King Henry IV, Part 1 (Arden Shakespeare, Third Series) / Edition 3by William Shakespeare
Pub. Date: 02/01/2003
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
David Scott Kastan lucidly explores the remarkable richness and the ambitious design of King Henry IV Part 1 and shows how these complicate any easy sense of what kind of play it is. Conventionally regarded as a history play, much of it is in fact conspicuously invented fiction, and Kastan argues that the non-historical, comic plot does not simply parody the
David Scott Kastan lucidly explores the remarkable richness and the ambitious design of King Henry IV Part 1 and shows how these complicate any easy sense of what kind of play it is. Conventionally regarded as a history play, much of it is in fact conspicuously invented fiction, and Kastan argues that the non-historical, comic plot does not simply parody the historical action but by its existence raises questions about the very nature of history. The full and engaging introduction devotes extensive discussion to the play's language, indicating how its insistent economic vocabulary provides texture for the social concerns of the play and focuses attention on the central relationship between value and political authority.
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I love this play, and this edition. It's really a captivating and insightful play, which I'm reading right after finishing "The Plantagenets," which I also recommend, and which teed it up nicely. (That book ends with Henry IV deposing Richard II, leading directly to the situation this play depicts.) One problem with reading the history of the English kings is their stories tend to blur together after while. I've always been able to keep Henry II straight, because I watched "The Lion in Winter" 20 years ago, and still picture Peter O'Toole as Henry, Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, etc. I think I have this set of Henry's etched in my brain for another 20, too. I tried two other editions of Henry IV, before settling on this one (Arden): - The Applause edition: I loved the thorough explanations and insights into how actors have played scenes over time FOR OTHER PLAYS (several of the well-known tragedies), so I was expecting the same. Nope. Nothing but lots of footnotes indicating technical decisions on which folio/quarto was used on a particular line. - Oxford School Series. The explanatory notes were very helpful, and I would have been very happy with this edition. But I compared this with Arden (reviewed here) line by and Arden had far more historical information and insightful notes on the wordplay (eg, biblical sources he was playing off). Also, the Oxford actually overdid it explaining some phrases I found obvious. I went to B&N and worked through more than a dozen versions of this play, and found this most superior, by far. (Also, get historical info on all the major characters.) This appears to be the best out there. It costs a bit more: about $8 more than the others, but I'll be spending 40-60 hours with it, so that's less than 20 cents per hour of my time for something much more effective. A bargain. (If money is really tight, I highly recommend the "Oxford School Series," (and note that's different than just "Oxford," which is also out there.