Henry IV Part 2


William Shakespeare

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Henry IV Part 2 Study Guide

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Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on William Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 2. 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 2

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 2, the historical King Henry IV spent much of his reign stamping out rebellions and defending himself against treasonous plots cooked up by historical figures like the Archbishop of York. He was succeeded by his son who became King Henry V.

Other Books Related to Henry IV Part 2

Henry IV Part 2 is the third play in the tetralogy of Shakespeare plays known as the Henriad, which includes Henry IV Part 1 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 2
  • Full Title: Henry IV Part 2
  • When Written: 1596-1599
  • Where Written: London
  • When Published: 1600
  • Literary Period: Elizabethan England
  • Genre: History play
  • Setting: England, early 1400s
  • Climax: King Henry V’s turn against Falstaff.
  • Antagonist: The Archbishop of York, Lord Bardolph, Mowbray, and Hastings.

Extra Credit for Henry IV Part 2

Chimes at Midnight. Orson Welles was so inspired by the character of Falstaff that he based an entire movie around him, starring as the fat man himself. Welles took the title of the film from a line Falstaff says in Henry IV Part 2 to Justice Shallow—“We have heard the chimes at midnight”—indicating that they had stayed up late in their youth, living life to the fullest.

False Promises. Although the epilogue in Henry IV Part 2 makes a big show of promising to continue Falstaff’s story in Henry V the old man does not ever actually appear onstage in that play. His sole mention occurs when another character recounts his death.