Henry IV Part 2


William Shakespeare

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Henry IV Part 2 Themes

Read our modern English translation.
Themes and Colors
Lies, Honesty, Morality Theme Icon
Disease Theme Icon
The Right to the Throne Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Warfare Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Henry IV Part 2, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Lies, Honesty, Morality

Opening with a monologue delivered by personified Rumor, Henry IV Part 2 establishes its interest in lies right from the start. The play goes on to examine lies of many varieties, from the collaborative, population-wide lies that are rumors passed from person to person to the calculated, individually conceived lies that are deceptions designed by a single character for a specific purpose. “Rumor is a pipe,” Rumor explains, “blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures, /…

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Henry IV Part 2 is a play tainted by literal and figurative diseases. Its characters are as sick of body as they are of soul, and its atmosphere as heavy with actual illness as its language is thick with illness’ metaphors. King Henry IV’s physical sickness stands at the heart of the play. The characters around him initially assume that his sickness is just the side-effect of an anxious spirit and that his…

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The Right to the Throne

The struggle for the English crown that drove the action in Henry IV Part 1 continues to power the plot of Henry IV Part 2 as the exhausted King Henry IV keeps on trying to defend his throne against the threatening band of rebels—now lead by the Archbishop of York, Mowbray, and Hastings—plotting to take it away from him. As in Henry IV Part 1, characters endlessly discuss the recent history…

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In exploring disease and the right to the throne, Henry IV Part 2 also explores the theme of time through the aging body and the aging memory’s interpretations of history. Aside from being sick, King Henry IV is simply old. He complains frequently about his weary agedness and about the way the years have worn on him, rendering his boisterous, ambitious youth unrecognizable to his current self. Falstaff likewise struggles with his aging human…

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Henry IV Part 1 presented warfare as meaningless bloodshed devoid of grandeur and so too does Henry IV Part 2 present war in an unfavorable light. Yet while Part 1’s extended, gruesome battle scenes illustrated war’s senseless violence, this play focuses on war’s other negative attributes. Henry IV Part 2 doesn’t feature any actual battles, but instead showcases the gross corruption and dishonorable cruelties that war inspires in people.

Falstaff merrily engages in ignoble…

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