, 1402-1403
  • Climax: The Battle of Shrewsbury
  • Antagonist: Hotspur
Extra Credit for Henry IV Part 1

Fan of Falstaff. Sir John Falstaff was Queen Elizabeth I’s favorite Shakespearean character and the queen’s wish to see Falstaff in love eventually inspired Shakespeare to write The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Real-life Falstaff. There’s strong evidence that Shakespeare based the character of Falstaff on the historical Protestant martyr John Oldcastle and that ‘Falstaff’ was originally named ‘Oldcastle’ in the play. It’s believed that the character name was changed under pressure from John Oldcastle’s descendants, who didn’t want their ancestor associated with a drunken buffoon.