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Henry IV, Part I: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

William Shakespeare , David Bevington
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 May 2008 Oxford World's Classics
was his most reprinted play, and it remains enormously popular with theatregoers and readers. Falstaff still towers among Shakespeare's comic inventions as he did in the late 1590's. David Bevington's introduction discusses the play in both performance and criticism from Shakespeare's time to our own, illustrating the variety of interpretations of which the text is capable. He analyses the play's richly textured language in a detailed commentary on individual words and phrases and clearly explains its historical background.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (8 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199536139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199536139
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 194,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's preeminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and was baptised on 26 April 1564. Thought to have been educated at the local grammar school, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he went on to have three children, at the age of eighteen, before moving to London to work in the theatre. Two erotic poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were published in 1593 and 1594 and records of his plays begin to appear in 1594 for Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI. Shakespeare's tragic period lasted from around 1600 to 1608, during which period he wrote plays including Hamlet and Othello. The first editions of the sonnets were published in 1609 but evidence suggests that Shakespeare had been writing them for years for a private readership.

Shakespeare spent the last five years of his life in Stratford, by now a wealthy man. He died on 23 April 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. The first collected edition of his works was published in 1623.

(The portrait details: The Chandos portrait, artist and authenticity unconfirmed. NPG1, © National Portrait Gallery, London)

Product Description


As Henry's throne is threatened by rebel forces, England is divided. The characters reflect these oppositions, with Hal and Hotspur vying for position, and Falstaff leading Hal away from his father and towards excess.

During Shakespeare's lifetime Henry IV, Part I was his most reprinted play, and it remains enormously popular with theatregoers and readers. Falstaff still towers among Shakespeare's comic inventions as he did in the late 1590s.

David Bevington's introduction discusses the play in both peformance and criticism from Shakespeare's time to our own, illustrating the variety of interpretations of which the text is capable. He analyses the play's richly textured language in a detailed commentary on individual words and phrases and clearly explains its historical background.
ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

`a pleasing emphasis on the plays in preformance. Both texts have very helpful notes, which contain all the supporting information a student is likely to need, presented clearly and interestingly - no small feat.' David Webb, St Martin's College, Lancaster.


About the Author


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
So shaken as we are, so wan with care, Find we a time for frighted peace to pant, And breathe short-winded accents of new broils To be commenced in strands afar remote. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Thus ever did rebellion find rebuke' 7 Oct 2014
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Telling the story of two types of rebellion: the public one of the nobles against Henry IV, and the more private one of his son Prince Hal, this continues the story started in Richard II when Henry Bolingbroke took the crown from his cousin. With its themes of doubling and oppositions, of fathers and sons, and the coming of age of Hal, this may not have the same emotional power as Richard II, but makes good use of the traditional morality play - though who is 'good' and who 'bad', and what kind of character Hal himself is are still open to critical debate.

This is another very good edition in the Oxford single-text series. This series is characterised by full and interesting introductions which consider sources, performance history and an overview of how critical attitudes to the play in question have changed historically. In this book, Bevington also touches lightly on what 'history' meant to Shakespeare's original audience.

