Henry IV Part I

By William Shakespeare


Henry IV, Part I is the one of the 'history plays' that Shakespeare wrote which spanned 100 years of English history. From the 1377-99 reign of Richard II who was then deposed by Henry IV and killed in 1400, to the battle of Bosworth Field where Richard III was defeated and killed, to the establishment of the Tudor dynasty by Henry VII. The play is thought to have been written later than both King John and Richard II which are generally believed to have been written around 1595-6. Although there are similarities between these two plays and their later counterpart Henry IV, Part I is a much rounder and better-developed play. Encompassing both court life and, unusually, that of the everyday person - the workers and drinkers that make up the very heart of the state that the King tried to protect. It is necessary to realise therefore that not only does the play stand on its own as a sensitive comment on the relationship between a father and son, life-long friends and a king and his subjects but that it is also part of a much greater project. It is a historical 'epic' that plays an important part in the historical picture of England that Shakespeare was trying to paint that would be followed by Henry IV, Part II and Henry V, all charting the progress through youth and age of kings and princes.