Henry IV, Part 2

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Henry IV, Part 2 is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written between 1596 and 1599. It is the third part of a tetralogy, preceded by Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 and succeeded by Henry V.

The play is often seen as an extension of aspects of Henry IV, Part 1, rather than a straightforward continuation of the historical narrative, placing more emphasis on the highly popular character of Falstaff and introducing other comic figures as part of his entourage, including Ancient Pistol, Doll Tearsheet, and Justice Robert Shallow. Several scenes specifically parallel episodes in Part 1.

The first page of Henry the Fourth, Part II, printed in the First Folio of 1623

Henry IV, Part 2 is believed to have been written sometime between 1596 and 1599. It is possible that Shakespeare interrupted his composition of Henry IV, Part 2 somewhere around Act 3-Act 4, so as to concentrate on writing The Merry Wives of Windsor, which may have been commissioned for an annual meeting of the Order of the Garter, possibly the one held on 23 April 1597.

The play was entered into the Register of the Stationers' Company in 1600 by the booksellers Andrew Wise and William Aspley. The play was published in quarto the same year (printing by Valentine Simmes). Less popular than Henry IV, Part 1, this was the only quarto edition. The play next saw print in the First Folio in 1623.

The quarto's title page states that the play had been "sundry times publicly acted" before publication. Extant records suggest that both parts of Henry IV were acted at Court in 1612—the records rather cryptically refer to the plays as Sir John Falstaff and Hotspur. A defective record, apparently to the Second part of Falstaff, may indicate a Court performance in 1619.

The earliest extant manuscript text of Henry IV, Part 2 is the Dering Manuscript, redacted around 1623.

The title page of the Quarto version of the play

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Published in 17/09/2018

Updated in 19/02/2021

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