The text itself is in modern spelling drawing on the Complete Oxford edition. The on-page notes make this especially useful for academic study and go beyond mere language glosses. With space for notes and annotations, and a durable sewn binding, this is designed for robust study.
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0 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great for AS English 14 Sep 2013
By Dan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was recently required to own this for my AS English and so that was the reason for purchasing it.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  50 reviews
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Henry IV, Part 1 - A Struggle for a Kingdom 16 Oct 2000
By Michael Wischmeyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The lengthy title for the 1598 printing was "The History of Henrie the Fourth, With the Battell at Shrewsburie, between the King and Lord Henry Percy, surnamed Henrie Hotspur of the North, with the humorous conceits of Sir John Falstaffe".
Surprisingly, Hal, Prince of Wales, (later Henry V) was not even mentioned in this verbose title although many would consider him to be the central character. This play is clearly the dramatization of a struggle for a kingdom, but it is equally the story of Hal's wild and reckless youthful adventures with Falstaff and other disreputable companions.
Shakespeare did not write his plays about English kings in chronological order, but these plays do have a historical unity. It is helpful (but not essential) to read the tetralogy Richard II, Henry IV Part 1 and 2, and Henry V in chronological order. Whatever route you take, I highly recommend buying a companion copy of Peter Saccio's "Shakespeare's English Kings", an engaging look at how Shakespeare revised history to achieve dramatic effect.
A wide selection of Henry IV editions are available, including older editions in used bookstores. I am familiar with a few and have personal favorites:
The New Folger Library Shakespeare is my first choice among the inexpensive editions of Henry IV. "New" replaces the prior version in use for 35 years. It uses "facing page" format with scene summaries, explanations for rare and archaic words and expressions, and Elizabethan drawings located on the left page; the Henry IV text is on the right. I particularly liked the section on "Reading Shakespeare's Language in Henry IV" and Alexander Legget's literary analysis (save this until you have read the play). The fascinating article "Historical Background: Sir John Falstaff and Sir John Oldcastle" adds a religious dimension to the play that I had not previously noted.
The Bedford Shakespeare Series provides an excellent study text (edited by Barbara Hodgdon) titled "The First Part of King Henry the Fourth". It is a little more expensive, is about 400 pages, and provides a broad range of source and context documentation. It would be excellent for an upper level course in Shakespeare. The context documentation is fascinating and informative; it ranges from the Holinshed Chronicles to Elizabethan writing on Civic Order to detailed cultural studies of London's diverse populous. Other chapters address the OldCastle controversy and the "Education of a Prince".
I also like the Norton Critical edition (edited by James Sanderson), "Henry the Fourth, Part 1", particularly for its extensive collection of literary criticism. The essays are divided into two parts: 1) the theme, characters, structure, and style of the play and 2) a wide variety of interpretation directed toward that roguish character, Sir John Falstaff.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Henry IV, Part 1": 3 Nov 2002
By James Yanni - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
When rating Shakespeare, I am comparing it to other Shakespeare. Otherwise, the consistent "5 stars" wouldn't tell you much. So when I rate this book five stars, I'm saying it's one of the best of the best.
As a matter of fact, it isn't unusual for Shakespeare's "histories" to be more interesting to the modern reader than either his comedies or his tragedies; they fit the modern style that doesn't insist that comedies must have everything work out well in the end, or that tragedies must be deadly serious with everyone dying at the end, as was the convention in Shakespeare's time. Thus, this book has a serious plot, real drama, and blood and destruction, yet still has many extremely funny scenes. And as Shakespearean plays go, it's a fairly easy read, although in places the footnotes are still neccessary. The only caveat I will make is that one needs to remember not to consider Shakespeare's histories particularly historical; they have about as much historical accuracy as the Disney version of Pocahontas. Treat them as excellent stories based (very) loosely on history, and you'll do fine.
It's a real shame that the language has changed so much since Shakespeare was writing that his plays are no longer accessable to the masses, because that's who Shakespeare was writing for. Granted, there is enough seriousness to satisfy the intelligensia, but there is generally enough action and bawdy humor to satisfy any connouiseur of modern hit movies, if only they could understand it, and this book is no exception. Unfortunately, once you change the language, it's no longer Shakespeare, until and unless the rewriter can be found who has as much genius for the modern language as Shakespeare had for his own. I don't think I'll hold my breath waiting.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Henry IV, Part I: Civil and Domestic Drama 15 Aug 2000
By mp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Shakespeare's "Henry IV Part I" shows King Henry IV dealing with complex problems: England is in the midst of civil unrest, as the Percy family, angered by their treatment after unwittingly helping Henry IV ascend to the throne, threatens to depose the monarch. At home, Henry IV is despairing over the development of his son, Henry, Prince of Wales, heir to the throne. Prince Henry consorts with thieves, rogues, and scoundrels - his scandalous personal relationships seem to threaten the King's peace of mind more than the state of his kingdom.
Aside from these larger concerns that frame the play, "Henry IV Part I" deals more with Prince Henry than it does with the monarch of the title. Throughout the play, Prince Henry is seen more amongst the rabble commoners than attending to matters of state. He is guided in his licentiousness by the enormously funny (pun intended) Sir John Falstaff, whose schemes and drunkenness are more innocent and endearing in Part I than they become in Part II.
Falstaff's reckless and conceited behaviour casts a shadow over the entire play, symbolic as it is of Prince Henry's moral dilemma and of the precarious state of the nation. Falstaff instantly calls to mind Kenneth Grahame's magnificent Mr. Toad from "The Wind in the Willows," and is Toad's direct literary forefather. Falstaff is the most interesting and dynamic figure in "Henry IV Part I" and certainly the most memorable character in the play.
Prince Henry discovers that his responsibilities outweigh his fondness for Spanish wine, and is called to lead the King's army against that of the arrogant 'Hotspur' Percy, himself a rising political force. Their confrontation, brilliantly scripted and enacted, is central to Shakespeare's entire Lancaster-York saga, and should be read closely and with special attention.
Of the two parts of "Henry IV," Part I is by far the best and most flawlessly executed. The King's problems provide an adequate backdrop for the development of Prince Henry; 'Hotspur' is an excellent antagonist (with the whole Percy family offering a great contrast with that of the King); and Falstaff performs his role without dominating the play, as he tends to in Part II. Shakespeare does not need my praise or endorsement, but his "Henry IV Part I" blows me away. It is absolutely fantastic.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The two sides of Hal 29 July 2004
By Scout1980 - Published on Amazon.com
Henry IV remains one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, even though the tragedies and comedies get far more attention and seeming appreciation than do the histories. As an English major, I examined Henry's (Hal's) character, and I focused on his development from a somewhat foolhardy young man into a self-assured, even manipulative prince. It is hard to say which of these Hal truly is, or if he is a little bit of both.

