Henry IV, Part 2 (Modern Library Royal Shakespeare Company Series)by William Shakespeare, Jonathan Bate, Eric Rasmussen
Under the editorial supervision of Jonathan
After defeat at the Battle of Shrewsbury the rebels regroup. But Prince Hal’s reluctance to inherit the crown threatens to destroy the ailing Henry IV’s dream of a lasting dynasty. Shakespeare’s portrait of the prodigal son’s journey from youth to maturity embraces the full panorama of society.
Under the editorial supervision of Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, two of today’s most accomplished Shakespearean scholars, this Modern Library series incorporates definitive texts and authoritative notes from William Shakespeare: Complete Works. Each play includes an Introduction as well as an overview of Shakespeare’s theatrical career; commentary on past and current productions based on interviews with leading directors, actors, and designers; scene-by-scene analysis; key facts about the work; a chronology of Shakespeare’s life and times; and black-and-white illustrations.
Ideal for students, theater professionals, and general readers, these modern and accessible editions from the Royal Shakespeare Company set a new standard in Shakespearean literature for the twenty-first century.
Meet the Author
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616) is today's most widely known and loved playwright.THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY (RSC) is a world-renowned ensemble theater company in Stratford and London dedicated to bringing the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries to a modern audience.JONATHAN BATE is a professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick. A prominent critic, award-winning biographer and broadcaster, Bate's books on Shakespeare include Soul of the Age.ERIC RASMUSSEN, professor of English at the University of Nevada, is one of today's leading textual experts on Shakespeare.
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This is an excellent play. I would recommend that you first read part one because you will thereby have the whole framework to refer back to. In fact, it's interesting to note the differences between the two (hence my title here). Although you must recognize the essential chronological continuation from part one to part two, the plays possess different dramatic essences. In part one, we want to know if Hotspur is going to defeat the usurper Bolingbroke. Prince Hal emerges victorious in respect to that plot. There is in part one much doubt as to Prince Hal's integrity, if you will. Why is he pal-ing around with the licentious Falstaff? For me, that Prince Hal kills Hotspur on the battlefield goes a long way in quelling my doubts about his intentions and behavior in the midst of the monarchy. In contrast, in part two, we descry a morally correct distancing of himself from the sack-loving chap. Prince Hal even disquises himself in one scene with Poins to see what they can stir up. As regards my take on the play, I'm fascinated by the way that Falstaff somehow immediately knows that one of the men is Harry, his disguise notwithstanding. So, I say Shakespeare beautifully amplifies Falstaff in part two (and, by'r Lady, does he have plans for Falstaff at the end). We ultimately end up with a portrait of an untrustworthy man. I don't see it all as "expectation mocked," as Normand Holland argues in the Signet edition introduction. Falstaff is who he is, a sinful man, vis-a-vis Prince Harry. Shakespeare is telling us that Falstaff just wants to lead his Joe Sixpack life, albeit somewhat dishonestly. Additionally, there is a psychomachia occurring with these two main characters, an argumment I do agree with. So, onward to part two, I interpret a felicitous counterpoise, which makes the play the dramatic whole that it is: as Falstaff enlarges in portrait before us with Justice Shallow, Bardolph, Doll, and Mistress Quickly, Prince Hal separates himself quite clearly from his dissolute company and worries more about establishing himself as a fine soldier and good statesman, in King Henry IV's eyes. The Archbishop Scroop and Mowbray are preparing themeslves to attack the King in this one, but the King is able to talk them out of it and then executes them. And that is how it ends. King Henry IV dies and Prince Hal inherits the crown. Now we can look forward to Henry V. Also, you've got to think about Holinshed as a source before deciding on issues of plot. The final expression of this estrangement I've described comes in the form of Falstaff's arrest. The real-life Jockey Oldcastle was also executed. This play has a lot to think about depending on which aspect of the play you focus on.