Henry IV, Part 1

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Family relationships are at the center of Henry IV, Part 1. King Henry IV and Prince Hal form one major father-son pair, with Henry in despair because Hal lives a dissolute life. The father-son pair of Hotspur (Lord Henry Percy) and his father, the Earl of Northumberland, is in seeming contrast; the king envies Northumberland “his Harry,” wishing he could claim the gallant Hotspur as his own. Meanwhile, Hal has entered into a quasi-father-son relationship with a disreputable but amusing knight, Sir John Falstaff.

Another strand of action centers on still more family relationships. Hotspur’s stand against Henry focuses on Hotspur’s brother-in-law, Mortimer. Mortimer, who fought against the Welsh magician Owen Glendower, was defeated and captured and has married Glendower’s daughter. King Henry pronounces Mortimer a traitor whom he will not ransom. Hotspur, in declaring war on Henry, sees himself as fighting for Mortimer, his wife’s brother.

Several of the details in the play that make these relationships prominent were created by Shakespeare; they are not found in the chronicles of English history that provide the play’s historical narrative. This rewriting and the resulting focus on relationships pulls us in: rather than distant historical figures, Henry, Hal, and Hotspur become characters caught up in relationships that resemble family situations today. The emphasis on relationships also reminds us that the wars for control of England, Scotland, and Wales in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were basically family struggles. Brothers, cousins, and nephews fought for the tantalizing prize of the crown.

Scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote Henry IV, Part I in 1596-97. It was published as a quarto in 1598.[1]

Productions at the Folger

Early editions

First Folio

LUNA: First Folio: d5v -f6r
Hamnet: STC 22273 Fo. 1 no. 68

Second Folio

LUNA: Second Folio: d5v - f6r
Hamnet: STC 22274 Fo. 2 no. 07

Second Quarto

LUNA: Second Quarto
Hamnet: STC 22281 Copy 1

Third Quarto

LUNA: Third Quarto
Hamnet: STC 22282

Fourth Quarto

LUNA: Fourth Quarto
Hamnet: STC 22283 Copy 1

Fifth Quarto

LUNA: Fifth Quarto
Hamnet: STC 22284 Copy 1

Sixth Quarto

LUNA: Sixth Quarto
Hamnet: STC 22285 Copy 1

Seventh Quarto

LUNA: Seventh Quarto
Hamnet: STC 22286 Copy 1

Eighth Quarto

LUNA: Eighth Quarto
Hamnet: STC 22287 Copy 6

Modern editions

Henry IV, Part 1 can be read online with Folger Digital Texts and purchased from Simon and Schuster.

Hamnet link to Folger Edition: PR2753 .M^ v2003 copy 2 v.09


Performance materials

Other media



  1. Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1994 Folger Shakespeare Library.