At the beginning of the play, Hal spends his free time cavorting around with his friend Falstaff (who provides all of the laughs in the play and is cited as one of the best comic characters in all literature). In the first act we already see hints in Hal's sololiquy that he may not be as carefree as we are led to believe, and that he might betray friends like Falstaff to be the prince that he is expected to be. Read on in "Henry V" to see just how much of a polished politician Hal becomes--his battle cries and his "once more unto the breech, dear friends" is masterful in its persuasiveness and ability to induce his countrymen to fight.

Hotspur serves as a nice counterpoint to Hal in "Henry IV." Hotspur is the hothead and Hal makes his decisions calmly and rationally. This almost inhuman rationality comes into play again in "Henry V" and makes you long for the seemingly carefree Hal.

All in all, "Henry IV" is a great read and quite an interesting character study--I highly recommend it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is King Henry IV Part 1 26 Jun 2003
By Craig Matteson - Published on Amazon.com
This is the play where the Percy rebellion begins and centers around the Achilles-like Hotspur. Eventually, Hotspur (Henry Percy) and Prince Hal (Henry Monmouth - later Henry V) battle in single combat.

We also get to see the contrast between these young men in temperament and character. King Henry wishes his son were more like Hotspur. Prince Hal realizes his own weaknesses and seems to try to assure himself (and us) that when the time comes he will change and all his youthful foolishness will be forgotten. Wouldn't that be a luxury we wish we could all have afforded when we were young?

Of course, Prince Hal's guide through the world of the cutpurse and highwayman is the Lord of Misrule, the incomparable Falstaff. His wit and gut are featured in full. When Prince Hal and Poins double-cross Falstaff & company, the follow on scenes are funny, but full of consequence even into the next play.

But, you certainly don't need me to tell you anything about Shakespeare. Like millions of other folks, I am in love with the writing. However, as all of us who read Shakespeare know, it isn't a simple issue. Most of us need help in understanding the text. There are many plays on words, many words no longer current in English and, besides, Shakespeare's vocabulary is richer than almost everyone else's who ever lived. There is also the issue of historical context, and the variations of text since the plays were never published in their author's lifetime.

For those of us who need that help and want to dig a bit deeper, the Arden editions of Shakespeare are just wonderful.

-Before the text of the play we get very readable and helpful essays discussing the sources and themes and other important issues about the play.

-In the text of the play we get as authoritative a text as exists with helpful notes about textual variations in other sources. We also get many many footnotes explaining unusual words or word plays or thematic points that would likely not be known by us reading in the 21st century.

-After the text we get excerpts from likely source materials used by Shakespeare and more background material to help us enrich our understanding and enjoyment of the play.

However, these extras are only available in the individual editions. If you buy the "Complete Plays" you get text and notes, but not the before and after material which add so much! Plus, the individual editions are easier to read from and handier to carry around.
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